Microscopy images of macroscopic items, no whole organism photo

Today I came across a group of users posting photos taken through a microscope, of items such as plant stem cross-sections and animal hair. I’m feeling that’s not good iNat practice, at the very least because the organism isn’t located at the GPS coordinates used. Thoughts?

Edit: I should have been more specific. These observers were not attempting to show diagnostic features of specific organisms. The observations were uploaded as unknowns, each a single shot of a magnified object and no shot of the whole organism. Descriptions provided vague common names like “rabbit hair” and “sunflower stem,” but in my opinion the observations cannot be identified.

I don’t see a problem with this so long as the location is marked as the location where the organism was collected (vs the location where the microscopy occurs, provided it’s different)


Yes, as long as date/time, location, etc. reflect where the organism was originally, it’s no different in my mind than an observation based on a pinned insect or other museum specimen, of which there are quite a few in iNaturalist.

Whether they will ever get a community ID based only on micrographs is another question entirely.


In some cases microscopic details are required to get IDs to species level. Ideally they show the “whole organism” shot as main photo, and the micro work as additional supporting evidence. If you zoom in and see the pin inside a building, chances are they forgot to move the pin, so it would help to check with them if the location is accurate for where it was [found].


The heart of the iNaturalist is the moment when the observer and the organism coincide.

I feel that it is important to respect all the ways that the inaturalist community uses to document that moment so that the organism may be identified.

Without this flexible acceptance, we risk blinding ourselves at a time when we wish to see the natural world in all its beauty and variety.


Quite true. But the context of that encounter is important to document, and is generally expected to occur “in the wild” unless documented otherwise.

Consider an extreme scenario where, say 15 duplicate specimens of a North American plant species are prepared and sent to herbaria all over the world. Each of those specimens might provide someone with a “first encounter” experience. But if they document those experiences on iNaturalist using the location and date of their encounters (in the herbarium, maybe months or years after the collection) – without flagging them as captive, location inaccurate, date inaccurate, etc – then iNaturalist range maps will show false distributions for the species, seasonality graphs will show false seasonality data, etc.

So, iNaturalist observations of specimens removed from their original locations need to either (1) have their date and location reflect the original location, or (2) be flagged as captive, location not accurate, and/or date not accurate.


so too flowery I guess - sorry about that- you missed my point while you over reacted to the flowers - feel now that my post was stupid

Oh the contrary, I tried to take your post to heart @marykrieger . I was feeling initially that these were not “real” observations–the location is inaccurate, the subjects Unknown, and there is no way anyone can ID “a rabbit” from a photo couple of magnified hairs, or “a sunflower” from a few cells (quotations from the descriptions the observer wrote)–but after reading your message I decided to leave them alone.

No whole organism photo was provided.

it’s not breaking any rules, but if they have no photos with a broader look, they aren’t going to get research grade either. Best just to mark reviewed and move on.

Scope/magnified photos along with overall photos, on the other hand, can be really useful and as others have said are the only way to verify ID of some organisms.

if it is mapped to a building where the microscope is rather than where the sample was collected it should be marked as incorrect location

Microscopic photos of mammal hairs might actually be identifiable to species, or at least genus, since they can have characteristics that are unique. I’m no expert on hair samples but it is a field of study.

Ideally, if the ID of the animal that provided the hairs is known, that should be included. A photo of the whole animal also would be good to include.

As noted, the location data should correspond with where the organism or the hair sample came from and not where it was photographed.

thanks for the kind words - I am trying to figure out what to say that will be useful and not further distract.
I will begin by stating agreement with the definition of observation being a human being and evidence of an organism in the same place at the same time where that evidence is not secondhand - hope that is closer - though I believe there are some big inventory projects that are not quite included in that description - bu it seems closest to the accepted definition.

so what happens next - we try to identify the observed - but we immediately encounter problems because we have basically invented a new thing - we want to make a record of a thing that is slightly outside of the the traditional ways of making a record of the thing.

so we have two challenges - one that not all the things are defined and two that the way we discover if the thing is defined or not is by using id guides that use the traditional records for that thing

hence i see a flexible attitude to the types of evidence accepted a useful attribute while we spend the next tewnty years or so figuring it out

Yes. I will remember not everything can be identified and that’s fine!

certainly not a deal breaker though! Do you have some example observations (urls) that we can take a look at, to better gauge what you mean?

I don’t think that will be necessary, since you all have covered pretty much everything there is to say about it. Thank you. If I could close the topic, I would.

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