Multiple observations using the same picture


I have found multiple observations from different observers using the exact same picture of the same individual. Is there any added values of observing the same individual multiple times at the same date in the same place?
Is there a way to mark these observations as duplicate so that only one becomes research grade and all others are just (casual?) duplicates?

Here are some examples below:

Links removed by moderator


I’ve removed the links above as the forum is not a place to call users out for their actions on iNaturalist itself.

In regards to the general scenario, observers can use another person’s photo rarely if they do so with permission, though this is not encouraged.

If there are photos that have been copied without permission (ie, there is no attribution to the original user in either a comment or notes), it’s generally fair to flag the copied images for Copyright Infringement. This makes the observation casual grade. Since many users that do this are new, it often helps to leave a polite comment explaining the issue and asking them to delete the copied photos/observations and avoid doing this in the future.

On a broader note, whether or not there is “value” to different users uploading observations of the same individual organism will depend on the end user. However, while it can be annoying for IDers (myself included), observers uploading pics of the same individual is allowed. This often happens when school or other groups are naturalizing, find something interesting, and everyone takes out their cameras.


Thanks for the response. Yes I agree that there could be some value to users observing the same individual with their own pictures and it would be hard to tell anyway that it’s the same individual when pictures are taken with different cameras, from different angles and so on.
Concerning the flag for Copyright Infringement, I think it’s impossible to tell who is the author of the picture… if one person takes a picture then shares it with multiple other users who all use it for observations before the author gets a chance to use it himself, then I should not flag for Copyright Infringement the observation of the rightful owner…
Not an easy solution indeed, it’s just very annoying to ID several observations using the same picture within just a few days.

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I check the timestamp and the earliest / oldest I presume is the copyright holder. Flag later obs for copyright infringement.
Or leave a note on both - duplicate - whose photo ?


This happens often with classes or people on group walks, guided hikes, etc. Not so much with the same photo, but essentially the same observation made by multiple observers. I think the benefit (of new people becoming enamored of iNat) outweighs the cost (of it appearing that there are more of an organism in a given place/time than there actually are). It’s probably a very small percentage of observations that are biased in this way, and as iNat continues to grow that percentage will naturally decrease.


There’s been a big problem lately with groups of students uploading the same photo sets - you’ll have 20 or 30 accounts all adding the same picture, but the identifications, dates, and locations vary wildly. In some cases it appears their teachers are actually giving them the images and assigning them to upload them, which is very frustrating.

I generally flag all but the oldest one for copyright, and leave a comment along these lines:

Hi, it looks like this image has already been posted by a different user account. Please ensure you only post images you have personally taken, and that the locations and dates are accurate. Posting photos taken by people other than yourself can lead to account suspension. Thanks for understanding!

If it seems likely to be an assignment, I will often add a note that says something like

Please inform your teacher that these observations are not in line with iNat’s intended use - if they need guidance on how to use iNat in the classroom, they can find useful resources here:


This seems to be the case here also, but the dates and locations are quite similar. The problem is that finding the oldest observation using the same picture is not always easy. Most often I will ID observations which still need ID first, if the others are already ID’ed by someone else, they will not come into my list. But flagging all but the oldest one seems to be the only possible way forward here, I will do the same and use a similar message.

Thanks for your input on this! :smiley:

You can check the banner at the bottom with a row of nearby or relatives. That is where I notice, wait, I have seen that before, or duplicate of the obs I am already busy with.

If I have understood, you did not mean users posting exactly the same photo but uploading different photos of exactly the same individual.
For me absolutely no or very few unless one of such “duplicates” allows the identification of the others if the lattter are unidentifiable.
It is an issue that sometimes happens with unexperienced/superficial “educators/teachers” escorting newbies.

It would be desirable but at present I think it is impossible.

iNat observations are meant to represent a person’s experience with nature, so I’m ok with duplicates as long as they are observed by different people, and those people personally saw the organism. Ideally, the photos should be from the person who took them, but otherwise a note in the description saying “used with permission from @so-and-so” works too.


My understanding is that each observation is a record of one person’s observation of one organism on one occasion. So, if a group of seventeen people find a single specimen of an interesting plant, it would be fine for there to be seventeen observations of that plant. Some people might find it tedious to identify each one, but they can always just skip them. And yes, there is value to this! We are collecting data not only on how many plants are in an area, but also on how many people have interacted with nature in that area.

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