'Needs ID' pile, and identifications

No, they can’t, all bacteria are just in unknown.

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Yes, fungi, lichen, and slime molds remain mysterious. At least I’m glad to move observations from unknown into even these broad categories.

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I agree. About two years into using iNaturalist, I finally felt confident enough to begin to ID. Though I have an ancient biology degree, I am not trained in taxonomy or in where to find the resources needed to ID to species for organisms. I largely taught myself plants by looking at my own observations and consulting CalFlora, and with the help of some locals who would kindly explain why my IDs were incorrect and point me at other resources, for which I remain immensely grateful! I don’t think motivation is the problem for recruiting new IDers, IMO it’s the intimidation factor of the sometimes terse (which can feel combative/aggressive to new IDers) responses of those who review the suggested IDst first, eg: “why do you think this?” or or “Did you key out this flower first, it is obviously NOT what you suggested!” or “All I see is a blurry photo!” and the problem of finding good resources for IDing. IDing is a layered skill: you first need to get a sense of what you’re looking at, and how to differentiate it on a broad scale, and then when you feel more confident at that base level, it’s then finding resources like CalHerps and CalFlora, learning to use those, and then teaching oneself the names of the anatomy, etc. I think people who are “experts” forget how much learning goes into beginning to even “see” what you are looking at, and then learning the vocabulary of that specialty. It’s an investment, and one thing about iNat that I’ve experienced is that it can feel like jumping into the deep end with the big kids and not even knowing how to swim.

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Yeah, I id unknown observations, I found some of them about people showing their house plants, and pets,

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I’m not experienced enough to really identify things, but I often look through the “unknown” filter and help by assigning the basic identification (plants, mammals, fungi, buterflies etc.) I always wonder why some observations in fact are identified, but they stay in the “unknown” part. I mean bacteria for example. Shouldn’t that be changed?

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It’s just a quirk that they are not assigned to what is called an iconic taxon. Largely due to their exact place in the tree of life being unresolved.

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Their place is the tree of life is well resolved scientifically, and iNat doesn’t really follow that taxonomy at that high of a level anyway haha. It’s just that new iconic taxa haven’t been created yet for various reasons.

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You can use the identified=false argument in the URL to remove these when you are identifying unknowns and it will remove bacteria and viruses. Here’s the link I use.

https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/identify?per_page=60&iconic_taxa=unknown&order_by=random&order=asc&identified=false

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I think it would be useful if after an observation has been up for four or five years, a field would show up in “Identify” mode that asked some version of “Does this observation lack features needed for identification?” or “I think this observation will never be identified.” If two people agree on that, the observation leaves “Needs ID” and enters some other category, perhaps “Limbo” rather than “Casual.”

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All obs. when combined (needs ID + RG) are increasing, numerically and you imply maybe exponentially, since observers (users) are increasing. Users are increasing, so IDs are too. It’s unclear if users are keeping up with total IDs, or needs ID specifically. There are many reasons to expect needs ID obs. could increase, whether or not they are now:

  • Some photos can’t get an ID as fine as subfamily or finer. Those then remain permanently as needs ID (or become casual in uncommon cases where DQA is marked “ID good as can be”).

  • Needs ID obs. are overall more difficult to ID/attempt ID for. Many users view them but don’t ID/ID specifically.

The main relevant issue here I think can be expanded to be are identifiers keeping up with total obs. (needs ID and RG)? This is since many feel it’s worthwhile to ID all non-reviewed obs., since we don’t know if RG is correct until we check (some % are incorrect). Other relevant factors:

  • The increase in obs. is partly due to increases in new users. Some new users don’t attempt to ID much, and submit unclear photos which are difficult to ID. Although many users learn and improve over time, a question is what % (and is the % increasing) fall into the first category permanently? If that % were increasing, it would imply a growing pile of obs. less able to be kept up with by identifiers.

  • Differences in wildlife groups in terms of what level of specificity obs. can be IDed to. Combined with, new users joining iNat dissimilarly contribute to some wildlife group IDs vs. others.

  • To what extent are new users and “identifier communities” for wildlife groups learning and being trained/corrected by more experienced identifiers over time? Is average identifier accuracy increasing or decreasing?

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Thing is there’re tons of things not checked for 2-5+ years and still identifiable.

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True, but they were just suggesting highlighting the “can this be improved” feature after a certain number of years. Which is fair, because I didn’t realize it was there at all fo rway too long

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I’m not against it! But it’s easy to just filter old ones first. I added it to highlight that old doesn’t equal bad.

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I beg to differ - no one is too inexperienced to identify things. Find a taxon that you are familiar with, in a region that you know, and start from there. When I first started, I found all Worldwide moths was too overwhelming. I switched to Canadian (mainly Eastern) Noctuidae, and have never looked back. Really, it is one step at a time - identify Black capped chickadees (for example), then start to branch out into other species. My spouse used to identify bacteria, but won’t do it now - the process is too complex (and smelly, aparently). I had a bit of moth taxonomy in my ancient closet, but what I have learned is very recent.

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this is making me go through the common plants in my garden and search for them in “needs ID”…I’m not a huge plant person but I can ID turk’s cap and frostweed and purple prairie clover since, you know, I’m growing tons of it. So much cultivated turk’s cap in Texas…

I can do goldenrod to genus but man, species, not happening anytime soon there’s just too many

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If the community taxon is subfamily or lower, the observation will turn RG if the box is checked. I don’t hesitate to use this on my own observations, especially for Hymenoptera. (This reminds me that I need to net a sand wasp to ID my yard population.)

If the “Can this be improved?” box were next to “Captive/Cultivate” on the identify portal, I would use it even more. Worth making a feature request?

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Right, for example just things stuck at Kingdom Plantae, ~1/2 million going back to ~6 years:
https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/identify?per_page=100&order=asc&lrank=kingdom&taxon_id=47126

In many cases they got a broad Plantae id but just fell into the background as time passed.

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I appreciate what you do for molluscs :)

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When IDing Unknowns - for someone new to iNat, I try very hard to ID for them. New people need a response (nobody saw it, nobody responded, I am never coming back to iNat ;~((
It can be hard if the photos are blurry and don’t show enough info … but at least one obs I can try and add an ID for them.

And triage.
I know those.
Rough ID for those.
@edanko ‘what is that tiny insect on the dragonfly’s wing?’ done. Those discussions help everyone in the conversation to learn a little more for the next batch.

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Okay, I’ve updated genus to subfamily in the comment.

Do you mean if it were an option from the grid view on Identify? It’s already an option on Identify casual obs. if you enlarge them and use the Data Quality tab.

For any applicable suggestions that would be new it’s probably worth making requests. The mods prefer topics stay focused and also split off some comments if they stray too much.

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