'Needs ID' pile, and identifications

Yes! Many old records are entirely identifiable if the right person sees it. I included a time before which observations should not be marked “unidentifiable,” not a requirement that they be marked that way after that time.


I have the place “Greater Antilles” set to Ascending order, meaning that it shows me the oldest unreviewed observations first. I have gotten down to 1376 pages, and yet the observations are marked as 1y ago.

That would be an excellent use case for selecting “No” on “can the community ID be improved.”


Honestly, my big frustration with the growth of iNaturalist is that I almost feel like it is no use uploading anything for ID. As in, if it doesn’t get IDed within the first day or two, the new observations piling on will bury it and it will never be looked at again. Lately, most of my RG observations received that status within a day after I uploaded them – they had to, or they would never get it at all!

That is the big reason I now almost always set my filters to “Ascending” when I provide IDs. It is my act of defiance.


That may be true for certain wildlife groups like plants maybe, but for some like bees they often get looked at eventually.


Agreed. Bees, flies, and gallformer IDs can trickle in for me quite awhile after upload. And I’ve gotten IDs on observations that were a year or more old.

I highly appreciate all ID suggestions but I receive a lot of personal value in various ways from my observations even if I get no ID suggestions.

I get fairly good responses on my obs, though, due to a lot of quality identifiers in my geographic location. So maybe that’s easier for me to say.


That is a big reason why North American birds tend to get ID’d so quickly, most people are at least moderately familiar with them, and as an added bonus, in my experience there tends to be more dialog on difficult bird observations so it’s a great way to learn more about them.


For the taxa I primarily identify (spiders of North America) there are definitely not enough identifiers, and IMO not enough people using the “It’s as good as it can get” DQA flag to kick “unidentifiable” observations out of needs-ID. If you work with cryptic/difficult to photograph animals (which you do @edanko) I suggest using this wherever seems appropriate, and encourage other IDers to do so as well. Especially when it comes to small arthropods, iNat inevitably ends up with many tens of thousands of photos that will never be identifiable beyond genus or family or even a higher level. Using that DQA flag is a bit clunky and won’t solve these problems completely, but it will help reduce the size of the large (and growing) needs-ID piles for the limited number of people we have to review them. BugGuide has a “Frass” bucket for this purpose and I understand iNat’s reasoning behind not doing that, but these taxa now have 100,000s of basically-unidentifiable photos and it makes these piles very tedious to sort through, which doesn’t really help encourage more people to join in. iNat is growing exponentially (which is awesome) but it seems to be mostly the same small handful of people trying to manage IDing all these new observations. I wrote a rather wordy blog/journal post about these various frustrations awhile back - it is written about spiders but is also applicable to other small things (esp. arthropods) that are difficult for most people to photograph well. I put it on iNat journal because a lot of people don’t regularly visit the forum.


Thanks to all the IDers of these difficult taxa who spend so many hours sorting through these large piles <3


How liberating! I’ve just started checking the box for as “good as can be” on my own spider observations that are not detailed enough for species or even genus.

Next I’m going to start using that feature for many larva and pupa observations for which no adult observation is possible. For most of them genus is great.


Another suggestion for the IDers: Instead of IDing by Date Added / Descending (the default) try picking a past year and setting the sort to random. You will often find a lot of interesting stuff that’s been missed this way. I also will periodically limit the search to high/low ranks, such as only things between Order and Family. This helps me skip over the stuff that’s been already been identified to genus but can’t go further (for example) and find things that just haven’t been reviewed. And many people really appreciate getting an ID on an observation that’s been sitting for a long time - me included.



Well I finally reviewed all of the Needs ID Bombus impatiens. Next up Bombus bimaculatus.

PSA Please no further uploads of Bombus impatiens for the foreseeable future, thank you.


I guess they don’t call it common for nothin’


The big problem there is people arguing whether it is a moss, a liverwort, or a vascular plant. Good luck on ever getting those beyond kingdom.

From what I have seen, there really needs to be more published on the Cape Floristic Province. I have been working on observations stuck at Family Asteraceae, and as long as I set the sort to random, I can do at least some on each page. But when I set it to ascending, trying to take care of the oldest ones first, it is just lots and lots of South African ones, with several users all agreeing to Family Asteraceae but nobody venturing any further. With cryptic notes like:

Confidence: As sure as can be; Reputation Score = 0.08013 EE; Is_Likely = False

Um, how can you be as sure as can be, if Is_Likely=False?

Such a distinct floristic region as the Cape, in Africa’s most developed country, you’d think there would be a decent field guide, one that could at least get people to genus if not species. The Peterson System would come in handy there.

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Those observations were imported from a different platform South Africa used to use. iNaturalist absorbed all their photos when they switched. I am not really sure what the notes mean other that I’m pretty sure the “reputation score” had something to do with giving IDs of verified experts more weight.


We have many decent field guides. The more recent obs (the ones that began their life on iNat not transferred from iSpot) should be moving briskly along from Asteraceae.

Your Asteraceae are somewhere in the 53 K I am working back thru


Personally I am hesitant to ID due to lack of formal education.
Some fears of giving false positives or relying too heavily on visuals to ID (Insects)

If I do ID, it’s usually exclusive to the Hawaiian Island for ID work or a few species I know especially well.


It’s good to try to keep learning and ID more. Don’t think about species ID at first. Try order, family, tribe, genus, subgenus. Go through each in order until the IDs are mostly correct, then go to the next one. Some errors are okay if they’re corrected (check all disagreeing-ID notifications), learned from, and ideally not at the species or subspecies rank (which are more important than other ranks). Also challenge yourself to read and use identification keys in literature, etc. IDing is also easier if you first narrow down to which species options occur in the location. After this process you may eventually be able to ID some species, or at least genera or subgenera better than before. You can also indicate in comments a tentative ID, or add a comment under a regular ID to qualify it.


Yes, only recently learned the term “keys” for ID. As in a few days ago recently haha.

At first I was going strictly visual, with reasonable deduction from location. The Taxon trees are only just starting to be touched now. Been reading basic insect anatomy and finished reading yesterday about halteres in flies. Now I understand the system better, learned to only go as far in as I am confident, not to blindly guess species unless it’s extremely obvious.

Unsure the most efficient way to find keys? Tend to only find a few articles, and if there is major interest, an attempt to sex the animal.

Mostly hesitant to not tick off the community. I guess trying again wouldn’t hurt, I post at bare minimum one observation a day, should try to “give back”.


Try a search engine for academic papers like google scholar. Search the taxon name and “identification,” or “revision,” or search the taxon and “fauna of” “species of” “checklist of” (the location). You can also check bugguide net, discover life org, etc.


Ahh yes this is roughly what I’ve been doing, think just need time to grow some confidence. Can at least help with the backlog on a particular species of jumping spider. Have 3 of the species as pets and know them off by heart by now. Can try that.


Thank you all so much for your feedback since this thread opened! I’ve started some zoom ID/training events based on some of the ideas and they’ve attracted a few people. Do you think this kind of thing would be of interest for other groups of organisms as well, and would you recommend advertising in any particular way?