Non-target observations in herbarium specimens - do they have a place on iNaturalist?

Other relevant topics: https://forum.inaturalist.org/t/museum-herbarium-collection-digitisation-on-inaturalist-yes-or-no/5374
https://forum.inaturalist.org/t/how-to-treat-photos-of-herbarium-records/13041

I work in an herbarium and handle a lot of specimens. Often I come across leaf miners and sometimes galls, other plants or dead insects from the collection time that the specimen doesn’t note for but are identifiable. This is data that can be mined from specimens, but so far I don’t know of anyone doing this on a large scale. What is the policy regarding uploading observations of these organisms? Right now my understanding of iNaturalist and herbarium specimens is that you should be putting up your own with date, time, and locality accurate to where they were collected. However I’ve also seen others put up specimens that aren’t their own and would like clarification on that.

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Sadly many people see iNat not as what it is and do post someone else’s specimens with old dates as if they were their own, you’re fine to upload those with current date and “captive”, with notes mentioning original date, or use original date and then marking it as “date incorrect”.

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I think posting with the original collection details is appropriate. They should be credited to the collection in text – or ideally uploaded from a herbarium-specific account to clarify ownership and avoid duplication. But I’m less concerned with how the record gets there, than that the data is accurate and reflects where/when the wild observation was made.

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It was discussed in those linked topics, so I’m afraid it’ll be duplicating info from there, but yes, creating a separate account is the best and probably the only correct way on iNat if you have rights to post those specimens at all, but people post them on their own accounts, something from 1910s and earlier, plus license on iNat still mentions you even if you say it’s of someone else in description, so account name should fit the original collector. @tiwane said there that iNat is not made for any scientific record, but for what you observed.
To take it in modern perspecive, I have specimens at home, when I die I wouldn’t like someone come and post them under their name with original date, like dude, you wasn’t there with me. :D

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Why “captive”? At the time of collection they were not cultivated or captive organisms- either the plant (unless noted) nor the organisms that were associated with them.

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I also want to reiterate that this isn’t redundant data; this is incidental collection of other organisms that I, in my review and handling of the specimens observe. I am seeing them secondhand and dead, but there’s often clear evidence of these organisms.

I understand that the actual specimens need to be attributed to the herbarium and that these images would be uploaded with permission.

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If you set current date, those are not wild organisms.

In this case I would be putting the date, time, and locality of the observations as whatever the label of the target organism said since they existed at the same place and time.

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This is always a cool aspect of going through collections! - Like finding stomach contents of CT scanned organisms, etc. Based on other posts and conversations, this type of posting might be ok if done on a fairly limited basis, but it is an “off brand” use of iNaturalist. iNat is primarily for recording personal interactions with nature, not collection management software.

Uploading with the original date/time/location preserves the original data, but misrepresents the time/quality of the observer’s interaction with nature, which is the fundamental unit of an iNaturalist observation. As a parallel, there are also relevant discussions about whether posting old family observations is acceptable or not (again, ok for a few, not systematically, but not encouraged). To prevent some of these off brand uses, iNat now doesn’t allow observations to be uploaded with dates older than some time (the early 1900’s I think, can’t remember the exact date). This time period was chosen to exclude dates that obviously couldn’t have been made by someone currently living and prevent uploading historical records like some of these cases.

As has been noted in some of those linked topics, there are more ideal ways for recording scientific specimens than iNat that still get the data out to GBIF or available in other ways. If you encounter a lot of these instances of hidden observations, I’d suggesting working with the herbarium or some allied collection to see if you can create observations via their portal. For instance, universities often have both herbaria and entomology collections and could cross reference an observation with a little setup. This would be the ideal solution in my opinion.

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it would be a disservice not to upload these observations, in my opinion.

Furthermore, they should not be marked as captive, because that is not an accurate reflection of the data. Location and date of collection as specified on the label, and reference to the collection/collector in the notes.

Observations like this are valuable and shouldn’t be condemned based on one person’s perception of what constitutes proper use of the site

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It is an accurate reflection of your observation and this is what iNat staff recommended multiple times, if you upload under your account, you can’t upload wild observation with original date. It’s not one person’s view, it’s what was said by people who created the site.
https://forum.inaturalist.org/t/museum-specimens-antique-photos-and-inaturalist/31638/27

I’d say no. Again, iNat is for your personal encounters with organisms in the “wild” (and yes “wild” can include that cockroach in your house). That doesn’t really extend to specimens you didn’t collect.
iNat is really a place to share one’s personal experiences with nature . It’s not a data repository, and it’s not a place to dump museum specimens. It’s about someone saying “here’s an organism (or track, or scat, etc) that I encountered.

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If it is iNaturalist protocol to use the wrong date on observations like this, then so be it and I defer to whatever the official guidelines may be. However, in regards to the inclusion of observations like this in general on iNaturalist: people have personal experiences with nature in different ways, and for a person who works at an herbarium discovering evidence of life (in the form of galls, etc) that have been preserved but were originally undocumented in the source material, this to me represents a personal experience with nature which is very much in the spirit of iNaturalist. To me this represents something entirely different from just taking pictures of identified museum specimens.

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But if you encountered it today, it’s not really a wrong day, is it? I would create a separate profile for that collector and post those under their name with original date and place, that way everything will be original and verifiable.

There is currently no way to do this through the Symbiota portal or anything else that makes its way to GBIF.

This would definitely be cool and iNat could be useful in ID help and conversations about what is found, but iNat probably isn’t the place to use as the data repository for such an observation. This really should be part of the herbarium database itself or some joint database between herbarium specimens and data associated with those specimens. You may want to get in touch with people promoting the Extended Specimen Network. You may also ask around about how entomologists that collect data from herbarium specimens deal with such data.

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I mean, I agree with you. I want to upload my observations of organisms that were inadvertently collected with the plant specimens. This isn’t riffing on someone else’s work or uploading everything in a botanic garden; like I said before these are observations that can be observed secondhand and essentially mined from specimens. These are quite infrequent to be fair.

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Great link!

I agree that this could be an experience of nature, though it’s fair to note that staff have said such observations are ok in small quantities, but not submitted systematically. For this type of observation though, the date and time would be present day, and it would need to be ticked as “not wild”, so this wouldn’t really contribute to OPs goal of getting data out into the world.

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I don’t understand why it would be “not wild”, though. These are wild organisms.

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If you are making an observation of your interaction with the organism in the present day, the time would be now, the place would be the herbarium. In this case, that observation would fall under iNat’s definition of captive/cultivated as “Captive / cultivated means that the observation is of an organism that exists in the time and place it was observed because humans intended it to be then and there.” The organism (or rather, its preserved remnants) are present in the herbarium because a human intended them to be - they were essentially captured by a human collector from the wild, and transported to the herbarium.

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