Observation Field Standardization Wiki

This is a place to track fields with are in broad use or have the potential to be broadly used, and are applicable to a broad range of taxa (ie. no ‘number of koalas’ field). Please add fields that you find useful or any relevant comments or description. Blank ones i don’t know which version of many duplicates is most often used so feel free to add one. If we find that there are duplicates, we can work to merge them if we have tools to do so.

All Taxa

Count/Number - I believe this one is used the most.

Alive/Dead - I think this one is the main one?

Interaction - There is a series of fields used to document interactions between organisms. The standardized ones are shared with GloBI though it would be good to verify if that collaboration is still active. For species observed in association without a specific interaction noted, there is this field and other options for multiples though i am not sure which are linked to GloBI

Taxonomy - the Holding Bin fields can be used for taxonomic units that don’t fit iNat’s criteria for being added as taxon, for instance two plant species that don’t form a monophylletic group but can’t be distinguished much of the year.

Natural Community/vegetation community/habitat type - used for habitat characterization, but there isn’t a consistent taxonomy here. @charlie uses this one in Vermont, USA with this reference and in California we mostly used Sawyer-Keeler-Wolf for more specific types and Holland for more broad. In the US there is also this. There’s also this field that is even less formalized. I don’t think there’s a global standard. If this topic generates lots of interest we can make a spin-off wiki

Microhabitat - Physical substrate, Microhabitat description

Spore color - Spore color, Spore print, Spore print color, Fungi spore print. The more generic ones should be preferred because they could also be used for organisms besides fungi.

Illustration - Illustration can be used to mark observations supported by drawings/sketches/illustrations.

Type of Evidence - I believe Animal Sign and Song is the most broadly used but there may be others? There is also one called Sign which gets almost as much use, which are prime candidates for merging.

Cause of death - Field for marking roadkill, window kill, natural, etc. Not sure how specific would be best if this was could be improved (“natural” could get into predator vs starvation, type of predator, etc. etc.)

Gametophyte/Sporophyte - Rarely used, but is just as useful as flowering phenology. Sporophytes present? is bryophyte-centric, but a new field could be created that could be used for all plants, ex: A seed plant identified from just pollen could be marked as a gametophyte.


wow, that’s… a lot. Is it darwincore or something? I don’t really understand what you are getting at, or what any of that is, to be honest… I meant this wiki to just be a place to link to what different fields are, and you could put a link to where all the values are, in a journal post or something. Otherwise we will just get buried.

The very top ones, i don’t really see the point because things are already tagged by taxonomy.

Those are all the fields available on observado.org.
They have two main field types there: ‘Activity’, which here includes both animal behavior and the method of observation (tracks, with camera trap, sighting etc.) and ‘Plumage’ which is basically life stage for species groups other than birds.
Most of these are specific to certain taxa.

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Hmm. Well in this wiki i am trying to make a list of a few relevant fields by field page, so if you create these fields on iNat, maybe we can just link to Activity and Plumage fields in the wiki and put the list somewhere else like a journal post. Though i was hoping this could be more general things rather than species specific, otherwise it will get so full no one can read it. Does that make sense?

Yes. I only want to state that they only use 5-7 fields and those fields contain serveral values, all in one table (!!!). You only have to translate the table to another language to have this available for another language, which is very easy. I was wondering why iNaturalist choose a totally different approach ?? I must say i wanted to add a lookup.csv file but i was unable to do with this editor which gives me several problems in size and upload formats.

  1. Yes you may move my item.
  2. This is the way it is solved in observado.org…which just one table…which is qua design far superior above anything else i think
  3. I w**as not aware of DarwinCore.**Is this wide acceptated ? Is the current iNaturalist Darwincore ? The current situation at iNaturalist seems to hard to maintain.
  4. If i should change it i should choose a solution with differend display texts and visibility fields.I am still wondering how the exports work to 3rd parties.
  5. The values of the fields change by taxonomy or taxonomy group. That are the top ones for. The ones with a 9 on the end are only selectable if you have a FISH observation.

Yesterday I spend half a day understanding Darwin Core and i did not succeed, so i think it is NOT a good standard…although i heard Verspreidingsatlas.nl (professional use in the Nethrlands…80.000.000 observations) is using it.
A standard set of Lookuptables, supported by the iphone-inaturalist app, for different taxa, especially birds and plants. In Holland it is very popular to monitor the plant-insect relations because the change A LOT due to climate change and invase exots. You can see Darwin not only happening in the Galapagos but right into your own garden!!
Lookup table for different taxonomy groups, oly english language

Thanks! I am not sure why fields were done on iNaturalist the way they were, maybe there were no resources ormotivationat the time for standardization so it was just open ended. I think the real answer is that iNat grew very fast from something very small and at the time it was created it worked pretty well and there weren’t the resources to make something more standardized. It could be that the observado approach would work better though i still don’t understand it and it may be animal oriented, right?

I don’t really understand darwin core, but it is supposed to have standardized terms maybe? Someone else can answer it. People just ask for inaturalist to work with it sometimes.

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That’s a good idea to maintain a Wiki page. We’ve been doing something similar on iNaturalist NZ for a few years now. See https://inaturalist.nz/pages/extra_fields_nz

I’d be happy to incorporate some of that here but I also expect that some of the fields we’ve standardised onto are not the same as others have adopted elsewhere. That’s both the power and the frustration of iNat’s observation fields.

What’s perhaps as useful as a Wiki guide to the “best” fields to use is a Wiki mapping field synonymy to help researchers to navigate the happy mess we’ve all made.


A synonomy would be awesome, though hard to do! feel free to add the fields you use if you want to, as long as they are fairly general ones. I expected my fields are part of one ‘silo’. The other question will be if there are tools to merge fields if necessary…

are all those interaction fields the gloBI ones? We should definitely move that over at least

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I am trying to find information on how to best note pollinator and plant relationships I am observing. I have done some searching in the forums and wiki, and I am not finding anything specific to that data. I am definitely an amateur at all things botany, but I would like to be able to document in a way that is searchable to other users/researchers. Thanks.

on the pollinator organism, i’ll often use the Eating (taxon) observation field to indicate what it’s eating. sometimes for parasitic relationships, i’ll (also) use the Host (taxon) observation field.

I’ve used interaction: visited flower of. Eating could also imply herbivory so I don’t use that for pollinators.

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These can be useful fields for interactions:


Name Datatype Description
interaction->mutualism with taxon two organisms who benefit by interacting with each other. Please select the other organism in the partnership.
Interaction->Seed dispersed by taxon This species was seen moving or defecating seeds of the observed plant.
Interaction->Carcass scavenged by taxon The dead carcass of the observed species was seen being eaten by this species.
Interaction->Decomposed by taxon The observed species was dead and being decomposed by this species.
Interaction->Decomposer of taxon The observed species was seen decomposing this species.
Interaction->Chased by taxon The observed species was chased by this species (but not caught or killed)
Interaction->Riding On taxon Life Form is hitching a ride on another life form.
Interaction->Damaged by taxon Your focal species was damaged by this species with a behaviour other than feeding on it or competing with it.
Interaction->Damaged taxon Your focal species damaged this other species with a behaviour other than feeding on it or competing with it.
Interaction->Parasitoid of taxon Your observed species was found in, on, or emerged from this host as a parasitoid.
Interaction->Infected by taxon The observed species was seen being infected by this species.
Interaction->Mixed Flock text Mixed feeding flocks/loosely associated groups of multiple bird species, esp. during migration or on wintering grounds
Interaction->Seed eaten by taxon This species was seen eating seeds of the observed plant (eating the seeds themselves, not the fruit).
Interaction->Scavenged carcass of taxon The observed species was seen feeding on the dead carcass of this species.
Interaction->Visited plant taxon For insects that are on plants but not feeding.
Interaction->Preyed upon by taxon The observed species was killed and seen being eaten by this predator species.
Interaction->Chasing taxon The observed species was seen chasing this species (eg unsuccessful predation, or driving off competition)
Interaction->Used as nest by taxon The observed species was being nested in by this species.
Interaction->Nested in taxon The observed species was seen nesting in this species.
Interaction->Competition with taxon The focal species was observed competing with this other species.
Interaction->Egg(s) laid on/in taxon The species you saw your observed species lay her egg(s) on/in or found eggs laid on.
Interaction->fungivore of taxon The observed fungivore species was seen eating this fungus species.
Interaction->Hemiparasite of taxon Your observed species is a hemiparasite (a partial parasite, e.g., mistletoe) on this species.
Interaction->fungivory by taxon The observed fungus was seen being eaten by this fungivore species.
Interaction->Parasite of taxon The observed species is a parasite found in, on, or emerging from this host species.
Interaction->Pathogen of taxon The observed species was seen infecting and causing damage to this host species.
Interaction->Herbivore of taxon The observed herbivore species was seen eating this plant species.
Interaction->Ate seed of taxon The observed species was seen eating seeds of this plant (eating the seeds themselves, not the fruit).
Interaction->Fruit eaten by taxon This species was seen eating fruit of the observed plant.
Interaction->Flower visited by taxon This species visited flowers on the observed plant (and possibly pollinated the flowers).
Interaction->Ate fruit of taxon The observed species was seen eating fruit of this plant.
Interaction->Herbivory by taxon The observed plant was seen being eaten by this herbivore species.
Interaction->Preyed on taxon The observed species was a predator seen killing or eating this species.
Interaction->Visited flower of taxon The observed species was seen visiting flowers of this plant (and possibly pollinating the flowers).
Interaction->Dispersed seed of taxon The observed species was seen moving or defecating seeds of this plant.
Interaction->Parasitised by taxon The observed species was seen being parasitised by this species.
Interaction->attempted predation by taxon The observed species was chased/attacked by this predator species but escaped.
Interaction->attempted predation of taxon The observed predator species was chasing/attacking this prey species but the prey escaped.

note that the field Charlie mentioned is a different one to the “visited flower of” in this set. One of the problems with fields is the extreme flexibility of them! We often end up with duplication. Because of the comprehensiveness of what Jon Sullivan set up, I prefer to use these ones, but there are so many observations that utilise all forms, that anyone using the data would be wise to investigate what duplicates are in play and factor them into their searches. So there is no need to be concerned about “using the right one”, it can be just a matter of what format or wording you prefer to use :)

@charlie (and other moderators)… please be careful when you move posts around, as it can make things very disjointed and hard to follow. Looking at the start of this “wiki” is a post by Charlie that is then followed by a reply by Charlie about Darwincore?

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I meant to refer to the main interaction form, but just misspelled since I was on my phone. I think.

I didn’t move this post,but yeah. We are still calibrating on how to best balance the confusing of moving posts with the confusion of excess duplication like what plagued the google groups

I meant to refer to the main interaction form, but just misspelled since I was on my phone. I think.

I didn’t move this post,but yeah. We are still calibrating on how to best balance the confusing of moving posts with the confusion of excess duplication like what plagued the google groups

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A user deleted their comment, which is what Charlie was responding to.

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ah, my apologies!

All these fields assume that the ID on the interaction is correct or is known!!
I prefer fields which link to the relevant observation without making any assumptions about the ID. e.g.

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What I do at present is to add two fields to the observation (example). One as others have said, “Interaction->Visited Flower of” and another, “Associated observation”. The second field has a link to the observation.

However, to search for these observations is not yet straightforward, so the project approach that Tony suggested might be a better short-term solution. There is also a feature request to add interactions to species pages with some existing functionality, but not based internally on iNat observations - please vote for it if you would like to see this happen!