Observing Every Organism - Is it Beneficial?

That is an apt description of “Round-backed Millipedes,” which was my original example. A given species of round-backed millipedes, on the other hand…

And yet, ca. 180 thousand observations worldwide isn’t all that much for an entire order. Present =/= visible. Ubiquitous or not, I don’t know the last time I’ve seen one. Centipedes yes, millipedes, no.

I notice you disregarded the rest of my post, in which I noted some examples of how observations may be relvant beyond providing species-level presence data, and also pointed out that one can make choices when documenting one’s observations that may increase the possible use cases for your data (providing contextualization like annotations, observation fields, etc.; learning what to photograph to allow for more granular IDs).

I’ll add one more: users may find it a meaningful record of their interactions with nature regardless of whether or not the observation can be ID’d to species and whether or not it is scientifically valuable. Not everyone expects or feels the need for all their observations to become research grade. I’ll photograph slime molds when I have a chance, because they look cool and I don’t see them very often. And maybe they end up being left at order, either because of lack of IDers or because they simply can’t be ID’d any further at certain developmental stages. I’m OK with that.

If you prefer to only post observations where a species ID is possible, that’s perfectly fine (though it strikes me as a rather limiting choice, given the many types of organisms that, through no fault of their own, are quite difficult to ID using macroscopic features). But this is your personal preference – it doesn’t determine whether an observation is meaningful or valuable to someone else.

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Depending on the species of chironomid, I would love nothing more than to see people upload an observation every time they see one. At least until the CV learns the species.

Sure. But other users upload specifically hoping to know what species it is.

It does not follow that every observer has to be OK with that. And what I see in a lot of these kinds of threads is that we should try to convince every observer to be OK with that; there tends to be an emerging consensus that being OK with that is more “right” than not being so.

You’re not wrong. I disregarded it because it was peripheral to what I was trying to say.

But yes, one of my biggest frustrations with especially plants is that for many species, all you can find is species-level presence data. I want to learn about a given plant taxon, and I can find a plethora of websites – USDA Plants Database for example – which can tell me in great detail where it has and has not been found, but nothing else about it. Range maps to my heart’s content but a conspicuous absence of life history and ecological relationships (other than whether it is a component of a named vegetational community or a wetland indicator).

But these problems are only more extreme if, instead of species-level presence data, it was nothing but family- or order-level presence data.

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I think about the pre-internet days when I’d pull out an insect field guide and try to ID the bug that was sitting in front of me. Those guides could rarely get you to species — simply a limitation of the format (along with the obvious challenges with insects themselves) — but even a family or genus ID was welcome. INat is way beyond that in capability but I agree that not everyone trying to ID that bug will be disappointed it can’t be done to species.


Speaking as someone who does a lot of IDs (sadly not always correctly), I would say that there is no reason not to provide as many obs as you see fit. When I come across someone who has lodged many observations for the same organism in a localised area, I will generally ID the first few and then move on to doing different IDs. My reasoning is that if the person who lodged obs has, in my opinion been correct, then all of the other observations will still be on the record even if they take a while to achieve Research rade . The same applies if the person lodging has not provided ID to species level. If I believe I can ID to species level I will again do several IDs. If the person who lodged them agrees with my assessment, they can ID their remaining ones and again they will be on record.

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