I regularly combine several images of several members of a single population into a single observation. I do this for the following reasons:
- A desire to document variability in variability between populations.
- Aiding identification to species-level: Many keys and identification guides emphasize population averages for traits that differ between related species, but overlap somewhat in unusual individuals. This is often true in the plant world, at least - I’m less familiar with other keys in other contexts.
- Out of habit, frankly, and a personal preference to have to refer to fewer iNaturalist observations in my own notebook.
- Just a general sense that more information is usually better.
I can see some problems with my approach - for example, I could:
- Inadvertently lump together different species that I mistakenly thought comprised a single population of a single species.
- Or, especially for zoomed-in photos of smaller parts of an organism, someone else could mistakenly think that all the photos are of a single, highly variable individual (perhaps connected by organs not pictured in every photo, or perhaps by underground organs).
For me (and most users), these problems are probably very rare, and iNat seems like a great place to be corrected rapidly when/if they do occur.
Is this practice bad, though? Or at least, not in keeping with iNat standards?
I’ve come across some users asking other users to ‘split up’ observations of multiple individuals of (presumably) a single population. My guess is that they are making this critique because not every individual pictured in the observation is identifiable, on its own, to species-level, or perhaps to check off different phenology boxes.