Old observations - still useful?

and sketches from memory… and notes from journals (photo-less obs can have value too!)…

Seriously, anything which you yourself find interesting enough to post an observation of is bound to have someone else interested as well… either from a data point pure science perspective, or just from an amateur “learning about nature” point of view. I started on plants in iNat, and now I review ALL New Zealand spider observations, and I love seeing stuff I haven’t seen before. And it’s terrific to be able to practise my ID skills on stuff I HAVE seen before. And it’s just plain cool to see people caring enough to post them!

As long as you are happy to do so, your observations are very appreciated!


I’ll just echo all that has been said above. I’ve got a small moth collection from 1985, and have posted about half of them. Why not?
Right now we are in winter, and there isn’t a wide range of Life out and about. I still take pictures when I can. I’ve got lots of observations of Black Capped Chickadees and White Breasted Nuthatches!


Same for me, except it’s mostly Chestnut-backed Chickadees and Red-breasted Nuthatches!


The iNaturalist definition of “recent” is within the last 100 years. So anything later than 1921 will do. I will certainly be posting pictures taken on my travels as I come across them again.


The way I see it iNat has one principle raison d’être (to promote understanding of and learning about biodiversity) and a bunch of subsidiary benefits, one of which is having fun learning about…etc. I have a lot of fun rummaging through old photos and figuring out when and where they were taken. I’m still looking for a circa 1964 photo of me with a fish I caught in a little lake north of Thunder Bay that I know is in an album someplace and when I find it I will post it here, just because. If it keeps you engaged with the natural world and manages to put a smile on your face besides then it’s all on mission.


This may be leading this discussion on a different tangent, but what about posting observations of things you have already posted in a previous year? I am mostly interested in plants, and every season that rolls around presents some of the same plants to be observed. Is there value in one more photo of, say, Yellow Trillium? I suppose there is value in posting observations from different locations, to show range. Maybe more pictures of anything can “teach” the AI how to recognize them.

Personally, I wouldn’t. I’m okay with posting the same bird at different times because, well, it’s an animal. More is likely to have changed since I last photographed it. But plants… I wouldn’t post the same individual plant multiple times unless a lot had changed. Multiple observations of the same species are fine, although you should exercise good judgement - e.g. don’t just photograph every single dandelion in your yard and post them as separate observations. But others may disagree with me.

You may want to check out this topic for more opinions.

Yellow trillium? Another data point for distribution and time of blooming.


I just realized I posted a duplicate observation while sorting photos. Should I delete one? Identical date, photos, etc. Both tagged as Research Grade by someone else.

I’m having a difference of opinion with another iNaturalist member on a plant I observed. I hope it’s perennial, because then I will be able to observe it again next year and see if we can figure out what it is. Any goldenrod experts willing to look at my observations? I’d appreciate another opinion.

Yes, please delete one! Duplicates are useless and annoying, so either delete it or identify another organism in the photo (noticed @trh_blue doing that recently and it seems smart).


Yes. Post that Trillium again this year. For one thing, it’s still there; some day it may not be. Also, the date of flowering or fruit set may change as climate changes. That’s important data that people can mine from iNaturalist data.


Goldenrods are tough. I hope there are goldenrod experts on iNaturalist who will examine photos! Judging by the number of observations just identified to “goldenrod” there aren’t enough of them, though.

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I am of the opinion that any data well taken (data, georeference, etc.) is valuable regardless of its age. Having data, or not, of a species for a long time gives us an idea of ​​its evolution and is tremendously valuable for monitoring.

That is my idea.


I assume I should not post Galapagos photos from 15 years ago? That fauna must be very well documented. Am I correct?

If you know when and where, post them. It’s a special place that deserves lots of documentation.


Your photos would be welcome, as long as they have dates and locations. No matter how well documented the islands are, more information is always useful.


I think what @jdjohnson states is valid however he has a professional opinion. He has a better idea than many of us as to what is of value in research. If he were spending time on something that is what he would do - there is an economy of time for him. In general, many of us are getting outside, and in the crawl spaces sometimes, and seeing and enjoying what is there. We post our personal record of this journey as a diary, in some ways. We don’t necessarily know what someone else will glean from that record.

If you have a record of a trip to Galapagos, post away, at your leisure. There are different surrounds, angles, interactions, colours, seasons, weathers, time of day, focuses, exposures, degree of morphology in view, and specifics I can’t think of right now. For every researcher there are untold many of us that could learn from these images just to refine our visual acuity of the subject organism for when we go on that particular dream trip. Some of us concentrate on plants, some of us on animals, some of us on other organisms, some of us are looking at the whole picture. There is so much to glean.


I never meant to say that old observations should not be posted, I was just suggesting that if someone were trying to prioritize within a large group of old observations, they might focus on underrepresented groups or range extensions instead of starting with species that are well represented.

For instance, I have nearly 30,000 photos of a single species that I surveyed extensively. I will probably not upload all 30,000 to iNat simply due to time constraints and the fact that many of the photos are poor quality. I have uploaded representatives from each location and from the earliest and latest dates I saw the species, to show the full geographic and phenotypic range.


There are 2 things about iNaturalist that I especially like: it provides a door for people that are not knowledgeable, but interested, to gain access to Nature (gardeners, cottagers and vacationers in foreign lands come to mind), and it provides a very large set of data that can be ‘mined’ by amateurs and professionals alike. With that bias, what comes to mind while reading this theme is that there may be uses for both old observations and frequent observations that people haven’t thought of yet.