Our Biased Interest In Specific Wildlife

As inaturalists, our goal is to document and learn more about the wildlife around us. However, there are times where we may overlook certain organisms due to not having a particular interest in said organism. Yet with that being said, some people do have an interest in organisms that most may write off as uninteresting.

I would like to go further and explore the why of it all. Why are you focused on a particular organism? What’s its appeal? What’s the story behind it? Have you always felt this way about this living thing? In just a few words, can you motivate the rest of us to deeply care about what you’re passionate about?


There is a very similar thread here:

which I am happy to reopen and transfer this post to (feel free to message).

Other threads with similar topics on observation biases that may be useful include:

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I’m trying to start a project within a niche which also deals with big picture stuff: noob observer engagement and retention, fielding and making brief enquiries to actual scientists, and dealing with your question by connecting single data points to better integrate with other ones.

I also have a… complicated private life. All v positive but my hands are super full.

If you have any questions, please send a brief “hello it’s me” DM on the main iNat site.

Meantime, here’s the project. It’s very basic but hopefully scaleable, right now it’s less than ~24ish hours old:


But yes, the answer to your question is: it can be done, and I’m trying to find ways of streamlining.


Oh wow, I forgot all about this thread. I forgot I even participated in the discussion. Thanks for providing the links! I realize now that I was a bit vague in terms of my goal of bringing this topic up. I’ll edit my original question, but I was thinking more along the lines of obscure biases. For instance, look at ionam. He seems to have a particular interest in Greenbottle Flies. I was wondering why such ones are keenly interested in these organisms.


Oh my! Might I ask, why focus on Greenbottle Flies? What about them peaks your interest?

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Their versatility. Science has realised that this applies to research as well as all other parts of the globe.

They are of universal global importance but such a pain to ID that nobody wants to deal with them. Struggling to fund your study? Throw a greenbottle in there, and then call me.

My life goal right now is the pipe dream of slipping my way into academia without formal training. We’ll see. If not, at least iNat knows who to call about UK greenbottle trivia. Either way, I’m having fun.

Minor point: she

Major point: thank you for your kind words.


Oh, sorry! I didn’t mean to assume. I was typing without thinking. Thanks for the correction!

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So, how long have you had an interest in these flies? Where did this all start?

Stream of consciousness infodumps into a .txt file are always useful. Ctrl+S and tidy them later.

Lifelong insect obsession lol. I’m one of them weird nerdy nature girls for sure.

The greenbottle thing caught my eye by chance this summer. A UK fly identifier got hold of one or two of my observtions, and I realised just how overlooked flies are. The convo heading towards any specific fly was down to chance.

Here’s the observation that started it all: https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/154690748

If that ever got to research grade I’d be one happy girl!


Oh my! That’s more recent than I expected! It’s amazing that you’ve taken such an interest in these guys! Thank you so much for sharing your recent liking for Greenbottle Flies!

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Somewhere in the last few days I’ve seen a post suggesting plants are a neglected group on iNaturalist, but I can’t find it now. I see the opener in this discussion has been edited a couple of times. Have you removed a mention of plants?

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Yes I have. I didn’t want the discussion to just turn into a plants are underrated conversation.

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Some biases are based on the camera gear a person has and where they live and what species they have access to. I’d like to photo cetaceans but have almost zero opportunity for that.


“plants are a neglected group”

Guilty. I always studied insects, and ignored plants. Now I’ve come to realize the (obvious?) relationship between specific insect taxon and plants, both host plants and nectaring plants. Now I’m playing catch-up, and have to go with the wildlife people to have them show me what different plants are. Doh.

That said, I don’t have time to become a specialist on plants, and that’s where Seek comes in. I note a relationship between an animal and a plant at a specific period, use Seek, and voila, I know what it is.

I’m biased because of time and a limited longevity. If I had all the time in the world, and would live forever, I’d look at fungi too. But I don’t, so I can’t.


Ah, yes. For me it’s velvet worms.

What’s fun is when you’re out with a telephoto camera stalking birds and you come across an insect or plant that’s kind of interesting and use your cellphone to photo that. Then later when you’re reviewing the photos you find all your telephoto pics are the same old species you’ve photo’d before but that insect or plant is something new and different. If you’re open to shooting a variety of organisms, the exciting new things are often among the shots you paid least attention to.


Anecdotally I think a decent number of people who start out birding move on to odonata next, since both are found around water, are often best viewable/photographable with the same equipment, and are often identifiable visually.


I focus on taking pictures of invertebrates, especially spiders, wasps, and moths. They are diverse, colorful, interesting to watch, and under-documented in New Mexico.

Learning about insect diversity, thanks to books like “Bees in your backyard” and websites like iNaturalist and bugguide, and having the opportunity to observe and document the wildlife in my garden and neighborhood. I have recorded 1,200 invertebrate species on my property, and counting, including some first state records and first live photographs.

Definitely not. “Bugs” used to be in the “creepy crawly” category for me.

Do you want a species named for you? Go collect an undescribed insect and it might happen! https://www.newspeciespodcast.net/all-episodes


That was true for me. I photo’d my first odonate when I was seeking birds in a wetland with my telephoto camera and a common Blue Dasher posed perfectly right in front of me as if requesting me to shoot it. So I did. No idea what species it was at the time, but I learned. And then I learned a few more species as I photo’d them. I was hooked after that.

I think the camera is the key to getting interested in any new group. Once you have an image that can be shared and IDed by you or others, it starts the process of learning, better than if you just saw it and tried to describe it to another person