Patience is a virtue

…and virtue is its own reward. Or so my mother constantly told her impatient daughter. :-) I’m musing on how to wrap up my Yard Survey project, wondering how long it takes to get identifications?
I uploaded a large number of observations in a fairly short time when I first joined iNat. Could that have contributed to many of them not being identified after several months? (Lost in the crowd?)
Or is it because many had already been identified to species? Is it more likely an an observation that has NOT been identified to species will be given attention?
The state I live in does not have many active &/or expert users on iNat. I’ve been trying to follow folks in nearby states, helping ID what I can. (You scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours theory).
I have been at-mentioning those on the leaderboard, which has helped, somewhat.
I wonder, does any other edit cause an unidentified observation to pop back to the top of things needing an ID? (not that I’d try to, just curious)
So grateful for this community!


Hi there and welcome!
The biggest factors in identification speed are 1) location and 2) taxon (type of organism).

If you are in a place with many identifiers (such as most English-speaking countries), you can expect relatively quick feedback, ranging from minutes (birds) to days (charismatic plants) to months (fungi).
If you’re in a place with fewer users, yeah, you’ll be waiting a while. By your being active, however, you can encourage others in your area to be more engaged and to stay on the platform.

Photos lacking critical information may take years to be identified, if they ever are.

Also, some species require a specialist because they are uncommon, or have subtle differences that require an experienced eye. Depending on the taxon, there may only be a handful of people on iNat who can properly.idrntify what you have.
eg I’m working through a nine-month backlog of Euphorbia peplus (200 obs to go). Which ironically is very common, and if you know what to look for not that hard to identify, but people mix it up with close relatives and lookalikes all the time. I’ve identified Euphorbia observations that were years old :sweat_smile:

Also. No survey is ever done! Each season and each year brings a different set of organisms. Plus, as you observe more, you will notice things you did not before.

Needs ID is sorted by date uploaded by default. Some people will choose to view them in a different order, though.

Thanks for helping identify as well :)


Thanks for the excellent explanation!
I have noticed that spiders are lagging behind all others. Assuming that they are one of the most popular categories?
Also, I photographed about 450 Leps species this summer in a state with incredible diversity due to vast hardwood forests and low population to land ratio.
I am, by nature, a digger. So I’ve already exhausted all my resources to identify most of the observations I upload.
Which takes me back to my mother’s advice. LOL.


for spiders, species ID can often require dissection / really, really good closeups of genitalia and other stuff. If you get to genus, you’ve done a good job.
butterflies get ID fairly quickly.

I suppose you have no choice but to become the change you want to see in the world… and learn to ID. join ussss


I think identifying to the finest level you can is almost always a help in getting things IDed, so I wouldn’t worry about that. A lot of the observations I see hanging around forever are in some large bucket classification purgatory (plants, etc.). My impression is that many IDers search/do their identifying often at lower levels like family, so any IDing that gets an ID to a lower level helps the observation be found by experts and IDed.


I posted a spider record from my neighborhood, with pretty good photos, in 2014 and it just got a species ID this week from another iNatter.

If I had done a little homework myself, I probably could have come up with the ID sooner (I was confident of the genus). But it’s rather cool to suddenly get an ID on a record you had forgotten about from years ago.


I’m working on that with WV moths. Started a project, “West Virginia Moths, USA” So much to learn!!!

Thank you, that puts my mind at ease in that regard.

The gift that keeps on giving!

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Spiders are their own challenge and a common source of frustration for both observers and identifiers. They are small, so they are difficult to photograph with sufficient detail. There are many (many) similar looking species and even genera, so specific ID is usually not possible from photos - if your photos got a confident genus ID, that is better than average. They are frequently observed (many many observations) but sort of a niche area of interest/study (relatively few identifiers) - currently there are about 5 people doing the vast majority of spider IDs in North America, and approaching 1/2million observations (over 2/3 of the total) in “Needs ID” state. Also iNat has been gaining in popularity (which is great!) - with over 40% of the total (Spiders/United States) observations posted in 2020 alone, but it’s pretty much the same 5 people trying to process that growing backlog. All of this taken together makes this particular taxon rather frustrating on both sides of the camera - there is just no way for a small group of people to effectively sort through that much data while being accurate and (ideally) also helpful. The “fan base” (if you will) for spiders is much smaller than more popular taxa like birds, butterflies, herps, etc.

I went through your spider photos and added a few IDs but mostly they are about as specific as I would personally be comfortable with, and in some cases more specific than I would have suggested. Hope this explains some of the landscape and why these observations linger longer than others.


Yes, thank you very much!
I know this has been commented on before, but one thing I liked very much about the is that cropping is the FIRST step in submission. I’m a photographer, using a DSLR, so I’m never going to submit without cropping in Lightroom first. But many users shoot wide and upload as-is. While I realize that context can be important (what plant is that moth on?), I also think built-in cropping trains users by showing them the quality of their photo when zoomed in. also makes searching for a similar looking Lep sooooo much easier. I often pop over to that website when I get frustrated with zooming in & out on iNat.

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Your photos are great - nicely cropped and well lit/focused. It’s really just the nature of these animals that makes them difficult to ID from photos. In a lot of cases we can say it looks like probably this species, but “probably” is not good enough for most people to leave an ID if we want to be accurate. Also a lot of your spider photos are of juveniles, which are even harder to ID because their distinctive field markings (if there are any, anyway) are not fully developed.

If you are interested, this webpage describes some of the challenges in identifying the very attractive and commonly-observed “flower crab spiders” - just a small subset of one of the more than 50 families of spiders found in North America. The author has spent the last 10 years studying mostly this one family of spiders. It may help give an idea of why this stuff is more complicated than it might seem:


Thank you for the link. I always say, you don’t know what you don’t know. Nothing has proven that true like this yard survey has.

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That’s exactly the right thing to do. As you’ve discovered, it’s sometimes best to gather around your community before you dump a large number of observations.

Here’s an idea. Suppose you have an observation of Trillium erectum that is languishing in the black hole you described. Your next observation of T. erectum can include a comment to the previous observation, something as simple as “Another observation of this species: LINK”. In this way, the previous observation indirectly pops up on the radar.

The next time you go on a hike, be sure to take photos of multiple individuals of each species. When you get back home, hold back one or more observations of each species. This is especially important during the springtime and early fall, when iNat is flooded with observations. Then, during the winter months, upload the observations that you’ve held back, including a back-link to your previous observation(s) of that species. Nearby observations of the same species are additional evidence that an identifier can apply to the observation at hand.

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Well, many (most?) observers (me included) are using low-res camera phones, so cropping and zooming does not necessarily increase the quality of the photo. Sometimes just the opposite occurs.

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Thank you for your advice. I first uploaded only the best representative for each moth species. I’m now uploading each different individual, sometimes adding at-mentions and links if the original one has yet to be identified. So I’m glad my method mirrors yours, even if I didn’t do it purposefully.

I’m not sure that zooming & cropping changes the ppi, unless there’s some data loss upon upload because iNat resizes photos like Instagram does? (I re-size before exporting). But cropping does eliminate parts of the photo not needed for ID. Which speeds up recognition when scrolling through many photos.

The opposite is usually true for me. If I put a species on something it’s much more likely that either a) I’m wrong, and people hate it when other people are wrong, so they correct me more quickly or b) someone believes me and hits agree.

Whether or not this is the best way to proceed is a different question. For example, my local top plant identifier is a very knowledgeable, well-known and respected member of the local scientific community. He definitely should know his plants. But sometimes he agrees with the observer’s incorrect species ID, as if he didn’t really look at the photo (maybe he’s hitting agree on the thumbnails? ugh.) On the other hand he’ll usually skip over stuff not ID’d to species. I must conclude that he likes the agree button and doesn’t like typing. But it also gives me a conundrum: if I observe a plant and I’m indecisive with my own ID of it, do I leave it at genus and get no feedback from him, or do I take a stab at the species and have him agree, only to wonder afterwards if he agreed because I’m right or because he hit agree without really looking at it…


It’s a process of continual refinement… sometimes that process is a short one, sometimes a very long (and interesting) one…

Even if an observation is ID’d wrong, and confirmed by someone else and goes to RG… at some stage down the track, one of those many identifiers that go through and mass ID on a taxa at a time (what I think of as “flash carding” are likely to have that experience of “same - same - same - same - slightly different - same - same … wait… go back to that… [makes a comment that this doesn’t look right]”… or perhaps someone studying a particular range of taxa are reviewing observations, and notice the mis-identification and are able to elaborate on why… I have made corrections to IDs under these situations often. I review ALL nz spiders obs, and I make mistakes from time to time and others pick up on those…

I’m not advocating for making IDs that are known to be wrong, but I think it’s a good thing to be pushing the envelope a little… and encouraging others to push the envelope as well. Science is all about putting up ideas and then trying to break them.

But I will add that one should only “push the envelope” and make IDs that are somewhat over-reaching if you will be around to change your ID when the discussion takes place. Likewise, avoid piling on with agreements unless you are going to be around to change or withdraw your ID.

We can’t really stem the flow of new users who make observations and then agree with the first ID made, that is just a human nature thing, and would need to be addressed at the on-boarding level, so I am not counting them when I say “need to be around to change ID”. And another reason not to put that pressure on them, is we want to encourage participation by new observers… they might not have useful ID skills at the time they join, but by being allowed to “have a go” they will learn and pick up the skills and knowledge required to become useful identifiers! So on that basis, I think an ID by the observer should never be subject to the same standards that we might expect of identifiers putting IDs on observations of others.

But to bring it back to topic… the squeeky wheel gets the grease… so the best way to get progress with an ID is to make some noise. Push the ID a little finer, ask some questions. I get tagged often for spiders outside of NZ, which I know little about. I hate it… It’s kinda like someone on the street asking you which way to go to get to the Louvre, and all I can suggest is “the airport?”. But every now and then I get tagged in on one that IS of interest, and so I am never ever going to discourage others from tagging me in.

@arboretum_amy in reply to the conundrum… I encourage you to not worry about that. We make IDs based on our understanding of taxonomic concepts at the time… and even if you get it right according to the currently accepted concept of that taxon, some future change in the concept could well render it invalid. And if you indeed have the wrong concept of the taxon, then the only way for others to become aware of that and for you to then learn the concept from them, is to express it.


Ahem… there is an onboarding process?