Prioritising certain species to observe

I was having a little browse of which species have the most observations in my local area and was surprised by some of the results. Which has me wondering…

How do you prioritise which species you post observations of?

Do you post everything you come across? Or do you lean more to ones that are rarer, fit certain taxonomy, that you’ve seen on dedicated trips, etc?

Personally, I try to post a bit of everything but I admit some of the more common species I post less frequently in comparison to how often they’re observed (I have heaps of pigeon photos, but not compared to how many I see, sorry pidges!)

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I post every photo I take :)


It varies a lot for me!

I definitely don’t post everything I come across. I respect that approach, but I like to get somewhere if I’m going for a walk - if I decided to post absolutely everything I would only be able to travel a few metres. :D

When I learn to recognise a particular new species (like a common plant), I often go through a few weeks of observing every single one I see. Because I’m excited that I can now identify it myself, and it gives me a sense of where it occurs and how common it is.

Often when I go out, I start with a rough idea of what to focus on - sometimes birds, sometimes moss, sometimes ferns, etc. I’m better at spotting things if I’ve got my vision ‘tuned’ to a certain category, and I like the fact that going to the same place can be different each time if I go with a different target in mind.

And there are some particular taxa that I absolutely always observe every time I see them, for various reasons. I love jays (guess why :P) but also have a history of never getting a really good photo, so even though they’re not very unusual I always try to record them. I observe every liverwort I see, because they’re so common and ubiquitous but also so rarely observed! I always record sundews, because their habitat is so specific that I’m always excited to find them.

So, it’s complicated. :P I am generally less likely to observe very common species like feral pigeons or grey squirrels in urban places. I feel like other local observers probably have those things covered, and I don’t think adding my observation to the pool will make much difference. Not that I don’t love those species too of course! :D


I don’t post everything I see and photo. I do post photos of those organisms that are less commonly documented in my area or for which I’m seeking an ID. But I’ve never seen the need for trying to get anything and everything I see onto iNat. That’s partly because I don’t have time or patience to do that and partly because of my feeling (perhaps erroneous) that I’d be overloading a database that is already pretty huge with too many records to review.



I post what I like. That also gets filtered by what I can photograph well. “Well” being defined as good enough to possibly identify the species.


I always post an observation if its something I haven’t seen before. But for the rest of them, I’ll usually post If I like how the photo turned out, or if the animal was doing something notably interesting. Sometimes I’ll also post it if I haven’t observed that specific species in a while :)


I (and this is Lynn Harper in her masswildlife username disguise) tend to post every decent photo I take, and I take photos of everything I can get a decent photo of and that I have a prayer of figuring out the ID (or that someone is likely to make an ID of).

What I’m often trying to do is leave a record of what the site is generally like, for potential future visitors. I am also often trying to leave a record of indicator species - species that indicate the type of natural community is there. For example, observing Pitch Pine and Bear Oak in Massachusetts might indicate that the site is fire-influenced and might well benefit from habitat management that includes prescribed fire. Observing an Eriophorum species in the fall is a note to myself (and others) that this wetland is boggy and might yield rare or uncommon plants and odonates at another time of year with more thorough searching.

I also suspect that decades from now, researchers might value iNat data for what it could tell us about the movement of species ranges with climate change. Or even tell somewhere when and where a plant that eventually turns out to be invasive was first planted in a garden (even though iNat is supposed to be only for observations of wild and uncultivated species). Knowing how much has changed in just the past half-century I’ve been a naturalist makes me think that these little tidbits of data we can leave further scientists may be very useful - and we currently have no idea which bits of data will prove to be useful.

So, I record it all, or at least as much as I can.


My quoted comment wasn’t intended to be an “Ouch!” statement. However, given the huge and growing number of observations submitted to iNat on a daily basis, I feel that I should limit my submissions to some extent to those that I believe are of some value to the community (e.g., uncommon species, new locality records, etc.) or those in which I have some particular interest (an interesting plant for which I’d like to get an ID). That’s my personal position and not a recommendation for anyone else who might have a different approach to contributing to the database.


I personally have a slight preference towards Lepidoptera, but any observation that can potentially up my species count I also add. But generally, I try to record as much as I can. I would love to explore other ecosystems such as tide pools and see what interesting things live there too.


I generally post vertebrates since I can ID most of those. I will occasionally post invertebrates or plants if they are showy, interesting to me or somehow otherwise attract my attention.
I don’t post things that I can’t at least narrow down to ID to genus or family. I don’t like posting stuff under “Plants” because I can’t ID it any further. I probably should, but I sometimes am reluctant to ask others to ID stuff that I can’t ID below kingdom or phylum.


Do you live in an area of very high observation rates? I do. There’s pretty much nothing I could observe which hasn’t been observed many times before. Yet I would never want be out photographing something and think “I’m not going to upload this because it would only be a burden on the site.”

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"Do you live in an area of very high observation rates? I do. There’s pretty much nothing I could observe which hasn’t been observed many times before. Yet I would never want be out photographing something and think “I’m not going to upload this because it would only be a burden on the site.”

No, my area is probably no busier than an average-sized American city for iNat submissions. But I don’t necessarily feel the need to submit yet another photo of a Greater Roadrunner (for example), however cool that species is, from my neighborhood. It’s very well-documented from my area. But if I photo a Roadrunner from a place in my state where there are few records, I’ll definitely upload it.

The capacity of iNat to accommodate the volume of submissions it gets is probably a whole 'nother topic from this one. But I do occasionally consider whether it could become a victim of its own success. And I also think about whether the platform will even be here in 10-20 years – we’ve seen other online nature databases go down – so how much effort do I want to put into uploading huge numbers of records? Hope that doesn’t sound pessimistic, but the thought does cross my mind.


I post the few where I hope to get an ID on iNat. Or the next few which are rare or unusual (and worth the effort of posting on iNat)

I share jnstuart’s concerns about overloading servers and fueling more climate change and extinction. But was told that is not an issue from iNat’s footprint.

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Mostly, right now I am using iNaturalist for creating lists of plant species at various locations. Therefore, I try to photo every species there. Therefore, I post a lot of Yarrow and Dandelions. But also good stuff! – though nearly drowned in the common species. And sometimes I go out with the idea, “I need to take a walk, so I’ll go out and get photos for iNaturalist.” That doesn’t always lead to photos iNatters really want to see, but at least it gets me out of the house.


I mostly post observations of things I don’t immediately recognize. These are often lifers, but sometimes it is something I can’t ID on the spot. With some species I may post quite a few observations before I can recognize it on the spot.


I personally don’t really care for anything other than animals, but I upload literally any animal I see, whether the picture is awesome or looks like it’s from the 1800s! I love keeping track of everything I’ve seen.


Ah, but that’s what the iNaturalist community is all about! To say that my own iNat footprint is pretty plant-centric is an understatement, but when I do accidentally capture something else, I post that too, because one never knows what might be interesting or valuable to someone else on the site. If I can only call it “Insecta” then so be it. At least those who look at insects will be able to find and improve the ID.


I definitely prioritize photographing things that are new to me. I tend to post observations the first few times I see something new, which usually helps me understand the identifying features, especially if it’s a taxon I’m not very familiar with (yet). After that, I tend to not post (or even photograph) the same thing anymore unless the lighting/scene is particularly good, or if I do take a photo and it turns out really well, or I’m not quite sure it’s the same species and want confirmation, or there is an interesting interaction (mating, predation, etc)…

I could walk out my front door any day of the week and take pictures of the same species of damselfly that’s all over my yard, the common doves that hang out on the power lines on my street, or the common species of jumping spider that’s everywhere around here, but it doesn’t seem particularly useful to me or anyone else. I could walk down the street and take pictures of every oak tree, then tomorrow walk down the next street over and take pictures of all of those trees, etc. - but again I guess I don’t feel like I’m adding anything except more work for the gracious volunteers who help identify things here. This is not to say other people shouldn’t do that, just my take on it. And, like someone else pointed out, time spent shooting the same common/familiar things is time not spent looking for new ones :)


For the group I’m a specialist in (Rotifera) I post the observations in which identification I’m certain and that have sufficient quality, well-identifiable photos.

For the other species, I post everything I encounter, just to know (for myself) what it is. In those cases I rely on the identification votes of specialists rather than on my own.