Recruiting more identifiers


Several topics recently have touched on the idea that we need more people doing IDs. It’s been said that the number of observations is overwhelming the ID process, that expert taxonomists are hard to recruit, and that identifying can be a burdensome chore (a perspective that isn’t likely to help with recruiting).

I’d like to open up discussion on positive, productive ways to address this issue. Some qs:

  • How can we recruit more experts (academics, agency people, retirees with expertise)? How can we find them and get them on board? They need to take iNat seriously and not think it will distract from more “important” work.

  • How can we get mid-level users to help with IDs of common things they probably know well? They need the confidence to see how their knowledge can help others.

  • How can we make observers more aware of the service that identifiers are performing and ways they can pre-help? The quicker new observers catch on to the “community” of iNat the less likely they are to do annoying things. How can we make this more transparent?

A starter suggestion (there was a thread on recognizing service, but maybe this is more specific): Tag an “identifier of the month” and ask them to describe an ID experience that was particularly rewarding. (Don’t just go by volume or we’ll always get the same people.)


Insects and other athropods are generally under-identified on iNaturalist, but in North America there is also BugGuide which has many competent identifiers in areas that iNaturalist needs more. I can see how BugGuide might have a more attractive format for experts, but I think it probably has a lot more to do with effort asking them to help. Maybe we can learn from how BugGuide does it or even have some sort of collaboration between BugGuide and iNaturalist. Is there anyone who helps at both BugGuide and iNaturalist or has moved to iNaturalist that has any suggestions?

I’m also curious, if I were to send an email to an expert asking them for help, is there a template I can use or a list of things I should include to explain why iNaturalist is awesome and why they should help?


I’m by no stretch an expert/pro, but I’ve posted some insects to both iNat and BugGuide. I think iNat is a far better platform in almost every respect. Hasn’t BugGuide been around much longer than iNat so basic familiarity may be the difference? I have a friend who is an extension entomologist I was chatting about some beetles with a few weeks back, and he pushed me towards BugGuide to help with my ID, but he wasn’t familiar at all with iNat…


I’m an editor over at bugguide. I’ve been using iNat a lot more lately though. I’ll always love bugguide- it really fostered my interest in insects and has/had a great community that was very open and welcoming to me when I was learning about identification (and making constant mistakes).


iNaturalist is considerably more user-friendly and the interface is light-years ahead. There’s a lot more material on here too which helps hone ID skills.

I do think one issue that keeps some identifiers away is the requirement to login to view observations. I’ve run into issues where I’ve tried to send a unique observation by email to an expert and they won’t look at it because they don’t want to create an account. (Ignore this little paragraph, seems I was wrong about this, my mistake)

Just my two cents.


I think that the mobile app should have a Tinder-esque section in which observations needing ID could be swiped left, if the person doesn’t know what is in the picture, or right if the person knows the creature and wants to identify it. What could also help would be a, say, gamification of the experience, like introducing levels of the account, which could be gained by making both identifications and observations, or badges. People love such enhanced experiences and they wish to accomplish something by it, since it’s often the goal for them that matters the most, not the actions leading to it themselves. Contacting biology students or scientists, or any other qualified in these matters people, convincing them to join the app wouldn’t hurt, too.


I hope it would reward correct or improving identifications, and not simply making identifications.


I think focusing on people whose “job description” includes public education (e.g. extension folks employed at public land-grant colleges/universities, master naturalist programs, nonprofits in environmental/natural work, etc.) might be a good strategy. These folks obviously have very different levels/types of “expertise,” and extension folks often focus primarily on species of agricultural interest, but I’ve had good luck with them–well before iNat–assisting with me with IDs of species that were based on nothing but my personal interest/species with no commercial/agricultural value.


Yeah, I imagine the scoring system could be quite complex, taking all of the actions into consideration, and rating them fairly. I’m not quite sure if it would be what the devs want, but from my experience, such actions usually engage people more and more. It could make iNaturalist less friendly and working for common goals and more competitive, though.

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a module about iNaturalist specifically for Master Naturalist programs could be a very good outreach.


Good points, but I wasn’t aiming to make a competition for Identifier of the month; admins could just pick someone at random who has done a bunch of IDs and ask them for an inspirational comment.


I actually think interactive learning and rewards could be good. It’s just that one thing iNat doesn’t need is more people just slapping any old ID on an observation. There would need to be a way to deduct points or levels as the community ID changes. Or maybe some learning tool that is the first level they need to master?


I just want to clarify…you don’t need to log in to view an observation, but you obviously do to actually ID it. I’ve sent direct links to some of my Observations to a variety of folks outside the iNat community asking for help with the ID and they were happy to share their thoughts after looking at my posted photos.

Now that I’m aware of/thinking about this issue, when I get a positive/helpful response, I’m going to (politely) ask that they consider becoming a member. Maybe if iNat had (and maybe it does already?) a short page aimed at this kind of person…ticking off the valuable contributions iNat is making in terms of “citizen science,” research, etc., that would be a great link to share with someone in the situation I’ve described?


Huh, my mistake. You’re right. I could have sworn when I tested it out by trying to open up an observation in an incognito window that it took me to a login page and wouldn’t let me see the observation.

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I interpreted the idea to be in the “mid-level user” category, not the “identifier of the month” category.


So imagine there’s only one person out there that knows how to ID a particular group, or at the very least maybe there’s only one person on iNat that knows. One approach of looking at this is: how can we motivate this one person to invest countless hours of their time in providing a service for the site? For some of us that may sound like fun, but I’m guessing others would rather be doing something else with their time. I think, instead, we should be asking experts to help pass down their knowledge. One hundred IDs are great, but maybe more valuable is a single ID that details the hows and whys. Studious iNatters can then use this knowledge down the line to identify observations. Yes, there is potential for the less-experienced to misinterpret the details, so yes expert verification will always remain valuable, but I think many of us here are more than eager to learn not just the names of what we’re seeing but also why they are those things.


Yes, and a well-organized way to access these.


I think that would be some issues that’d need to be addressed. On the other hand, identifying isn’t equally simple for all of the users, not even on the knowledge level. People who don’t use English as their main language are in a disadvantageous position, and using latin terminology is also quite hard at times. Let me show you an example:
There’s a wood anemone of which I made an observation. I happen to know that this plant is called “zawilec gajowy” in my language, but I have, at the moment, no idea how it’s called in English. What I usually do is that I leave the app, enter Chrome, Google zawilec gajowy, see that it’s caled anemone nemorosa in latin, I boot the iNaturalist app again and I end up writing it’s latin name as the ID.
There’s no way to make it easier for people who speak other languages at the moment.

A tutorial would be nice, too.


I think we need to combine bugguide with inaturalist. It would bring many experts and information about many NA species of insects.

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I imagine that for a lot of us part of the difficulty is just the connection requirements for efficiently going through dozens of observations. Anywhere the interface can be streamlined in terms of the required bandwidth and processing power would be a big help. When it takes several minutes to open an image to get a close enough view to see certain features needed for ID, it’s a limiting factor (I do really wish it was possible to right-click an image to then load just that image in a new tab in the background- sites where I can do that, similar-sized images seem to load a lot faster than they do in the iNat setup where they load as an overlay on the current page that moves around as you move your mouse instead of having scrollbars and whatnot). That said, I wouldn’t be surprised if the site developers have already put a lot of effort into that already, so I’m not sure how much that can feasibly be improved.

Opening an image in a new tab?
split this topic #20

2 posts were merged into an existing topic: Opening an image in a new tab?