Recruiting more identifiers

That would be pretty complex for a bot. And each taxa is so different. Some trees, just one picture, even a blurry one from a car, is fine. Others you need specific diagnostic characters such as bud scales or fruit. It all depends on the species

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Even if the species can’t be identified, it could be useful data. I have one “observation” that has no associated media. I saw and heard what could only have been a pair of golden-cheeked warblers in an area similar to their required habitat but outside their known range. But each time I was ready to take a photo they moved to another perch, and by the time I figured out that I should record video so I could also capture the sound they were gone. Still, by making an observation no one else could confirm, I prompted an expert to drive a few miles to check the site out. He determined that the area didn’t have the required habitat, but was similar enough to have warranted confirmation. He also gave me a better idea of what features I should observe in which species to document whether the habitat is suitable.


I think by simply helping others id things on their own can help a lot. For example, I noticed there’s not many plant identifiers on iNat. And because of how daunting plants may be, it may discourage someone from helping another. Yet in my area, WA and OR, there’s a field guide on the web called “Wildflowers of the Pacific Northwest” and not only does it give very detailed range maps but it also shows that a lot of species in the Pacific Northwest are monotypic to the area, such as Common Yarrow, Pearly Everlasting, Common Sunflower, Marsh Forget-Me-Not, etc. So when I id, I looked up those locations with those monotypic species and I know its the only species in the area. So I think getting new identifiers started on that will help build confident.


I ran into one guy who was very offended that I put general level identification on his insects, when he knew their names and was planning to put the names on them. Persistent, too! One guy. Memorable, but nobody else has been mad enough to complain. I continue to do it.


Recruiting academics: The professor who introduced me to iNaturalist includes the number of observations he posts and the number of identification he makes in iNaturalist on his yearly report of accomplishments, under “outreach.” We can remind profs and others with similar reporting that iNaturalist can count!


I’ve begun sending a link to my iNaturalist post when e-mailing an expert to get a tricky identification. (This works better for me than just e-mailing the photos, because I can link to an observation with lots of photos, which would overload an e-mail message.) One of the experts has now logged in to iNaturalist and I will encourage him to do more identifications here.


I’ve managed to hook one or two this way also. Much nicer and more information rich presentation than photos attached to an email, and easy to interact and create an accessible record of the interaction over time. No reason to ever email photos for ID again, in my book!


A post was split to a new topic: Create Forum category for ID requests

@sedgequeen, I recently got into an ID war with someone with > 1000 observations. I would put his unidentified things into their high level taxa and he’d put them right back. I asked why he put genus & species IDs in as placeholders. He said he used a different taxonomy scheme and didn’t want people to mess it up.

I’ve also had a couple of people ask me to withdraw a species ID because there is a taxonomic reorganization or disagreement going on. If you put questionable ones at the genus level, it’s easier later on to go thru the genus for observations that need a species ID than to go thru all the species IDs and decide anew they’re questionable and then sort them out.

Politely suggest he can opt out of community ID. iNat works on the basis of community ID, and unless he gives you a good reason to change your ID, you are perfectly entitled to ID as you see fit. I would agree that putting a genus level ID while a review is going on is perhaps a good reason, but “I use a different taxonomy” to me suggests he should “use a different platform” :)


The issue may also be that he is using placeholders, instead of the observation description or a comment (or a tag), to store his alternate taxonomy. Placeholders disappear when regular IDs are added.

Ultimately we are supposed to respect users’ requests to leave their observations alone, but practically speaking, users wanting their unknowns to be left alone will be fighting an uphill battle with all the dedicated identifiers on iNaturalist. As @kiwifergus suggests, they may discover that they are on the wrong platform for their needs.


Not to go off topic, but what would be the use of using placeholders or their own taxonomy on this site?

Sometimes iNaturalist is not up-to-date with recent taxonomic changes. So putting what one considers the “right” name in as a placeholder is not unreasonable.

For example, I have a lot of Sedum photos showing results of our recent re-organization of Sedum section Gormania. Some photos I post with the new name in the comment, if the taxon is unambiguous. But what if the species boundaries were re-organized? Using placeholders is one way to go. I don’t like it precisely because placeholder names can disappear. Therefore, I personally am holding the photos back while I wait (and wait, and wait) for iNaturalist taxonomy to catch up. However, I’d much rather have the photos posted on iNaturalist where I could share them with other people. I’d like to be able to say, “You want to know what that new taxon looks like? Check it out on iNaturalist!” But I can’t, so far. Other people choose differently.


This isn’t necessarily a numerical goal, but I identified one little niche place I try to keep cleaned out: I identify the “unknowns” from new users in my home state. It is small enough a target that I can check every few days for a nice break (procrastination) from other things without getting overwhelmed. For a lot of things I can only give a general taxon level but rescuing a lepidoptera or aves from the obscurity of the unknown bin into the general taxons is pretty satisfying since those identifiers seem to jump on them right away. I’m starting to learn a few things I can give better IDs on since I’ve seen them myself and read about them. Since I am going through new users’ observations I try to explain why I am giving such an obvious ID as “flowering plant” or “bird”


That’s a great idea, I think I’ll try that as well! I’m also amazed at how quickly some things get identified as soon as they get into a smaller bin than “unknown” or “life!”


If I ID an observation that only has a placeholder, I try to copy-paste the placeholder as a comment (if it is different than my ID) – noting that it’s the observer’s suggested ID and not my own. That way the info isn’t lost.


Have you considered posting your photos when you want to, identifying your observations to an iNat taxonomy-consistent level, explaining in a comment what the newer name is, and then opting out of community ID? Just a thought–thinking then maybe you could put them in a project and use the news there or make a journal entry so others can be looking at them.


I agree with the suggestion to get them on iNat even if the taxonomy on the site is lagging behind what is now being accepted, and also annotating the record to indicate what the latest taxonomy should be. The records can always be aligned with the new taxonomy whenever that is incorporated on iNat.

Taxonomic change can be a slow process if there is not rapid and widespread acceptance and sometimes new arrangements don’t take hold at all.


just for grins, i created a little page to help pull observation counts by iconic taxa (for those who love stats).

one day i will improve this to allow query by, say, date ranges or user ids or project ids… one day…


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