Recruiting more identifiers

Given that any module or changes that allow text commentary on taxon pages is some time in the future, there are at least 3 things all users can do right now that can help with your points.

  • the about tab on the taxon page sources from the Wikipedia article, assuming one exists for the species. Anyone can of course edit a Wikipedia article, or even create one which should then get automatically picked up on the taxon page
  • on the About tab of the taxon page is a More Info sidebar. All users can contribute to this, if you know a good external reference page for the taxa, with id tips or whatever, you can add it.
  • all users can update place checklists which then feed the map on the Taxa page. Just go to the relevant place, click the checklist page link towards the lower left and add away (including establishment means). If you have access to a list of species known to be in a location, there is a tool to bulk add multiple species to a checklist (which is also a good way to find missing species, as when you try to add it, you will get an indication). Unfortunately, there is no reverse functionality to bulk add a single species to multiple checklists.
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This topic has been on my mind a lot too.

To this end, we emailed about 400 users last week who met certain criteria (mainly English locale & site affiliation) and fell into two main categories:
-2000+ observations and fewer than 200 identifications for others
-500-2000 observations and 0 identifications for others

Here’s an example of the personalized email they received (this one populates my user data from last week).

Click rates were pretty low (~10%) and I don’t think this was particularly successful. I think we’ll probably have better success in developing appropriate prompts in the website or app to guide people towards making identifications rather than heavily investing in an email-based strategy, but I wanted to give it shot.



I think the improved ID page must have helped a lot, i think making some sort of more advanced algorithms to guide people to things they may be interested in could be helpful (though possibly not worth the dev time). Also - i know i maybe overemphasize this, but i think an emphasis on the next couple of years on attracting more ‘power users’ rather than ‘everyone’ would go a long, long way. That isn’t to say we should exclude non power users. But I am guessing low-volume users do proportionately less ID than power users, right? And it seems like a lot of the growth on the site is the ‘casual’ users who expect IDs but don’t help with ID. I think attracting and maintaining activity by high volume users is the way to go at thsi stage in iNat’s growth.

I also like @pisum 's idea of adding more of a community element to ID by having focuses on taxa of importance. Maybe even pairing ID with some sort of real time interactive discussion. I’m not sure how exactly that would work, except that i find that engaging in the discord server that was created for iNat by users causes me to feel more linked to the community when i am doing ID.


I’m sorry to be unfamiliar with this @Charlie, can you please explain what/where the discord server is and how it makes you feel more connected?

I’ve been trying to do more ID’s as it helps me become a better user and more knowledgeable out in the field. So, perhaps I am missing out on a key area of iNat and would like to know more please

I’ve tried hosting a “bring your guide books and let’s identify plants and animals on iNaturalist”-gathering to no avail. One person showed up, but I was just getting people in northern Michigan interested in iNat then. In an area more densely populated iNat users it might be better attended

We should establish a system where people can get paid. Recent biology graduates piecing jobs together. It should be a part of the Green New Deal, our country should invest in this sort of green job!!


I’m most interested in cultivating the users we have & attract to be able/empowered/motivated to go beyond making observations. There are so many things you can do to help on iNaturalist and I personally see it as a way of paying it forward for all the help I receive. I’m curious if anyone has a personal target/benchmark for their identification activity. In my head I’m aiming to make roughly twice the number of identifications as observations, but in reality I’m (sheepishly) at about 1.3x my number of observations. I guess my excuse is I just get so into trying to welcome & help people that I’m not the speediest identifier!

I know this year in City Nature Challenge planning there has been more emphasis on identifications (via ID parties and such), so I hope that there are fewer (proportionally?) instances where the observer community far out-observes the capacity of the “local” identifier community.


When it comes to seeing how many IDs you’ve made (in addition to on your profile) as well as how they stack up, you can also use this bare-bones page: and add user_id=yourusername and &for=others to exclude your own IDs on your own observations. Here’s my IDs for others:


This way of outreach is much preferable to engineering other peoples’ weaknesses (call it ‘gamification’ if you will). @charlie’s point regarding growth in power users vs growth in one-off users is also well taken.

That said, if I had gotten an email like this I would have reached for the delete button immediately. There is so much polished-looking commercial email these days that it takes work to find messages by people that are actually worth paying attention to. Perhaps a less produced look with no logos and more personal language with fewer exclamation points would help to cut through the clutter.

That’s an email I would have at least read. (But yeah, I’m old.)

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Sorry about that - see .

I hadn’t set an exact goal, but i always try to keep my IDs well ahead of my observations. And right now I’m about 2* the IDs but given that field season is coming that proportion may drop some. My number of IDs has actually dropped per observation I look at, since I like to look at old observations and they are trickier since no one has ID’ed them yet. Does iNat unofficially track ‘number reviewed’? That might be another benchmark.

I agree and noticed that too. For some reason the green button struck me as produced add jargon. Not sure exactly why so I didn’t post that. Personally I’d respond more to a more informal email with some customized nerdy stats but I may not be representative :)

Nice try, Carrie! I do think schoenitz has a point about the email being too polished for its own good, which is a sad commentary on communications today.

Since you were able to filter for these 400 users to target them, I wonder if even more specific targeting is possible? Like if someone makes a whole lot of mushroom observations (that they ID themselves, not just put up as unknowns) is it possible to filter for that and then say “We see you have contributed a lot of mushroom observations. We have a great many mushroom observations that remain unidentified. How about helping your fellow mushroom naturalists by using your skills to identify them?” …etc. There must be some groups (surely fungi) that are in sore need of IDs. We don’t need more bird identifiers.

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That’s language that speaks to me (and I know nothing about mushrooms).


i think the reason you don’t get more mycology experts helping here is that you need more than a photo from a single angle to identify a lot of fungi. a lot of observers fail to get good shots of gills (for gilled mushrooms), fail to indicate the environment/substrate (growing in soil? on a stump?), and then even then, maybe you need a spore print, or maybe you need to test it against a chemical or two, or maybe you need microscopic detail…

i think you might get a better response if you start by enlisting help to identify fungi that are visually distinctive, rather than just trying enlist fungi experts to come over and try identifying all the fungi here.

i think the more the merrier…


Conservation (and history) owe so much to the CCC and WPA projects. But they got away with very low wages! My elderly cousin was thrilled with earning $25 to transcribe cemetery inscriptions.

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I would agree with this, except that I can’t opt-out of notifications of subspecies IDs that don’t disagree with my species ID, and I can’t unfollow my own observations.

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I’ve had this as a personal goal, and so far am meeting it, although I feel a little ambiguous about it because I don’t want iNat to become a chore or obligation. I think it’s important for people to be able to use it in a way such that it stays fun. For some, that probably doesn’t include doing many IDs. I agree with what @janetwright said about seeking people to ID groups that don’t get enough love. Here in Brazil, I’ve been pleasantly surprised to get many of my mollusc, velvet ant and stick insect observations - and even some beetles and spiders - identified to species level, but there is a desperate need for more plant people.


When I first joined Inat, I had about 150,000 un-reviewed observations that required my review. I ignored this for about a year or more and concentrated on the latest observations and added ID’s where I could. On reading the Forum for the first time I was made aware of a request to add a new button to the bottom of the Identify page to “Mark all as reviewed”. I agreed with this, but decided to work through my 150,000 records and clear this backlog. It took a very long time.

Now that I have cleared the backlog, I have an incentive to keep it clear. Each day I work through ALL of the new records that Need_id or are already Research_grade and mark all as Reviewed and give many ID’s given as I feel confident enough to give. I’m now at almost 5,000 ID’s given

So, my input is.

(1) Help users with a better method to manage their un-reviewed 150,000 records

(2) Give users better tools to define their focus area (e.g. Plantae) and to quickly mark all they choose as Reviewed.

In essence, give users the tools to better manage their inbox each day.


I think part of the trouble with having enough “plant people,” as compared to birds for example: There are huge geographic areas that share (in different seasons) the same relatively limited set of bird species, and often local nonmigrant species are limited enough in number that a birder from elsewhere could do a decent job with a few extra reference guides at hand.

A botanist knowledgeable in a certain set of geographic regions (or more often a certain set of genera in a certain set of regions) is going to have a very hard time making any identifications in an unfamiliar region. Especially regions as diverse as the tropics. Even plants that obviously belong to a familiar genus- there could be another half-dozen species in the genus in a different region, with unfamiliar cryptic traits to ID from. It’s definitely a situation where accessing regional experts or training up local observers is necessary.


And help from regional experts may be necessary for training people as well. There are people on BugGuide who can identify many difficult arthropods from photos, but the knowledge may not be shared very well (if it is it’s often on random BugGuide observations from years ago), and to rediscover the knowledge you’d have to gather up miscallenaeous academic papers and esoteric keys mostly talking about details requiring dissection and a microscope and pick out the information that’s actually useful for photos.


I found INaturalist in February and joined straight away. It has taken me a couple of months to start contributing identifications, but I am now doing so, concentrating on my home country (Wales) and sticking to taxa I know.
I am eager to contribute, but I am very much aware of my limitations. I am glad to have read this thread as I am now more certain that my efforts are wanted and welcomed.