Refining observations?

What if I make an observation that can’t be fully identified at the time (dormant, for example) and I want to go back and get more pictures and refine the ID later?
I know that different time = different observation, but wouldn’t it be better to get better IDs?

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I would add a comment in the original observation with a link to the new one, noting that it is the same specimen at a different date; similarly, you can add a link back to the original observation in the new observation.

There are also observation fields that you can use for this purpose (e.g. “same specimen over time”), but putting the link in a comment is probably a better way to make sure that other users see it – the observation fields are not situated particularly prominently on the page.

You may find that some IDers are reluctant to add a more specific ID to the original observation, based on the argument that evidence not in the specific observation should not be used to verify the ID. However, I have found that many IDers are willing to accept the observer’s statement that the two observations represent the same organism as sufficient basis for using the evidence in the second observation to verify the first one.


I’ll only add new photos to the existing observation if it’s very recent. So, going back the next day where a plant will look near-identical is fine - to me at least, I know some people would turn that into a new observation. But going back a week or more later where the morphology may well have changed significantly gets it’s own observation, and then I edit the notes or comments of the old one to link to the new one. After all, 1 week is enough for something to burst into flower when it wasn’t previously, or drop all it’s leaves, or anything else that makes it look very different.

A dormant tree and months later would be clear-cut two observations for me. Not least because you can then use the annotations to provide more data - especially the “no flowering / budding / flowering / fruiting” one.


You should make a new observation:

Will do from now on. I always read the “such as returning to a plant on a later date when it’s in bloom” as in ‘when even slightly morphologically different’… and then missed where it says it explicitly in the next section!

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I usually tie such observations together with the “similar observation set” field. It provides a way to see all the connected observations as a group, which makes IDs much easier. Not a lot of identifiers seem to be aware of it though and it’s easy to miss, so I also usually add a link or a note to check out the observation set for additional pictures.

Some of the things mentioned here use functionality that I don’t think is available through the phone app.
How do you access it?

Which of the apps? I think Android has more functionality than the iPhone app but I’m not familiar with either beyond having made a few observations with the Android app to get location coordinates in the field. My advice would be to log into the website every now and then for data curation such as adding search tags, annotations and observation fields. There is just so much more functionality to discover on the website that people using only the apps miss out on. I think the apps are more geared towards “click a picture and find out what it is” type use, whereas the website has a lot more features to add meta data to observations and make things searchable for research use.


mine is android.
I only have access on my phone unless I go to the library.
websites like iNat on phone don’t do well

Android at least lets you add annotations but I don’t think observation fields are available in either of the apps. Here’s a related thread.


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