Remote guiding when you can't visit a country?

I’m just wondering if anyone has experience or advice on this subject. Maybe this is a service someone has provided or commissioned in the past?
I have an interest in a particular plant, for example, but can’t visit the native habitat, would you consider paying someone local to be a remote guide and go looking for the plant and provide you with observations? For example if I want to know more about the habitat and range of the plant, what sort of insects visit it during flowering, more than standard observations seem to offer anyway. In the case of plants someone might be able to provide information on plants they find during their normal daily routine but some might mean special trips at certain times of year.

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I cannot see how those could become your observations if you do not actually observe the plant?

That said, suppose the plant is in Mexico. (I know it is likely not, but pretend for a second.)

All that information is readily available on Mexican databases and in Mexican institutions; you just have to know how to find it. So for example, If it were here, I would start with UNAM but if it is a plant here here I would also check CICY.

Likely wherever the same is true of wherever this

is. There are likely existing databases and institutions in whatever country and region with all the information you seek, although you may need assistance navigating how they are set up and with any language difference.

I hope this makes sense. (I have not had coffee yet, it may not.)


Encourage them to use iNat, and with your guidance, you will get the information you require.
You can act as a mentor to them.


Sorry I should clarify that I wouldn’t log these as my observations. Hopefully the guide would submit the observations in their own name but I’d benefit from getting more data than you’d normally expect from iNat observations.
In this case the plant is native to Algeria. There are 31 observations on the website which are all very helpful but it doesn’t seem to be well recorded otherwise. I’ve messaged the observers and they’ve all been very helpful. No one has mentioned potential databases and I didn’t think to ask. That’s a good suggestion.
I’m working on a report for the Sedum Society about the plant at the moment and have enough data for a useful paper but I’d like to know more.


Two thoughts here. 1.There are countless individuals worldwide who actively guide tourists in any number of localities. A Canadian based company such as ToursByLocals, or even a peruse of Tripadvisor may yeild a willing guide - NOT an endorsement for any company, just a suggestion having used both sites to contract guides in the past. It may be possible to contract someone who leads a tour to be your eyes in absencia, contracting your “spot” on the tour remotely, then direct the guide to either share directly with you or post findings on iNat as they encounter them. If you are speaking of a US locality, a local university may be willing to partner you with someone whose study overlaps with yours and you may find willing surrogate eyes. 2. In utilizing iNat tools you may consider creation of a project, the boundaries of which are the area in which the plant is known, such as the county or municipality - not sure the terminology of districts for the country you target, maybe even as large as the state. Allow all reports from all users who post sightings in your target area (user any). While you may receive an overwhelming amount of data, tucked within will be insects, plants, even blights or other diseases known to infect your plant. Sounds like a fascinating scientific venture. Good luck!

I popped you a message with more thoughts.

This also occurs: Is there a “Curators by location” list anywhere? (@fffffffff?)

If there were a Curator in Algeria. they might be the person to ask, even if they have never observed the Sedum you seek. (Or even one in Morocco might be familiar with Algeria’s institutions.)

It seems to me, you need information that could already exist somethere. The question is how to find it.

More observations you can find on, it accumulates a lot of datasets from all around the globe including iNat Research Grade observations. For example Sedum pubescens has 245 occurences there versus 36 observations on iNat

Since the plant is endemic to North Africa, maybe someone who speaks French or Arabic could search some local papers on the species on the internet for you.

Or you could find professional botanists working in Algeria and ask them. For example, this paper mentions a couple of Sedums in Algeria


For Sedum in Algeria you can use the leaderboard.
Perhaps find a graduate botany or entomology student there?

It seems that what you seek is not a guide, but a researcher. You want someone to go out and using a particular method gather data on particular aspects of the ecology of a particular plant. A local university should be able to put you in touch with a student who would be glad to earn some money on the side gathering your data.


Thanks for those links, they’re very helpful. As far as I can tell iNat has the best dataset for this plant at the moment but that website has a lot of herbarium specimens with location tags that I might be able to plot of a map too.

A student might be a good option. The reason I’d hoped for a guide was that they might be able to collect observations while out with other parties rather than making special trips and might have better knowledge of habitats or locations to look.
In a perfect world with an unlimited budget it would be great to sponsor a student to conduct a thorough study of the plant though. I’m really curious as to why this plant seems to have such a limited range but I can’t answer this without finding out what the range actually is.
As others have said though the first step is going to be to find any papers that aren’t available online and see if those reveal anything useful.

Some of us regular iNatters wouldn’t mind earning some money doing this either.


Is that paid or volunteer work?

Volunteer. I was doing some personal research on the plant because there isn’t much information available and it has a bit of an odd growth pattern compared to other sedums. I was pestering other society members for information and they thought it would be interesting to share my findings. The society is mostly concerned with keeping as many species of Sedum in cultivation as possible and this plant (Sedum Multiceps) was one of the tricky ones that growers struggle with if they’re not lucky enough to live somewhere with a Mediterranean climate.
The 31 iNat obs were really helpful for me to work out what the plant needs to thrive and part of that was seeing that the more successful plants had multiple rooting points along the stems so I’m now growing it in wider pots to allow that to happen.


Neat little plant. Odd that it’s range appears to be presumably warm coastal headlands but also a high mountain area.

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It’s a winter grower but oddly the mountainous plants are in regions where snow can persist until May according to one observer. The tolerance to low temperatures suggests to me that it originated in the mountains but spread to the coast at some point. At the moment though I’m not sure if the known range is defined by the places the plants like to grow or by the areas that botanists visit. There is a closely related plant that grows in similar habitat in Tunisia and which naturally hybridises with this plant so that may be a factor in range restriction to the east. I’d love to know how far west the range extends to though.


Might you offer us a link on iNat when you have written it? Or is it restricted to Sedum Society members?

I can post a transcript of it if people want to read it. I’m not sure what the society allows for other peoples’ work but I’m sure I’m allowed to share mine.


Here there’s a website where researchers put their “goals” that others can help them with, like getting specimens, I’m sure there’s one like that in a region of your plant where some students can gather data for you.

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