From time to time someone brings up the subject that experts are frustrated by the large number of misidentifications. I don’t know the exact statistics, but I think a very large number of iNat users drop in, post a few things, and then leave never to return. These folks greatly outnumber the folks with expertise in identification. This will always be the case–and these folks can’t be trained or taught because it’s a constant turnover. Another large user base are those amateurs that stick around because they’re passionate about observing, documenting, and (for most) identifying (but they are not as skilled as the taxonomic experts).
So what is the most effective role of the tiny number of taxonomic experts if the goal is to maximize correct identifications? I see two options:
- Spend a lot of time making identifications (without commenting or educating)
- Spend some time making identification guides (freely available on the internet) that are useful for photographed specimens vs. in-hand specimens (published keys and descriptions are typically not useful for a photographed specimen)
It seems like option 2 would allow for passionate amateurs to better contribute toward identification, relieving the constant burden on taxonomic experts to continually perform option 1 with little to no assistance and no end in sight.
“Give a person a fish and you feed them for a day. Teach them to fish and you feed them for a lifetime.”