'Self Censorship' in identifications

I realised a day or so ago that I rarely take pictures of crows. I just can’t be arsed. They are everywhere. A couple of monarch butterflies flew past me this morning, and I ignored them. I’ve seen so many over the past two weeks or so. Same with a Coopers Hawk. I expect that many folks do the same thing, and was wondering what effect this might have on biodiversity numbers. Would someone looking for crows in Winnipeg know that there are more than a couple around? What to other folks use as a ‘cutoff point’ for pictures. Just a random thought!


I think it’s perfectly natural for people to focus on what interests them. iNat is primarily meant to help people connect with nature, not to be a scientifically rigorous survey.
I personally try to make sure to record common species, about once an outing per species. Otherwise I’m focused on my taxa of interest and anything new to me.


iNat is great for documenting the occurrence of a species at a certain location and time…but no good at all for quantifying the occurrence (how many). So no need to document multiple instances of easily identifiable, common species…unless you have a personal reason for doing so.


You do your view, and I do mine. What we notice, what catches our interest.


I have been interested in birds, bumble bees, dragonflies, butterflies, ect, One thing that I have noticed in all of those is that when someone first gets into a new taxon, they tend to go for the the common easy species, and often they tend to go for every individual they see. When people start to get more familiar with there taxon of interest, they tend to ignore the common one in favor of the more interesting, I figure between the two they balance out.


I made a thread about the same topic:


The consensus is that inaturalist is for the users. Getting a database of species and frequencies is a good side effect, but it is mostly here so that people can record what interests them.


I’m a researcher who’s considered using community science data. I think in this specific case ornithologists would be more likely to use eBird data- iNat isn’t a particularly bird-friendly platform to begin with given the relative difficulty of photographing birds as compared to other organisms. It’s not that it’s unfriendly, it’s that photographing birds so they can be identified is kind of a pain sometimes.

Typically species abundance studies aren’t really community science-friendly anyways- researchers will use other tools, or they’ll find some statistical framework to take out some of the bias you’re talking about. This kind of dataset is much better suited to presence-mapping for distribution modeling and related analyses.


I do this too …

Things that are quite common, or things that I’m not interested in I do not take pictures of, usually, because it is not really valuable to myself or iNat. I noticed that I didn’t even have an observation of several super-common species, so I uploaded one of each. I’m mainly interested in small things - the things that get overlooked :-)


me too. :)

Sometimes, to me, this includes bigger overlooked things like blue jays and crows. I make a point of uploading crow obs when I have a vocalizing bird that can reliably confirm to species.


there are actually quite a few bird observations that are recorded without photos in iNaturalist.

a few months back, i was looking the Sankey diagram at the bottom of this page (https://jumear.github.io/stirfry/iNat_obs_counts_by_iconic_taxa.html), and i was trying to figure out why a significant portion of bird observations were casual (currently about 1.2MM out of 7.5MM total bird observations), and it turns out it’s mostly because they have no photos.

i was also trying to figure out why the top observer in Canada by far, according to this page (https://jumear.github.io/stirfry/iNat_top_observers_map.html?place_id=6712), doesn’t show up as a top observer in leaderboard pages, and the reason is that almost all of the 126,000+ observations for rogers are observations without photos.


Yah think? Most of the ones I try to photograph only sit still for about half a second! Either that or they are way far up in the sky, or in a dark bush with blinding light behind them. I ditched about 5 photos of a vireo(?) I took this morning because there was no way I could make it identifiable. :grin:


I find that if I already have an observation of a species in an area I tend not to post other observations of it.


Research-grade population data isn’t really what i-naturalist is for, and never could be

To properly assess a population, you need to properly grid the area and count everything. Even if a well-meaning user posted every single member of species X they saw, it would not provide good data in population, because that person probably missed individuals or double-counted individuals. It’s a bit like putting a ruler in a glass of water and saying you have 9 cm of water left. It’s the wrong tool for the measurement.

What i-naturalist is fantastic at on the other hand is species distributions. If I see a species in a local park, that species is there. Numbers don’t really matter, that park is now part of that species observed range. Same idea for temporal range. Same idea for a number of other ranges. I’ve found several species further east than they had been reported before in Australia, and I personally have used I-nat Data to narrow-down the temperature and weather condition ranges for my species of research for my PhD to improve my collection.

I naturalist isn’t and shouldn’t be thought of as a good tool for collecting population data. That’s not really something this kind of citizen science will ever be good it, but that’s okay, because there are other methods for that. I-naturalist can provide something of equal value that can be much harder to find out in a structured field-day, and that’s why its useful even if users don’t log every domestic pigeon they see.


I think this is a common phenomena, and something many of us think about. All of these common species going unrecorded. Yet, common species are not always common, and thus we are missing on the opportunity to record them in all their brilliance. Imagine if we had 10,000 images of the passenger pigeon? Or of any species that is now on the brink; those observations would become so much more.

For me, if I stop, I observe what is there, within the realm of what I deem realistic at the time. So if I stop for a painted turtle, which is rare in my state, I’ll make observations of the 10 red eared sliders as well. I’ll also observe any flowers or bugs at the time; but typically skip over grasses, trees, or other stuff that I find less interesting; because if it isn’t fun, I know I’ll stop making observations altogether.


I generally aim for observing common species at least once for every location, eg. a new lake, municipality, nature reserve… More of “there’s mallard in this lake too” than observing the same mallards in the same lake day after day.


Sounds like folks are thinking along the same lines as me - recording the presence of an organism, rather than numbers. And having some fun while doing it. I do wish I had some sort of recording device for bird songs/sounds. Trying to photograph them (when I can find them - how can they hide so well?) drives me to distraction.


Any smartphone is sufficient to record bird sounds. I was skeptical to that, but after I installed the BirdNet app from Cornell and found out that it rather reliably IDs even quite weak sounds recorded by the smartphoen, it has become obvious to these simple recordings are sufficient for ID.


Welcome to the Forum, opisska!

I occasionally capture bird sounds with with my iphone, too.


Only, I don’t have a good way to convert the video to audio file. I tried copying instructions for an iPhone shortcut someone gave me, but it did not work. I end up uploading the video to YouTube and putting the URL link into the description.

I find that awkward, and would welcome hearing about ways to convert iPhone movies to audio and animated gif for iNat.


Thanks, but I don’t have a smartphone. I have a mildly intelligent old Blackberry Curve. I just don’t seem to be able to justify buying a new phone!


I know this issue has been discussed on this forum (I think). If you can manage to find it - and it may even be a Wiki - I believe it outlined the process. I skimmed it because of my semi intelligent phone - even if I got sound, I suspect the software is so different as to make it impossible.