Should there be curator mentorships and what would that look like?

The recent topic about curator age restrictions featured a thoughtful discussion of a proposal for some sort of mentorship for aspiring/new/young curators. There was a general sense that it is a good idea, I think. Not all good ideas are workable within the constraints of staffing levels and budget and Tony indicated that there was no likelihood that iNat could implement such a program through staff, at this time. However, iNat and the iNat Forum have many volunteers with diverse backgrounds who could, in theory, come together to implement such a program with minimal staff oversight.

With that background as the starting point, a logical next step is a conversation about what a mentorship might look like and how it could operate. How can iNaturalist implement a curator mentorship program using volunteer resources?

NB: I am not a curator and would not normally have posting privileges in the Curators forum. I suggested this topic to Tony and he graciously permitted me to post it.


sorry, i’m going to stray off topic and say it might be nice to have more generalized mentorships like mentorships for identifiers and mentorships for project admins, etc. so whatever framework you work out for curators, you might want to think about how that could be applied in the future more generally…


I think this is a great idea. I would like to help out more as a curator, but am hesitant to do things for fear of messing something up. At the very least it would be nice to have some tutorial videos for some of the more common curatorial tasks/duties. I would hope that by making someone like me more comfortable helping out with needed tasks it would help relieve some burden from the admins.


The idea of mentor and apprentice curators was raised by @cthawley and supported to varying degrees or discussed by a number of others (e.g. @schizoform @kitty12 @allycouch @thomaseverest @ivanort). To the extent that it was sort of already raised in the earlier topic by @oneanttofew , @pisum 's suggestion that mentoring be more general than for just curators isn’t entirely off topic.

The original topic (linked to above) was lively and it seemed there was interest in the idea. I thought that perhaps if folks put their heads together it would be possible to build a volunteer-based system. Staff already have too much on their plates.

So without any limiting the eventual scope of mentoring but focussing on the curator question from whence this idea sprung, how do you structure such a thing? I don’t have a lot of social media experience (and I’ve been on this forum for less than a month, I think) but it seems to me that this sort of community has the skills and the tools to make it work.

The problem is one of matching experienced mentors to aspiring apprentices in a way that transfers knowledge and builds confidence in new recruits. Who sets the rules for mentors and apprentices? Who decides who gets to be a mentor? How are rules enforced? How is the volunteer program accountable to iNat management?

I had imagined something like a committee of working group that collectively oversees the program with a staff person acting as a resource. The mechanics of it could work in a number of ways. Maybe other people have other ideas.