Specimen uploading strategy

I use eBird, with its comprehensive, avian-specific checklist modality, and I’ve participated in Bioblitzes using iNat, with their collective and broadly comprehensive approach. However, I’m not sure which approach to take at an individual level. One way to go would be to take pictures of everything (perhaps narrowing “everything” down to a specific taxon). My approach at this point, for the most part, has been to upload new or unusual sightings (for me) in an area, rare or endangered species, or organisms I would like identified or verified. How do others approach this?

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Do what you like and as you wish, we won’t be able to decide it for you, because there’s no correct or wrong way to do that. If you like to not record each specimen, that is fine, if you will try to record each one of them, that is fine too. If you want something different, think about what you observe: as many species as possible is the best, where you observe: new spots, the futherest from other spots, are the best, how much: as many specimens as possible, balancing number of species and number of specimens of 1 species. In the end, “system” will be what you want it to be.
Personally I would say record more than something unusual, there’s too much to miss with that approach.


This is why iNaturalist is less balanced than eBird for species abundance/occupancy information. We have a tendency to only persue, photograph, and share images of “rarer” species. I know that I like to prioritize “good images” (good lighting, not too far from me, etc.) as well as more “interesting” species (to me). By far, not everyone focuses solely on “rarer” species, but that’s definitely the focus in many Facebook groups I’m on where photographers post images of wildlife they’ve seen.

I still prioritize “good images,” but I’m also trying to get more images of more common organisms. I took a look at my local “Missing Species” list and realized that Carolina wrens, northern cardinals, and white-throated sparrows, ALL species that visit my birdfeeder daily, haven’t been recorded in a 1-km radius of my house! So the next time I’m looking at my feeders in good light, I’ll be taking images of every individual for iNaturalist and recording a checklist for eBird.


Thanks! Very useful. Of course, in my case, comprehensive feeder counts would mean pictures of scores of House Sparrows and Mourning Doves!

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Don’t forget the squirrels!

The other commenters are completely correct - do whatever you want. On yet another hand, I try to document the common species in my area (or at least the ones I can ID!). I try to go for a walk in a different place every time and record such common species as Eastern Hemlock, Wild Sarsaparilla, Partridgeberry, and so on. I’ve also gotten fascinated by galls, so I make observations of those, too. I don’t make very many bird observations, because I don’t have the right kind of camera and many other people are recording the birds in my region. So, do what interests you.


Same here, haha. It’s not up to us individuals to document EVERYTHING (unless you want that to be your purpose :wink: ). However, if we are out on a trail, we can make an effort to try to document more than just the rarities. I know there are many “common” species that are getting genuine range extension publications out of iNaturalist.

But while I say that, I also focus almost exclusively on birds and herps, largely ignoring plants, squirrels, and the like…

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I agree. I find when I go out to new sites to botanize, I try to photography just one of everything I find in order to make a “species list” for that area. Then when I return with more time I’ll try to make observations about species abundance.


I agree that one can just do what suits them - and as it suits them. I tend to iNAt first and eBird second. My goal often is “This is Present Here Now” (TPHN).I will try to get an image of what I can and not be overly concerned (try…).

If I’m doing a bird count then I note every bird I can and where for eBird - the camera take second place and is just for the unusual.

If I am having a big bird day then I will try to get as many species images as possible but not in numbers (TPHN) and for eBird I will just mark presence (X) - I may also take images of flora and other fauna (and…) but not at the expense of slowing down my primary mission. On big bird days, I have not quite reconciled how to manage eBird because I am going to many hotspots but I just want to have one list to record on. The last day I submitted over 60 species but got called out because a couple of species would not be found at the spot I selected to record - I just went in and deleted it for now and I’ll have to compare to my iNat record as to pinpointing the locations - there is no general hotspot for the area.

On a normal nature outing I will record images for species of interest and only add incidentals to eBird if it improves my life list - if I have already recorded a species on that outing I will tend to not capture an image again (TPHN) unless it is a species that I am unfamiliar with or unsure of and need a closer look on screen.

The rest of the time, all things are just incidental and I record as the occasions suits me but still thinking about TPHN and iNat yes, eBird maybe.

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In my view, the purpose of eBird is to describe the presence of all bird species one can identify in a specific place and time, and quantify them. Trying to do that by taking pictures of each individual would mean that you miss many birds, and probably the most interesting ones. iNat on the other hand is almost completely based on photos that are used as evidence. But, to prove the presence of multiple individuals of the same species, one needs a photo with all of them together. Otherwise, can all the individuals in different photos really be distinguished? Also, an observation in iNat is defined as that of an individual. So, if you want to document the number of individuals of a species on iNat, it’s better to add a comment or an observation field to a single photo of that species. - I’m not sure that many iNatters would be interested in such numbers for birds. That might be different for other taxa where there isn’t an alternative like eBird.

As said elsewhere, it’s up to you what observations you upload on iNat. I think it’s part of the fun to figure out what it is that interests one - it probably changes over time. Be creative!


The same way you distinguish different humans? Most birds have signs that differ them from each other, but for safety you also should try to remember when you shoot one individual or when they change.

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When I first started I only added species I had not added yet or something that really interested me. As I’ve gone along I try to get as much as I can when I go out. There is a lot of sifting through photos when I get home. Usually 75% or higher are unusable so often it ends up being what was photographed well. Best plan, do what you enjoy doing.


I’m not sure what corner of iNat you’re in, but whenever I go thorough Unknowns, what I see is a fixation on a half dozen or so common species that for some reason large numbers of people notice more. I am sure that Leadtrees are neither the most common nor the most spectacular species in Campeche, but for some reason, they are on nearly every page, sometimes in multiples.

You aren’t documenting everything anyway, even if you think you are. If you’ve ever run a Berlese funnel, you will have found that just a few shovelfuls of soil have amazing biodiversity of taxa that are rarely seen on iNat.

In 2021, my observations were predominantly plants. In part this is because I uploaded a large number of archival photos from my pre-iNat travels, and plants were the easiest for me to photograph with my limited skills and equipment during those years. So this year, I have made an effort to get a better balance of kingdoms, trying to get at least as many animals and fungi as plants, and including chromista whenever I can.


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