Team of curators for a project on a specific taxa? (earthworms)

We are a group of people working on earthworms and wish to improve the species coverage and identification of existing records in iNat for this group of taxa. (Many IDs of worms are wrong, with a strong bias to ID everything as Lumbricus terrestris). At the moment were are only 10 people but we plan to grow in number. (We’ll see how it goes!).
Many worm species and even genus are not present in the iNat backbone taxonomy. A big motivation for potential future members of the project is being able to add new species, for instance the ones they described for the first time.

So my question is how do you think we should approach the curating task?

  • Shall the members of the project ask independently (risk = divergent points on view on the taxonomy tree, and maybe some people will be rejected - I don’t know the acceptance rate to become a curator- but good incentive to recruit collaborators).

  • Or shall we make a collective request for a few people from time to time?

  • Or maybe we can have a few curators that could invite other curators (I think that this feature no longer exists in iNat).

  • Generally speaking, would you recommend to have a large or a limited number of curators for a specific project such as ours?

8 Likes

I always wanted to play the Earthworm Jim videogame but never had a chance. Did you actually play it?

The word “project” already has a specific meaning on iNaturalist. By “project” you mean just the initiative of you all working on improving iNat’s worm taxonomy and IDs, yes? Not an actual iNat project? That affects how I would answer your question about curators, since iNat has “site” curators (who can edit taxonomy) and “project” curators, who just have some privileges when it comes to specific traditional projects.

I doubt you would need more than a few site curators - adding taxa doesn’t really take too much time. The time-consuimg process is making flags, and anyone can make a flag. Also, anyone can add an ID and all users’ IDs are weighted exactly the same.

If someone wants to be a site curator, they should a) be an experienced iNat user who is familiar with the flagging system, b) have thoroughly read the Curator Guide, and c) need to fill out the Curator Application. Site curators are no longer able make another person a curator, only staff and network site admins can make users site curators.

6 Likes

I know the pain of working through common taxa that are even more commonly misidentified/can’t be ID’d to species, so I salute your determination to get a team organised to tackle Lumbricus terrestris!

I am a curator and I’m happy to be tagged on any improvements to the taxonomy you feel are needed. Bear in mind that iNat’s taxonomy is not necessarily intended to be complete. Unless there’s a specific reason for it, not many people will want to spend ages inputting hundreds of obscure species that are never likely to be needed - so it is best to try to filter your needs by usefulness to some degree. (Backbone structure is a bit of a different matter - you might want to make that fairly complete)

The normal way to do this is to raise a flag on whatever taxon needs organising. Say for example, you want to conform the genera in Family X to the conclusions of the most recent, widely-accepted review paper. Raise a flag on the family and add in a comment all the sources necessary to establish the validity of your request. Then someone can try to implement that: feel free to tag me into such a flag - I’ll do what I can and not what I can’t :)

5 Likes

Actually I never played that game, but I should !

We made an iNat Project to gather all our observations in one place, to be able to curate it more easily (basically to know that we can trust the proposed identifications, because IDs were be done separately with DNA or taxonomical work, dissection here).

Ok so it seems that we first need to get used to the flagging system. Then depending on how it goes, some of us might apply to become curators.

1 Like

Thanks for the proposal, we’ll keep that in mind!

I am aware that trying to fill the whole iNat tree is not necessarily useful, especially because many species will never be observed.

Though, I feel it is an incentive to recruit taxonomists that would add their favorite species and eventually contribute with obs of common species and maybe by curating a bit others’ identification. But maybe this is a bit optimistic. Let’s see!

2 Likes

all users’ IDs are weighted exactly the same.

Thanks for this clarification.
But do observations with a greater number of identifications gets more weight in the CV training?

Based on my understanding, they do not. Observations are equally likely to be chosen from the pool of eligible observations for a taxon.

1 Like

But that actually could make certain users’ observations more likely to be chosen. Say there are 2,000 total observations of a given taxon. If user A has 100 observations of that taxon, the odds of one of them being chosen are 100/2000, or 5%. User B has 2 observations of that same taxon, so the odds of one of theirs being chosen is 2/2000, or 0.01%.

One could argue, then, that correct identification is more critical for power users.

Just to make clear anyone can add a species in certain circumstances. When you add an ID to an observation, if you type something that is not in iNat’s taxonomy the dropdown gives to the option to ‘Search external databases’. Click that, and if iNat can find the name in one of the linked databases it will be automatically added.

Circumstances where you would need a curator:

  1. iNat fails to find the name in an external database
  2. You want to do something other than add a species (e.g.add a genus, change a name, perform a wider taxonomic rearrangement)
  3. iNat finds the name but fails to attach the species to the correct genus (usually because the genus isn’t present in iNat)
2 Likes