Thank you to the experts

…in their fields who provide that information in their profiles. It’s hard to trust an ID from an unknown person, especially for those organisms with which I have no expertise.


I believe it’s a good use of the bio for all users to describe their backgrounds and levels of knowledge and confidence. I added the words “civil engineer” to mine so no one is fooled into thinking I’m a botanist.


Still hoping that iNat will enable searching profiles for person I found yesterday who works on the taxonomy of Newtome taxon

A thumbnail image (doesn’t need to be your face) for a visual reminder of who, and words for the why I want to remember your name / icon


Nice. I just use the word “wannabe”.

It’s worth mentioning that ‘expert’ is not a term reserved to those with professional or academic backgrounds in the subject. There are tons of extremely knowledgeable naturalists that are bankers, molecular biologists, plumbers, and whatever else you could imagine.


Lots of very confident folks here… I start my bio with “Misidentifying plants & animals” but I also provide links to the resources that I like/use. Hopefully that balances things out?


  • [link text](

Works in bios and observation comments too.


Thanks for the reminder to add some of my favorite sources to my bio when I get a chance!


So I agree in principle with this, but I know at least 2 people have nothing in their profile and are at the TOP of their fields in entomology. One hadn’t contributed anything except IDs so his account was still marked as a potential “spammer”. I had to ask another curator how to turn that off so it would at least look like a normal account. As it has been said so many times, please keep in mind that experts volunteer their time, and some don’t feel like going through extra hassle to flesh out profiles. Unfortunately because of this you run into the exact problem you’ve described; how to tell the difference between experts and those who just like to ID.

One thing you can do is that experts often don’t create iNat profile names that don’t include their actual name. If you want to double check for an important ID, try Googling that person. Mine is super complicated like that ;-)

I want to address something important that I think a lot of people overlook with “experts”: we get stuff wrong. Being an expert basically means you’ve misidentified a hell of a lot of things before you started getting proficient (sort of the Dunning-Kruger Effect), and even then we mess up. I look back on some of the ID’s I provided 3 years ago and cringe before (hopefully) fixing them. We also get a lot more conservative; if someone sticks something at genus level (or above) and says it can’t be ID’d further, it’s a good idea to believe them.

Dunno, my two cents.


I agree. However, it helps me to know if the person is just guessing or if they really know what they’re talking about. My background was in the sciences at one point, though my degree lies elsewhere, so I understand the process and accept that many groups have not yet been fully characterized where I live and/or that some characteristics cannot be seen through a regular camera lens.

I didn’t specifiy degree, because many of the experts in the field are self-taught.



followed in the same breath by being offended when ‘we’ don’t take them ‘seriously’.
It only needs one sentence, or a few key words (once) to let us know who we are dealing with.


There’s no shortage of “genus” level IDs of very common birds in SA, confirmed by “an expert”, an expert with zero field, academic, or even conservation credentials, who’s never taken a step into any part of gran Colombia, let alone left the Atlantic coast of the continent.

It takes seconds to enter a location and time into Merlin and narrow the species down to 2-3 likely candidates, even with a finite level of experience, and if one can’t be bothered to have the pack for the region your doing IDs in, maybe they should stay in their own lane.

I think even an erroneous ID could be better than the overly-conservative “X and allies” that is becoming commonplace with bird IDs here.

When there’s 50 species of flycatcher in a region I don’t think knee-jerk labeling of “flycatchers and allies” does no one any favors aside from delivering the dopamine response of seeing another research grade ID appear in your dashboard.

I appreciate the IDs when these individuals contribute, but I hold much more value to insights provided by locals (at least from the country or territory of the obs.)

mi dos centavos


You shouldn’t just trust ids though, from an expert or not.


Many who develop real expertise with an organism have hands-on experience with studying it – that is, they have closely examined specimens. (I exclude most very good birders, although they have observation experience, even though through binocs.) Even an expert can be stumped by a pretty good photo since they can’t closely examine all features that might be diagnostic. Sometimes there’s just something about a photo that can really throw you off in a way that having the organism in hand does not.


I think it’s great if people fill out their profiles because it’s cool to know a bit about the people you run into on iNat. If they specialize in something I find it helpful mostly in the way @sarinole described - I know they’re likely making an informed ID, even if they may be wrong (as we’re all human and falliable).

But if someone wants to remain anonymous that’s fine - which is why the Community Guidelines emphasize citing evidence and sources when discussing IDs, rather than citing one’s own experience or expertise.


Sometimes that’s all you can actually do though. I can’t speak for South American birds but there’s a handful of flycatchers here you can’t actually ID to species level from photos. I wish there was a better way to handle species groups in iNat


Not sure how it’s done with birds, but I’ve seen something like this with Nightshades (Solanum) with white flowers, where someone put a bunch of the species with white flowers into a group called Black Nightshade Complex (Complex Solanum nigrum). Another example is Sandmats (Anisophyllum) for genus Euphorbia. Maybe worth making such a group for these locally occurring flycatchers? Existing groups can be found by browsing the taxonomy tree. I think they’re under the genus, but clearly not any one species.

I think identifying a bird to Tyrannidae (flycatchers & allies) is very useful. It lets people know approximately what it is and it posts a kind of warning sign – these are REALLY hard to identify. It’s useful just as identifying Unknowns to Mammals is useful.


I think they meant something else, though I reread it like 5 times now and not sure what reading to choose. It’s probably something going around seeing Carex observations and agreeing with them, are they an expert and sure it can’t be ided further? No, they just sure that genus id is correct, while an actual expert can easily id it to species. Is it within rules? Of course. Can it be extremely confusing and time consuming? Yes. So I agree with sentiment one id from local expert is more valuable than 10 ids of people who just show you your id is correct, something you know without them (or agree with incorrect id, depending on their mood).

Oh. I’m sorry. I didn’t see it that way. And yes, a local ID can be much better.

I’ve tried working on some South American taxa. It’s hard to get good sources of information and to gain enough experience to be useful. I will continue to plug away at some of them from time to time, though, because I’m curious.


Species complexes and sections are actual categories established by scientists for groups thought to be related. Those sorts of things won’t help with the flycatchers, I don’t think–at least not in all cases. But if there were such groups, someone would have set them up here on iNat by now, I’d think.