To what extent do you attend to observations after uploading them to iNaturalist?

I have seen a lot of discussions here recently with comments that have led me to believe that I am woefully inattentive to my observations.

Generally, I upload an observation to a decently high taxon. There are what I call “regular sweepers” for bees, butterflies, hoppers and lady beetles, so those will be identified or my ID seconded readily. Ditto birds and reptiles. And ants! There is someone I usually tag for wasps, but not honey wasps – there’s a fellow who sweeps for those, too. And there are Fly Guys, with specific fly interests.

Anyway, I may or may not tag someone. I generally do not look at the observation again unless I am notified that there is some activity on it. Otherwise that observation is out in the universe just living its best life, as far as I am concerned.

From time to time, I may recall it if I see something that reminds me of it. For example if someone references a species, I go see if I have observed that species and am often surprised to see I have, sometimes more than once.

(The only exception to this is that recently, armed with two plus years improvement in my knowledge set, I have begun to return to my first observations and hone my identifications of them to the taxon at which I would identify them were I to make the same observations today, doing away with my own “Winged and Once Winged Insects” and the like.)

But the idea of knowing which of my observations specifically are Research Grade and which are languishing or which lost their Research Grade status because of a user’s departure feels strange to me. Am I meant to keep abreast of that?

Perhaps I took the “Each observation represents a moment in time” rule too much to heart and decided that meant that as the observer, I should also spend exactly one moment in time, no more.

How attentive are you to your observations after you upload them?


I am very similar to you in almost every respect. I upload and forget unless notified. I have revisited old observations when I thought I made a mistake or as a reference (I have seen this before and I think someone IDed it for me). I have revisited when I thought I had learned more. I may have tagged people just to get an ID in the past (testing functionality), but now I only do that if I specifically want to know more about that taxon OR I am helping someone else’s observation get unstuck (e.g. need another ID to resolve disagreement).

I wouldn’t notice if a number of my observations went from RG to Needs ID. BUT, I have a plant collection project in my area and I watch %RG. So if a person who contributed a lot of IDs in my area deleted their account, I think I would notice.

Edit: I have done one other thing with my observations lately. When I’m trying to learn a taxon, I have gone back and start my identification efforts (corrections) with my own observations.


Personally I leave just about all of my notification options turned on, to make sure I don’t miss something important on one of my observations. Sometimes it means a lot of notifications to go through, but I very quickly skip past the ones where an ID was added and the Observation is (still) at Research Grade. I assume that those don’t need attention from me. But those with new mentions, comments, or identifications at “Needs ID,” I definitely check to see if they need further input from me.

I am not as prolific as some observers, so this may not be practical for more prolific observers.


I frequently find interesting things and learn a lot from follow up discussions on my own observations. If they sit for a few months, I’ll tag people for opinions. I also look back through groups like bees to check the “good as it can be” box when I know my photos aren’t enough for species ID. When I learn new ID tips, I try to refine my observations as much as possible.


Well, only if you want to! There is no obligation to refine or solicit IDs beyond what your natural inclination says at any given moment.


There’s a moment when it starts to matter, maybe there’re many people just like you, who don’t really care, but I can’t see having close to 17k of needs id as a thing I can ignore, this number isn’t far from all of your observations combined, so it’s kinda sad, so I do my best to get this number down, I even deleted some family-level observations as they can’t get to rg (I’m waiting for it to become true, but for three years on the platform it didn’t happen). I try to id as much as I can, looking for key and such, life list matters, and I have a list for practically any place I want to visit soon, so I must know what I saw and what I haven’t seen, that means somebody has to id all the things they didn’t id, there’s only so much not a researcher can find, and often the latter can id without signs mentioned in keys.


After I upload my observations, I don’t go back and work to make them RG by researching them further myself or by tagging experts. In many cases, I knew the observation couldn’t be IDed to RG level at the time I made the observation, because I knew I couldn’t get the photos that would allow the observation to be IDed to species level. Or I just didn’t know the organism well enough to know what to photograph (or the organism wouldn’t stand still long enough!).

Recently, I have begun putting some effort into my observations at genus level where an IDer agreed with my genus-level ID, because they will turn RG if I mark them As Good As Can Be. (or whatever that phrasing is in the Data Quality Assessment). I really don’t care about the RG label; I care about removing the observation from the Needs ID pile and thereby decreasing some other IDer’s work load.

But beyond that, it’s very rare that I’ll go back and spend any time at all on my older observations.


And I thought my 57 were bad :P! Wish you the best of luck and I’m gonna check to see if I can help with any.

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It’s like a puppy. It’s not for Christmas, it is for life.

My own obs are few - so I do monitor them carefully at first. And always when notifications come in. Orchid man recently went thru all mine - and confirmed to species, or ssp - and that is good to know.


OK, can you tell me more about this function? I have seen it but am not sure I understand its best use.

For example, there are lovely, metallic green bees in my garden, Euglossa. I observe one and upload it at Euglossa. In fairly short order, a fellow named Jorge Mérida, who works at ECOSUR in Chiapas and who is the MX bee expert and John Ascher, who is just the bee expert, add their identifications, also Euglossa. (They both review my bees rather quickly, as part of their regular sweeps.) But it is still at Genus level so not RG.

I cannot imagine it being refined to species because of the skillset of the two who review my bees, nor does it need to be for what they are assessing. I cannot imagine it is part of anyone else’s workload. I may not even open them when I get the notifications, except for this one, recently, bc I wanted to see what John Ascher commented.

Then there are these little flies, Condylostylus. Mine almost always stay at Genus level because as one of the Fly Guys once commented, there are so many species here, including some possibly unknown as of yet. So let’s say I designate all of mine to “Cannot Be Improved” to get them off that Needs ID Stack. But now @zdanko is working on a new species and he has seen examples of it within my Condylostylus observations. So actually the ID could be improved, it just needed more time and someone young and brilliant.

Recently there was a widespread study of native bees - flowers in Mexico and all of my bees, RG and Needs ID, were included in the data set. And my Needs ID data is being included in a taxonomic revision UNAM is doing of a native species of flowering vine.

So if one knows their Needs IDs have already passed through the workflow (I am keenly aware of who does which IDs for which groups in MX) because they have already been reviewed, is there another reason to address them or is it just personal preference?


I would LOVE to be able to receive notifications for ONLY my observations. Currently, I only receive notifications for disagreeing IDs because the volume is otherwise too burdensome. But if someone agrees with my ID on one of my observations, then woohoo, I want to know! I find myself scrolling thru my observations on the Android app to see if there are any flagged in hot pink. :-) It’s almost as annoying as a huge list of notifications to go through.

Seems like being auto-subscribed, or at least able to subscribe to your own observations should be a thing?

If it can be improved, even in the future, there’s no need to mark it’ add those observations to undescribed taxa project, but mark what definitely can’t be ided further, in the worst scenario somebody will look at RG genus observations and id them.

It’s mostly just my personal preference. As an active identifier, I am very aware of how many IDers feel overwhelmed by the mountain of Needs ID observations facing them every day, so if I can do something to help reduce that feeling, I will.

My guess is that if someone like zdanko suspects there’s a new species out there, they will go through all possible observations, whether RG or not. So it’s your choice whether to mark an observation of yours such that it’s RG at the genus level. In the larger scheme of things, whether I mark my own is a very small drop in a very large bucket.


I usually only add observations when I’m interested in learning more about whatever I saw, so I do my best to ID as specifically as I am able. I also like to add whatever annotations and projects I can. It looks like you ID most of your obs to genus, which is better than I do a lot of the time! And sometimes this approach leads me to be over-specific because, since almost everything I post is a new organism to me, I probably don’t know the diagnostic criteria well. I often go way more specific on my own posts than I would for someone else’s, because I feel like I should be about 90% confident on others’ posts, but only maybe 70% sure for myself… as the one asking for help vs. providing it, it feels like I don’t need to worry about mistakes as much. I do go back to my posts which have been untouched by anyone else occasionally to see if I can do any better.

I don’t really monitor for RG. All I’m hoping for really is any more specific ID than I was able to apply, or a confirmation/correction of what I thought it was.

That’s just my own personal approach though, I don’t think there’s a wrong amount of upkeep on your observations… as an identifier all I want is for people to at least put a broad category to kick it out of unknown, and bonus for retracting maverick IDs. One thing I would say is, if you’re tagging people on upload, you might rather give it a few days in case it’s going to get caught in a regular IDer’s workflow anyway. I never get pinged personally but I’ve heard this preference here in the forums several times.

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I don’t usually babysit observations which I am not proficient in. I’m very good with birds and herpetofauna, so I do babysit those somewhat. If someone provides me with a different ID to what I thought it was, I’ll look into it. I’ll also periodically check unconfirmed identifications. I have a number of clearly identifiable observations for birds and herps that I know the species of which nobody else has confirmed.

Sorry, I should have clarified. Sometimes I become aware that users are looking for very specific things. Sometimes it may be a specific behavior. Sometimes it is a species. In those instances, I will tag that user with the greatest of hope that I have brought them what they seek. Here is an example.


There’s no reason to delete observations simply because they might not get to RG. There’s still value to observations ID’d at higher levels.


They don’t have any value, those were mostly chironomids, not good enough photos to get id even to subfamily. I just avoid such groups now, too much hassle and no gain.

When I first started posting, I was concerned about each observation and fretted about their not reaching RG. Now, I figure they have their own life, separate from mine. I pay attention to identifications, especially disagreements. I usually don’t even agree if one I posted without a species ID gets one (unless I actually know it’s right). I just let it stay there, a problem to be solved eventually.


Once I have uploaded my observations, I will generally forget about them until some other user interacts with it.