Ubiquitous Species to Practice Identifying

I’ve been trying to learn my local species so that I can identify more.

I did the “How to Become A Better Identifier” practice (https://www.inaturalist.org/pages/lets_id_some_arthropods), and wondered if anyone had recommendations of other “ubiquitous critters” to learn.

My approach thus far has been picking:

  • A visually distinctive species
  • Without close relatives in my area (so I can be pretty confident)
  • Noting key features, if applicable
  • Filtering to my county
  • Training on research grade observations, then confirming IDs.

Any criteria I should add? Any recommendations?

I’m currently working on training my eye for the wetland plants of San Diego. Many of them don’t have close relatives in the area, so I can get pretty confident armed with a key or guide.
…even if I have to make that guide myself, dagnabbit


I think you’re on a good track with this. Get to know other regular identifiers in your area/taxa of interest, and converse with them over the more difficult IDs


That seems like a solid approach @huntforscience. As it looks like you’re planning to ID plants in California, you’re fortunate that we have great online resources in terms of the Jepson eFlora, Calflora and CalPhotos.

Some additional techniques that work well for me:

  • Pick a genus that has a manageable number of species. I’d get pretty frustrated trying to ID the correct Eriogonum out of 100+ species. But I’d likely also be frustrated adding a confirming ID to 8,000+ Coast Redwood observations.

  • Use the various location-based search options to focus your ID process on one area at a time (e.g. county by county). If possible, use Calflora to get familiar with the taxa in your field of interest that have been recorded from the area, and cross-reference that against the Jepson key so you have in mind the main characters you’re going to be looking for. (Let’s hope they’re ones visible in photos). This means that when you get to work in the identify dialog you can be pretty confident about your ID for many of the observations you pull up.

  • My preference if I’m going to add a dissenting ID is to try to explain my rationale. I feel it helps the observer and other identifiers understand what I was thinking, and if necessary tell me what I may be missing. I know this can slow down the ID process and a lot of people don’t bother. (If you often write similar comments, then a hotkey or text expansion utility can really help.)

  • Set some goals, both reasonable and aspirational. It’s rewarding to feel like you’ve made an identifiable difference.

Thanks for giving identifying a try! iNat needs as many identifiers as we can get.


Thank you for the great advice!

I didn’t think about setting goals, but I can see how that would make the infinite pile seem a little smaller.

As far as location goes, I’ve been sticking to my county (San Diego). I’ll often just choose a park/preserve where I’ve been, or another smaller search field to do at once. That limits how many different genera I’ll see and makes the “first sort” easier.


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