Unwanted map zoom-out when editing observations

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Platform (Android, iOS, Website): Website

Browser, if a website issue (Firefox, Chrome, etc) : Firefox

URLs (aka web addresses) of any relevant observations or pages: any observation page in edit mode https://inaturalist.ca/observations/{observation number}/edit

Description of problem (please provide a set of steps we can use to replicate the issue, and make as many as you need.):

When I make edits in an observation (e.g., changes in the Notes) and save those changes, the map zooms out to show the whole North American continent (all my observations are from Alberta, Canada):

The default zoom level for maps after uploading an observation creates a window that is roughly 45 km wide:

I am wondering why the zoom level of the map changes even when my edits have nothing to do with the map or the location. I would like to keep the zoom level at the default setting and don’t want it to change automatically when I make other edits to the observation.

This problem suddenly started sometime last fall. Before that, I was able to edit my observations and the zoom level of maps remained unchanged. I have a workaround to get the zoom level back to the default but it is a time-consuming extra step that is annoying. Since I do a lot of editing this has become quite tedious. I hope it can be fixed.

Thanks, Matthias


This has been a problem forever (ie ever since that edit page was created), I think it was fixed for a while, but I agree it is back now.


When I edit, I get the entire world. Thanks, not!

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@matthias22 @tony_wills thanks for the constructive feedback. I’m not able to replicate this.

  • how are you adding the location to the observation when you upload it?

  • does the observation already have a note? what exactly did you change for the note with this observation?

  • did you make any other changes to the observation aside from the note?

FWIW, I remember noticing that this issue had happened when I edited the location itself in this observation.

EDIT: Wild guess, anything to do with map_scale being set to 1 for that observation vs. null for others I’m spot checking (which don’t manifest the issue)?

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on the web observation edit page, if you change the map zoom at all, any save of the observation will save the zoom level of the map view, which can then be retrieved in the observation details via a map_scale field.

for inaturalist.org users, unless you’re changing the map view, you’re not going to save a zoom level value when you save.

but for users of the localized versions of iNat, your map will automatically zoom into your local iNat country, and so that’s why you generally end up with a country-level zoom level when you edit an observation in the web observation edit page, even if you didn’t change the map zoom level yourself.

so if you’re editing in one of the local versions of iNat vs the global one, the workaround to get a “default” zoom level is just to zoom all the way out as far as you can. this sets the zoom level to 0, which seems to get treated as equivalent to null.

as far as i can tell (based on the conversation in https://forum.inaturalist.org/t/maintain-map-zoom-level-when-creating-observations/8195), this behavior is the behavior of the original uploader screen, which has been retained as the web edit screen.

there are also various feature requests suggesting different ways to handle the zoom for observations, such as: https://forum.inaturalist.org/t/set-the-default-google-maps-zoom-level-for-observations/6827


@pisum You found the root of the issue. Sometime last year, I switched my account from inaturalist.org to inaturalist.ca. I just tested this out and the problem only happens when I make edits in inaturalist.ca. If I make them on inaturalist.org the zoom level remains unchanged. I actually don’t have to make ANY edits on the .ca domain. Just opening the edit observation page and then saving (without making changes) will change the zoom level.

Not sure why the local versions of iNaturalist need this. Is there any benefit to it? Could it be changed so it works like iNaturalist.org? If not, I think I will be going back to iNaturalist.org because this issue has been so tedious. I am using exactly the workaround you suggested but I have gotten tired of it. I frequently make changes to the observation notes after I upload them (rarely ever do any edits on the maps or the location). It would be nice if I could continue to support the Canadian branch of iNat but this issue is wearing me out.

Thanks for your insight!

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For curiosity’s sake: I have a couple of observations in Africa. When I edit them on inaturalist.ca, the zoom level changes similarly but the map shows the African continent (as it should). So the map does not centre on Canada in the .ca domain. It simply goes to the continent level. Not sure why localized versions of iNat need to behave differently than inaturalist.org.

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What I just wrote applies to maps on the observation pages. The edit observation pages are a different story. In the .ca domain, the maps show me North America, which means the location is outside the map area when I edit my African observations. In the .org domain, the maps correctly centre on the observation locality (e.g., Africa when I edit an African observation).

I guess this could definitely use some tweaking. People travel a lot, so the maps on the edit observation pages should centre on the observation locality, not on the country where people live.

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Thanks for the details, folks. I added a github issue here: https://github.com/inaturalist/inaturalist/issues/3787

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@pisum nailed it, I randomly use either the .org or .nz portal depending on what machine I’m on, or what links I follow - that explains why I sometimes think it is fixed. When I encounter it I normally just zoom in to the level I want, but the map doesn’t centre on the observation - the cure for that is to edit the lat or lon with a null edit (eg add a trailing ‘0’ digit), it then zooms in correctly.


This should be fixed now. Works for me, I’d love to know if it’s fixed for others who were experiencing it.

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