A question from a new iNaturalist user. In ordinary life, when we observe an organism, we often make use of geographical and seasonal information in order to identify it: “X is common in this part of the world around this time, so that’s probably what it is” vs. “It can’t be a Y because they don’t occur in these parts now”. My question is to what extent this kind of reasoning is legitimate for iNaturalist IDs?
Here’s my problem. Presumably one of the functions of iNaturalist is to provide scientists with information with regard to the distribution of organisms in space in time. But then using such information to suggest IDs becomes circular. So for example, if the current consensus is that Ys aren’t found in these parts, but the consensus happens to be wrong (as it could quite easily be), then observing a Y here won’t yield a correction to the consensus, because, for geographical and seasonal reasons, it will never be identified as a Y — and so the faulty consensus will remain in place.
I imagine that in many cases, using geographical and seasonal information when offering IDs works fine. But I am worried about the potential for incorrect assumptions about organism distributions to be perpetuated in this way.