Using the field "Similar Observation Set" for linking observations of lepidoptera when raising on

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I created a field for linking observations where you don’t want a full on project to do so. It is perfect for linking observations of different stages of a lifecycle when raising on lepidoptera, for instance… also for linking observations that look to be the same unknown taxa.

As an example, three observations for a caterpillar I found and raised on…

Notice all three observations have a field called “Similar observation set” and the value is set to 16545226, which is the observation number for the larva (first obs), which is easily obtained in a chrome browser by double clicking on the number in the url and using ctrl-c to copy it. Of course, there was a bit of time between each obs, so I wrote the number on the container it was raised in, so I would remember to link each subsequent observation.

To view all three obs in a search result you just left click on the field name and select “Observations with this field and value”:


Notice that it initially only brings up one observation in the search result, being the first one. This is because I made the other two observations “captive” because they were technically captive from that point on. To bring them into the query result in this example, one more step is needed, which is to change the query to include captive observations, which is done by de-selecting “verifiable” on the left hand side of the Filters box:

You can see the extra two obs added to the query have casual against them. It took me a while to figure out why only some of my obs would work with this linking method!

In this first pic above, you can see the field description I gave it, back when I created this field for linking similar observations. We were seeing a salticid popping up in obs, we all knew it as “undescribed tree jumper”, and my intention with this field was to use that informal nick-name as the linking value. I soon after stumbled on the use for situations like the raising on, or where you go back and get follow up obs for trees to get different stages (leaf emergence, flower buds, flowers, fruit, fall-leaf colour and so on)… any situation where you might like to link together a group of observations without going to the full on project way of grouping them!

If the name of the field doesn’t gel with you, you can create your own with similar functionality, as every field can be accessed with that Field/Value choice when clicking on the field name. Once you use a field, it appears in the shortlist of fields that appear when you next go to add a field, so using it is really easy. Our using the obs number is just a quick and dirty way to get a unique number to use for a specific set of observations.

Once you have built the set, you can share a link to the query that groups them… like this one for a tailed forest spider as she laid a series of eggsacs: You’ll notice that again the linking field value was the first obs number, but if a descriptive field value is used then the url for the query effectively would carry it’s own description of what it is!

Have a play with the field and let me know if you have difficulties, and especially if you find other interesting uses for it!


Just a note that the non listing of captive things is now fixed.


This is really useful! Thanks so much. I’ve used it to connect observations of my growing tadpoles:

Is this good to use for linking observations by multiple different people of (presumably) the same individual creature?

For example, I (amusingly) discovered this set of observations, made mere moments apart, of the same gull on a campus

Could I use this field to link all three together? Or is there a better field (or other feature) for that? Or is it frowned upon to do at all? Could you similarly use it for, say, a well-documented single bird of interest, like the vagrant Garganey that hung out at Waller Park in central California?

Definitely! For the first group the iNat number of the first in the set would be what I use as the field value (so that it is unique to the group). For the other, you could do the same or make it a more descriptive field value like “Waller Park Garganey”. The problem with descriptive values is that if a different Garganey turns up some other year, you wouldn’t be able to use that value again (unless you wanted them ALL as a single set). I guess you could append the year for subsequent ones!

Thank you! I’ll have to keep my eye out for similar use cases then :)

Just tried this new iNat feature:

I’m quite fine with it. Before I used to just upload pictures of the insect in its different life stages all into one observation, eg:

Personally I think both methods are fine as long as for the one-observation-different-life-stages one the observer writes a brief description including dates etc, which definitely could be helpful for people learning more about the life stages of certain species.

different stages in the one observation is not a good solution. An observation is for an organism in a place and at a moment in time. If you link or add image tags to the description, then they can be supporting evidence to the ID, but the photos for the obs itself should all be reasonably consistant with that one “moment in time”.

I recently found an exception to working with adding fields to others’ records: If the person has opted out of community id, the added fields won’t “stick”.

(I was labeling relevant obs with Plant Disease/Host Plant fields for easy lookup later and it meant a couple had to be left out.)

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