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.

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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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On a side note. You might tag nhudson in the larval observation to re-ID since he now knows what it morphed into.

Good point! I mark subsequent obs as captive, so only the first one (the pillar) can get to RG. The ID confirmation that Neville gave was on the imago obs!

I’ve finally got around to adding this field to some of my sets of repeated observations of the same individuals. For example, here’s an individual wall lettuce plant in Christchurch that’s now over 5 years old:

Thanks for setting this up. It’s a nice way to track individuals.

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@tony_wills had the idea before me. I had thought I had come up with a new way to link obs, but in reality it was probably a memory of having seen something similar in Tony’s observations. It was after I had set up this tutorial that I became more consciously aware of his, and by then it was too late to defer to his. I actually like the wording of his field name better (Observation Group (?)), so it’s kind of a beta/vhs thing now! It does illustrate though that the same functionality is available with any field of that type, so if needed you can create more specifically named fields to do the same thing. I think, but can’t be sure, that the using of the obs number for a unique key was my twist though, so maybe I can take partial credit!

Ah, yes. I remember that now too. Thanks.

We can merge fields if they do the same thing. The trick is just to make sure that all projects using one field switch over to using the other field before merging.

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I think both are fairly widely used, and I don’t think it’s a problem to have multiple of this type. Unless there was a need to search for all observations that have that or a similar field assigned…

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This is a seriousely awesome idea!!! Thanks :smiley:

Just one more thing. Is it possible to add a search-string template or an advise to the field description?

Dang, I wish I made the title of this post smaller… the fieldname description is limited to 255 chars, so I have put a link to this forum topic instead.

I saw you use the whole url as the value, but then changed it to just the obs#… I was going to say that it was an interesting idea, because it makes the “view all with field and value” so much more obvious and easy to access!

This stuff is absolute awesome!!!
You did it :D

I was trying to use the whole link, but if i use the whole Link as ID, the search will not search for the number but the link and the number, and it seems to be a endliss loop.

So i use the number on each observation of a set.
Then i create a empty observation, i understand it as follows…
One observation is captured but no media, this is a long process/time observation.
The long time Observation is divides into different one time observations in the wild with pictures. Each part is not captured as such because it is in the wild.
But all parts are captured in the long time observation.

here the magic link:
This is the longtime observation, captured, no media, with description of what is going on in the long time observation and a link to the set.

In the description you find the link to each part observed in the wild, not captured.

Wow… this is awesome … realy… no words for this … its perfect :D

So the longtime observation can get linked into a project, in this case a forensic project.

This is so cool, you open a new dimension. :D

I have deleted the empty observation and use now the bird as a starting point as you suggested in a later posting and as it also makes sense to me:
Here the set is starting
It contains all species i could observe in the process to decomposte a bird.
The direct link to the whole set is

Very interesting use case!

The only suggestion I have, is skip the blank observation. Instead make the animal, in this case the blackbird, the first observation of the set. You can still add to the description in the observation about it being a study of the decompositon of that animal (with maybe the “observation set” link in that description too), and make reference to the other observations in the comments and include specific links to them. For instance, there could be a comment added “3 days after the first observation, there was evidence of a rat scavenging the carcass” with a link to the observation showing the evidence of the rat (maybe a trail cam image) included with that comment. The rat observation of course would be included in the set with the use of the field.

When you make subsequent observations, the photos should ideally be framed to the organism involved, especially for the first photo. You can host photos that are not of the organism on other platforms, and include them with image tags into the description and/or comments. Be aware of copyright issues of course! Perhaps also linking back to the first observation in the description, too.

your maybe right, the blank captured observation is not needed.
I could use the bird as starting point to the whole decompositon process.
so it has a picture and very one can see what is decomposting.
in the description i can link the the whole set.
and the bird as startin point i can link to projects.

In that case every thing is related to this bird
but every part of the set is a other species which appears in the process, so every thing is in some way part of that organism but a species it self too.

To use an other platform is not necessary in this case.
But i keep it in mind, maybe at one point it can be usefull to also include other non iNat related evidence, maybe if i find the car which has killed the life form to such a study, or maybe a knife or bullet or such stuff.

I understand the oprion to create sets is very awesome.
Some people will make a set of theyr pet in different ages, i use it wo show all animals which i observe in a decomposting process, a other idea is to document the behave of mushrooms… this opens so much possibilities … its imense useful and a very informative tool… thank you so very much… now every thing can get a context some how.
i definitifely will use this. and if others know about this possibility i am sure they will use it too

what you have done is so simple but it pushes iNat on a whole other level/dimension/universe :D