Watch out for incorrect use of "Location is Inaccurate"

Lately I’ve been noticing a lot of observations where someone voted the location inaccurate when there was no reason to believe this was the case. Usually it seems that person who voted the location inaccurate simply did not like the observation (the observations are usually of escaped pets or “non-countable” established birds) and wanted it causal. I think these users vote the location inaccurate because it’s harder to find an observation made casual in this way (you can search for captive observations, but not ones set as inaccurate location, and therefore it is harder for someone to vote back to Needs ID/RG). Please everyone, watch out for observations like this, and if you are doing it (either out of ignorance or for any other reason) please stop!

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Also, if you notice an individual doing this repeatedly, please reach out to explain to them why it is an incorrect use of the DQA. If they persist, ignore you, or troll you, next step is to get a Curator (such as myself) or help@inaturalist.org (aka Tony) involved.

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I’ve noticed that some people will mark private locations as inaccurate.

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Thanks for the warning. I haven’t seen this before.

Also, just in general, if you are going to mark the location as inaccurate, you should probably leave a comment to the user to explain what they can do to fix the location, if you are sure it is inaccurate. On the few instances that I’ve seen likely inaccurate locations, I’ve always done this just out of common courtesy.

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Yes. I’ll point out that this is an example of why it’d be nice if some sort of notification came up (or maybe a reset on the DQA votes?) if and when a user updates their post. I leave a comment when I mark dates inaccurate (it happens a lot with pinned insects), but it’s up to the user to tag me if they ever fix the issue so I can withdraw my thumbs down.

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I’ve seen people mark the location inaccurate if they find the circle too large, which is technically not official procedure: iNat considers the location accurate as long as the true point is somewhere inside the circle.

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The question is… How far away from an accurate location is a buffer? For example, I see posts of squirrels for example 2 to 10 miles out in the water with no circle. It’s also pretty obvious when something is at least 1 mile off and no circle.
Or should the location only be marked inaccurate if we are talking 500 miles away or another continent.

If it’s obviously inaccurate, like an alpine plant and the uncertainty circle encompasses nothing but a home.

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I would go with arboretum_amy’s suggestions above… if the actual location is not within the circle, it’s inaccurate. That’s the whole point of the circle, right?

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I think, it is always good idea to add the comment why one is voting the location as inaccurate. I often vote this for mushrooms which are photographed when already back home from the picking trip and the location shows a house. Another similar case is when organisms are photographed in a lab and were clearly brought in from somewhere else. Same applies for taxidermy and unannotated collections all showing at the same building and same time (then I add inaccurate date,too).

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I should note note another common use of this is on observation of “hitchhikers” - animals like lizards and spiders who were moved by vehicles or other methods.

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I wouldn’t necessarily mark the observation as location inaccurate in this case. If someone has observed an organism, then subsequently collected it and photographed it, then nothing is inaccurate. There’s nothing saying the “evidence of organism” (ie, the photo) has to show the organism in the exact place it was observed. As long as the location of the observation is correctly recorded, and the photo is of the same organism (and taken soon enough after collection to be called “recent evidence”), then that’s all that should count.

In fact, I have observations where I’ve taken a photo in situ, then collected the organism and photographed it again at home under more controlled conditions. I don’t think you can argue that the location is inaccurate, or that it should otherwise be a casual observation.

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I think the important thing here is that the location associated with the observation is the house rather where the mushrooms were collected. Unless the observer goes out of their way to change the location to the collection site there’s no telling how far they came from.

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The location actually does have to be in the exact place it was observed.

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If the location is marked as the house, then it’s still probably not inaccurate. However, the time of picking/collection (ie, by the time it reaches your house), I would say the organism is in captivity, so it should be flagged casual for that reason.

Still, if the observer did know where the original collection location was, you probably should encourage them to mark that down.

In the example I mentioned, the organism would have been recorded in the exact location it was observed, but not photographed at that location.

I still think there should be room for interpretation though. If we take your statement as 100% true, it means that you couldn’t have non-casual observations of anything microscopic, unless you were to take your microscope and other equipment to the site. Why not just take a sample of pond water or whatever, record its location, then observe any organisms once you get back to your home/lab/office? Why shouldn’t that be a valid observation, as long as you know where the organisms originated?

(PS, I always try to get an in situ photo myself, but I know there are times when it’s not possible)

Фокус в том, что вы либо отмечаете лабораторные фото как организм в плену и тогда ставите координаты лаборатории, либо отмечаете организм диким, тогда координаты его места нахождения в дикой природе. Эти организмы же, в конце концов, сами по себе в вашей лаборатории не обитают.

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If I understand correctly, you and @raymie are agreeing; in your example, the ‘accurate’ location for the observation would be the pond/location where the specimen was collected, not your house. The location of the picture does not matter for anything. If I see a photo of a fungus that only occurs at >9000 ft elevation and the geotag is to someone’s house in the plains at 4000 ft elevation, it is appropriate to vote that location inaccurate, and in that case I would always leave a comment for the observer to clear up any confusion/encourage them to correct it. Another example would be an insect that is collected in a track and later dissected; it would likely have no in situ photographs, but still be a perfectly valid observation tagged at the location of the trap.

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This is exactly what I mean. Organism and its environment are unseparable. Often the environment or substrate are the key for species identification. Not even to mention the value of an observation. What is the value of a photo taken in a house surrounded with a wast area of human habitation when the organism dwells only in mature forest? Or - what is the use of data for an observed sea creature when it was photographed in a lab hundred miles from the coast?

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The fact that many organisms are more difficult to identify without site context doesn’t make the location inaccurate though if it is correctly tagged where it was collected. It is no different than an on-site observation where the only picture is taken with a 40x macro lens; it would be just as difficult to ID if site context is important, but perfectly valid, and not an appropriate use of the ‘location is inaccurate’ data quality flag. If the location is accurate to the collection site it is still often possible to get at least a general idea of site context from the satellite map even if the observer did not include an appropriate context picture, and if a researcher were to find the observation extremely interesting they could find the site from the coordinates, so it does have research value in documenting the range and time of observation. If you cannot get a sufficient idea of site context to ID from the satellite map and available pictures, the more appropriate thing to do would be to ID to the lowest level that is possible without that context, be it genus/family/order or whatever. If you are convinced that no one could possibly improve on that ID without the additional context, you can vote the ‘cannot be improved’ in the DQA.

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