Weird Photos on some observations

I’m new to iNaturalist and I’m just looking around to learn how it all works. I found a couple of weird observations with photos of seemingly random things. One was identified as ‘human’, with two photos attached - one was of some kind of bush, and the other was of a salt shaker on a table. I flagged the salt shaker photo as ‘spam’ and thought nothing of it. Now I’ve got a notification saying it’s been ‘resolved’ and it’s not spam. The same user has several other photos - one with a photo of the back of someone’s butt (wearing pants) as they’re laying on a bed - one of someone’s foot resting on some gym equipment, on the same observation as a photo of some tree bark.

I don’t get it. I don’t know if this is something that a lot of people do - just put weird, random photos on here? I didn’t think much of it when i flagged it, and thought it might just be ignored, but to have it ‘resolved’ as ‘Not Spam’ is just weird. Am I missing something?

Edit: photos with username removed


iNat’s definition of “spam” is given when a user goes to flag a photo:

The photos of a salt shaker and others wouldn’t meet that definition, so that’s why the flags were resolved.

For non-living things, the easiest way to deal with them is to ID as human (they are signs of a human being present) - a little “meta” perhaps and wouldn’t be clear to a new user, but this makes an observation “casual” grade and less likely to be encountered by other users.

Posting random photos is something that new users often do. In many cases they are students required to use iNat or maybe people who just think it’s a social site. It’s often best to leave a polite comment explaining the issue.

I did edit the initial post to remove the photos because they included the username of the person who made the observations. Posts that could be perceived as calling out individual users for issues on iNat aren’t allowed on the forum (even though I know that wasn’t necessarily the intent here).


I have a copypasta for that. ID as Life, and Data Quality Assessment is - Good as it can be, making it Casual (with any second ID) and taking it out of the ID pool - until the observer resolves the issue.

Only one species per observation please

First of all, welcome to iNaturalist! I hope you have a great time observing and identifying non-weird things here!

Yes, because iNat is quite an accessible platform used by a such wide range of people you do occasionally get odd things uploaded by new people who don’t quite get it, or school kids mucking about or whatever. It’s unfortunate, but it’s the price of accessibility and being useful for education. Some ways of sifting out these observations are mentioned above: IDing artificial items as ‘human’; identifying as the best common denominator where each photo has a different organism and clicking the “no. it’s as good as it can be” box. You can often get quite a few at once in a local area if a class does a project!

If you haven’t already, it might be worth you having a look at the ‘Data Quality Assessment’ section of an observation. It has a number of other tools for marking if the location is inaccurate, if there’s no evidence of an organism; marking potted garden plants ‘not wild’ etc.

One thing to remember is that iNat aims first of all to connect people with nature, to expose people to the natural world, educate and excite. That means that as well as hosting well-curated projects with well collected data from knowlegable people, it also wants to hook people in at the very start of their interest in nature - and the community/communication aspect is important for that. Hence the value of sometimes adding a comment to an observation explaining what is going and how they can use the site better when they’re doing it wrong. Directing people to the help page is useful

Persistently problematic accounts can be suspended by curators, but the aim is to draw people in if possible.

There are quite a few hooked naturalists on this forum who have admitted “I was that person once!”


There’s a page of frequently used responses that you can copy and paste as a comment that explain what iNat is for and directs them to further resources. Frequently Used Responses · iNaturalist On photos like the salt shaker with no visible organisms, I do a thumbs down for the “evidence of organism.”


That’s definitely an option too!
I identify them as human and leave the comment inside the ID as “human artifact” .

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