What do researchers want?

You and your son - same subject, but you each have your own photo.

How many pictures of That Spider is totally your choice.


Welcome to iNat and the forum! yes, it’s to tally fine for two (or more) people to upload the same individual.


It would certainly be helpful for us here in northern Vietnam.

There are a bunch of old French records of plants and butterflies that would be amazing if were translated and loaded into iNat, but even if that were to be done the location data probably wouldn’t be good enough.


If iNat would allow it just knowing the location was Vietnam would give some context and be beneficial in my opinion. I know that I would be delighted with tachinid flies, ichneumons and braconid wasps, and caterpillars from your country to include in my citizen science project.

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I’m a visitor here, so it’s only temporarily “my” country :)

I’ve introduced iNat to my employees. It took a while, but they finally got the point and one of them has become extremely enthusiastic about collecting all sorts of insect observations. I actually gave him my old DSLR and a macro lens because he’s so excited by it all.

If you’d like, feel free to browse through our project and help with any ID suggestions.


Vietnam is yours in the sense you care about recording and preserving its natural wonders. As we know even those who just visit a country can be good citizen scientists while they are there. I’ll be happy to check out your project.



I’m a researcher, and I use iNaturalist data all the time. I think you’ve received a lot of good suggestions already. I would add:

What best serves the community is what best serves you. You are the community! I get value from iNaturalist because it has a large and active community submitting records. I think a lot of people censor their participation because of how they think other people, particularly real researchers, might perceive them or their observations.

I know several expert botanists who won’t post records that they don’t think are interesting, because they’re too common, or maybe people will think they don’t know how to identify it, and so will think less of them. Well, I am a professional botanist with nearly 30 years’ field experience and a PhD. If anyone is supposed to know how to identify plants, it’s me. And I post all kinds of things - things I’ve forgotten how to identify, things I never knew how to identify, things that are super rare and super common, and things that I should know but don’t. I like to make at least one observation every time I go out, even if I don’t see anything ‘interesting’, just as a little souvenir. I don’t care at all if everything I submit is going to be useful, or interesting.

As a researcher, I know there are lots of people using iNaturalist for lots of different reasons. When I use it professionally, I understand that I am responsible for making sure the data is appropriate for me to use.

One current project involves the distribution of an invasive species. Reviewing records, we saw that a lot of people are submitting records of this species that can’t be properly identified based on the photo (it needs to be in flower to distinguish between two related species). I have been correcting some of those observations. But for our actual analysis, my team has gone through every record and added our own identification to them. That means we will be able to pick out the records that meet our standards, and only use those ones for our study.

There’s nothing wrong with the other records. I accept that my standards as a scientist will be more stringent than are necessary for other users. That doesn’t mean you are responsible for living up to my standards, any more than I would apply those standards to all the casual records I upload recreationaly.

Anyways, that was a lot longer than I intended. Two points to stress: please keep posting, the more the better; and if you want to be extra helpful, sure, I prefer to see multiple clear images, including different parts of the organism if possible, and with the most accurate location data you can manage. But let me worry about whether or not its useful for my research.




related to this, i think folks on iNaturalist shouldn’t limit themselves to just observing and identifying. actively sharing observations, stories, and/or your general love of nature with others, including iNaturalist non-users, is probably just as important in the grand scheme of things.


I study giant clams and many people had been uploading pictures of a species on the West Coast of Africa that looked a lot like the species I study in the Red Sea, Tridacna squamosina. I knew it was unlikely to be T. squamosina, but such anecdotal reports led another team of researchers to travel there for genetic samples, where they figured out that it was an undescribed cryptic species, Tridacna elongatissima. An inaturalist curator just relabeled all those observations under the new name, giving researchers like me a better understanding of their range and habitat. So I would suggest uploading anything you find and trusting that the community of this site will work together to figure out the details. Like all of science, it is very difficult to know the value of data ahead of time. It is often only after the fact that we realize how important some observations were to the development of the field! So just upload whatever you have, no matter how innocuous!


On the same tack, what about repeated observations of the same subject? For example, we have resident spiders that we check on regularly, and I love photographing spiders. Or that kereru that seems to be hanging out in our beech tree… Should we limit ourselves to one upload? I guess we don’t always know for sure it’s the same individual…

That’s no problem! I believe an observation is supposed to represent one person’s encounter with a given organism at a given time. A few times I have added multiple observations of the same plant to show it’s gone from flowering to fruiting, and there’s nothing stopping you from uploading a new pic of your spider friends every day if you really want to!


I’m glad you and your son are enjoying iNat. :-) An observation on iNat records an encounter between a user and an organism, so it’s fine for more than one person to upload an observation of the same organism. This does, of course make iNat data not particularly great for counting abundance, but hopefully anyone using it will take that into consideration. As for the same organism over, time, that’s fine to do but please make a new observation for each separate encounter.

@plantarum, @pisum, @dankillam thanks so much for your enlightening and encouraging comments, you’ve really gotten to the heart of what iNat is about. I (and I believe the whole staff) want iNat to be a fun, welcoming, and education place for anyone who’s interested in nature, and the data comes from people wanting to share, teach and learn.



The goal of iNat, or one of the goals at any rate, is to encourage engagement from people. The more people who are interested, curious, active, learning, and engaged the better. These folks bring fresh energy, new perspectives, and questions that encourage others to look around at their surroundings and assumptions with new eyes and to see things in ways they may not have considered before.

The research side is useful, don’t get me wrong, but that’s not necessarily the primary purpose of the exercise.


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