What Is the Best Way to Set Up My Project?

Ok, so for the third year running, I’ll be helping administer an outreach project, Lizards on the Loose, on iNat (link to last year’s project). The project has been quite successful (1000’s of obs), but, with the new project possibilities coming to iNat in the past year, I’m wondering if there’s a better way to set it up and thought I would ask the community.

The basic project is: Students observe anole lizards in their school environs and communities and upload to iNat. Each school has one account run by a head teacher. Each observation must include one additional piece of info that is the focus of that year’s project. For instance, last year we focused on whether anoles use human-made or natural materials to perch on. To enter this info, I made an observation field for “Anole Perch” with two choices: “Natural” and “Human-made”. This year students will need to designate if observed anoles are perched in sun or shade.

In the past, we’ve run this as “normal” (old school) project that was open. Teachers needed to join the project themselves and filling out the “Anole Perch” observation field was a project requirement. Other rules for the project were: must be in Florida, must have a photo, and must be an anole (in taxon Dactyloidae). I could easily set up this year’s iteration the same.

We do a training in the fall at the start of the project, and a good portion of our teachers are returning so they do well. However, some teachers are new or less tech-savvy or don’t attend the training. Several issues that we have encountered are:

a) Teachers failed to initially join the project.

b) Teachers/students forget to add each observation to the project when uploading.

c) Teachers/students forget to fill out the observation field (Anole Perch, etc.) for their observations, which then do not enter the project.

We manage to sort most out with lots of emails, but we still end up with a portion of schools not successfully adding all the observations that they could have.

So, my question is: Is there a better way to set this project up that would still meet the data requirements that we have, but be easier/have a higher success rate for our schools/teachers/students? Thanks for your suggestions!

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You could set up a collection project with requirements:

  • Users: List each school account (this can be edited later, no need to worry if new schools join etc.)
  • Taxa: Anoles
  • Place: Florida (maybe not actually necessary. Maybe even worth leaving this off so you can easily find observations that are mapped wrong)
  • Media type: Has photo
  • Data quality: Research, Needs ID [probably not Casual]
  • Date observed: Whatever your date range is

Problems a and b will be solved. You would still have to deal with c manually. The observations that don’t have the field will still be in the project. Not sure if that will be better or worse than the current situation.

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Could it be set up where each student has their own account and one observation field would be which school that student represents? Seems that would put a little less responsibility on the teacher.

It would also give you the opportunity to create some bragging right challenges like, which school has the most participants, which student posts the most observations etc. In order to win these bragging rights, the observation question has to be completed in order to count.

The student with the most observations could be the Lizard Wizard.

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Thanks, great suggestions for how to use a collection project. It sounds like there would be some trade-offs with the traditional project, so I’ll check with my collaborators and see what they think would work best!

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It would be great if students could have their own accounts for some reasons (they could continue with the accounts after the project was over, more ownership of the data), but we can’t do this for several reasons. The primary one is that students have to be 13 years old, and some of our students are younger, so they can’t have individual accounts.

In the past we’ve offered schools the choice to do group accts and individual accts for students that are old enough and want them, but this proved to be a bad choice and we moved away from it. We had many more issues with students uploading poor quality observations or posting pics from the web, and students were often not responsive to requests to fix these. It was also a bookkeeping nightmare to keep track of 100’s of student accounts and which schools they belonged to and to run support for that many accounts. As a result, having the teachers be responsible for each school’s account has worked better, though it is a bit more work for the teachers.

We still do have a competition incentive though it is more teamwork focused. We give special recognition to the schools getting the 3 highest observation totals and a few other awards we can think of (Most Accurate IDers, etc.). And I believe that we have called groups Lizard Wizards before!

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One possibility would be to go with your previous traditional format, but ALSO set up a collection project that would capture all the anole observations in Florida during the project period. You wouldn’t need to publicize the collection project, just use it as a check, for example to look for observations clustered near a participating school, to see if they are also in the traditional project. I’m not sure this is practical if you are really getting thousands of observations, but it might be worth thinking about.

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Thanks, that’s an interesting idea to run as a check (would save time on repeated searches). We do do this manually from time to time to try to find observations that we think were intended to go the project (and then contact the observers to check), but this could be a bit of a timesaver. Thanks!

Maybe that could be some type of future features request. Have the school sign up for a “master” account and be able to add students under that account. The school could require DOB for the student and that could be used as a way to “age out” students each school year.

There was a request for student accounts, which iNat staff decided to not move forward on: https://forum.inaturalist.org/t/create-separate-accounts-for-students-assigned-to-use-inaturalist/83

I think @reuvenm’s suggestion works, but the observation field is not a workable solution with collection projects. The only way to fill out an observation field with the app is to make that field part of a traditional project. So therein lies the rub when it comes to observation fields.

Yes, in my experience the vast majority of problematic content comes from students being made to use iNaturalist.

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