What is your what-to-post bias on iNat, and why?

[This is a question just for curiocity. There is absolutely no “best” way to post, as people have different purposes, but I believe that it is often useful to know what others do]

As I see people’s observations, I find it interesting how people are deciding what they post on iNaturalist.
For example, one posts little number of observations of uncommon things, or marine organisms only, or random things they find at random times, or a lot of the same species.

I used to post uncommon marine molluscs only for about two years, but now I am addicted to learn new taxa and so post as many taxa from as many habitats and localities as possible.

My current criteria of what to post (what to photograph) is:
・Habitat: Any (Land, freshwater, marine + a little bit of fossil), however missing deep water at the moment.
・Group of organisms: Any, however missing whole bunch of microscopic things (<0.5 mm) due to the lack of needed equipments (which I am trying to get).

・Any taxa I have not posted, or anything unusual (excluding most captive ones)
・Anything that has not been recorded frequently in the area (Often smaller, obscure species which most people overlook: for example, small invertebrates, bryophytes, and small fungi)
・Anything that iNat’s Computer Vision have not recognized yet
・Anything that is in good condition for identification (e.g. flowering) or in state I have not posted (e.g. egg)
And during bioblitz and trips, I simply post as many taxa as possible.

I try to avoid posting same taxa from same area and time, unless it is something uncommon, highly variable or something that someone or I might research on.

Because of this bias, I often don’t have many observations of commonly recognized species while having many observations of things that most people overlook. I believe that this is good for the site to stay balanced, considering that a lot of users mainly post commonly recognized species.

How about you?


First af all I’m still running my own challenge to have at least one observation every day, so somedays I have to post sparrows, tits and magpies from my window if lazy, ill or have no time to make a walk)
If I make a trip to some new place for me I collect everything (except fungi). Birds, plants, insects and so on, and so for. Because there could be some new species which looks like species from my home location, and because it is always good to have some more observations in new place (especially if there aren’t much obs).

And at home I try to post margin observations (first flowering at spring and second at autumn, migrations, abberant speciments). Also if I know that the group has some close-related species or I can’t confidently separate them (such as violets, bumblebees or gulls) I make more observations. The same for my favourites groups (violets, geraniums etc).


A major bias I find in my posts is the exclusion of “boring” marine life. I do a fair bit of diving, and although I’m no photographer, I try to pass my GoPro over reef surfaces and then upload screengrabs of notable species. Unfortunately, I almost never bother taking snapshots of the algae, bryozoans, encrusting corals, etc. that are prevalent in almost every image I take - my emphasis is exclusively on things like nudibranchs.

I will add, that this is why I think bioblitzes are so great. When we are in a bit of competition to get more species IDed than others, it makes people like me pull finger and actually pay attention to the less exciting specimens on the periphery of our images.


I am fairly new and I think I just started with things that excited me on walks, mostly flowers. As my photography gear grew, it became birds for a bit, and now I’m back to flowers again, with insects sprinkled in there are well. I really just want to find out what as many things are as I can, but of course I’m drawn to what I know I can photograph as well. Love the comment above about the challenge. I tend to take so many pictures in a day I always upload them after a few days when it’s stuff on my Nikon, but more dailies would be cool!


I’ve noticed I avoid posting anything I think won’t get identified to species. Usnea and cladonia lichens, for example, are very easy to ID to genus but almost impossible to get to species (with a few exceptions). So I pretty much avoid photographing them at all unless it’s one I happen to recognize.

Realistically, it’s probably just as important to document them to genus as to species, but I have a bit of an aversion to it.


I post any form of life I can photograph, but if it’s an old place I will avoid photos of something that won’t be ided to species, plants if that species I’ve already seen there. Other than that, I don’t skip anything, and in a new place will observe all that is visible to an eye, if it’s wild of course, anything captive messes the stats.


I try to make an observation of everything I can photograph or record on each walk I take, because I’m interested in creating a set of data that reflects the landscape as it exists now. (Not that I have an particular scientific investigation in mind for those data, mind you.)

But I skip lots of species just because I don’t know them very well, or because I’m lazy. I’ve gotten away from observing Dendrolycopodium, for example, even though they are easily IDed to species. I certainly notice birds, but I rarely post them, because I don’t have the right kind of camera. Even Quercus rubra, which is very, very common where I live, I usually ignore unless I can get leaves AND buds AND acorns. I try for insects, but the little darlings tend to fly or run away before I can photograph them. I don’t tear fallen logs apart. I don’t photograph most crustose lichens. Don’t even ask about graminoids. And so on.

So, really, I am creating a data set of the easily observed, easily photographed, easily IDed species often seen along roads and trails. So much for “scientific” data.


I post observations primarily to log the wild plant life occuring in my yard throughout the year. Generally, my first observation of a thing for the year will be as soon as it starts forming flower buds (or other reproductive structures). From there I’ll continue posting additional observations of a thing until it either stops fruiting, dies, or goes dormant, but I generally restrict myself to once a month (though I’m thinking of taking that down to once every two weeks this year). Basically, my observations serve as a checklist and a phenological record for the flora of my yard.

As I’m roaming around for plant life with my naked eye or hand lenses, I’ll also observe the non-plant life I see along the way. For fungi and fauna, I don’t really worry too hard about how granularly it can be ID’ed, because for me that’s usually not very granular anyway. However, if I know of a trait that’s generally important (e.g. the underside of a mushroom), I’ll try to capture that if I can. I absolutely love it when I get comments that explain why something can’t be ID’ed further, as it helps me learn.

I have made observations while out hiking, camping, walking, etc., but I’m generally not as thorough because I’m usually with other people who aren’t necessarily interested in waiting around for me to photograph every living thing. I’ll just photograph what catches my eye and decide later what’s worth posting.


I wouldn’t say that this is necessary. While it is true that many use iNat data to know what is present where and when – for which a single record at a single time suffices – there are endless other ways the data is beneficial. If I’m interested in how common it is for a certain butterfly species to lack a particular spot on its wing, just to make a simple example, I simply need access to as many records of that species as possible, no matter if several were seen around a similar place and time.

I’m not suggesting it would be particularly advisable to dedicate an entire afternoon to working your way through every pigeon in London’s Trafalgar Square, of course, but the reason not to do that is less about whether or not it might be useful to science and more down to the fact that ID-ing man-hours are a finite resource on iNat.


99% of my ID have been made on my land, no need to go anywhere else for that. If travelling, I will take the time to document what I see in that area for sure. I don’t discriminate on what I ID, from insect to fungi to fish to mammal to plant. I am lucky enough to have interesting and different biodiversity area such as meadow, mixed forest, marshland and fresh water lake on my land so I am not finish collecting from there. I have no preference on what I collect, they all are interesting to me.


This is valuable to science too because it’s helping people understand what is common or easily accessible! Everything is valuable to science.


I use iNat as a lifelist for as many species I can find. I normally avoid observing more than one or two individuals of a species at one site, but I’ll document more than one if it is very common. I do this so that people can look up a location and get an idea of the dominate species.

I also use it to track species present at my university. I made a project along with some friends to document as many species as we can. So far it has been very useful for the botany and entomology courses.

In general, iNat functions just like eBird for me. I log what I see.


I guess my bias is towards animals that are at a distance. Due to only owning a kit lens I hardly if ever attempt to take pictures of birds far away. I’ll try to take a picture if I think I can get a nice looking picture, but if it’s a bird that’s far away I most likely won’t document it. The only exception is if it’s a rare or new bird to see.


I will definitely photograph as many species as I can in a new spot, but I won’t take pictures of things that will sit unIDed forever (pre-leaf out sticks or bushes, beat up mushrooms, blurry insect images of small flies, etc.), or post a lot of repeats. A photo voucher of that species once is fine. I will NEVER just post 100 individuals of a plant from along the trail because I am focused on diversity and not numbers.

For my focus group (Lepidoptera) I try and do the same thing but if I’m somewhere new I may prioritize collecting a moth over getting a photo, as moths sometimes like to fly away before settling down at a sheet. That specimen should be uploaded later. For our park surveys I like to get a image of every moth species we see that night and then compile that data in a spreadsheet to determine flight times and number of broods. After dozens of MV light events at the same park, you start to get interesting data if you take the time and effort to photograph every species that shows up (however common it is). note it’s species, not individual as I won’t photograph every Microcrambus that shows up, nor can I keep track of the moths as they fly around to keep accurate counts. Rare species get special attention as they are easy to keep track of.

My bias is also towards things I can actually photograph. Using a phone I cannot get a lot of bird photos so I have relatively few of them.


My observations are biased by my cameras. I carry a smartphone most of the time and a macro lens some of the time, so I tend to post arthropods and flowers. Unless I can get a decent recording of bird song, I tend to skip them. I overlook a lot of common trees and invasive weeds and I definitely don’t photograph every plant species I see. I enjoy lichens and mosses, but I try to choose new ones only. For my garden especially, I’m shifting more towards recording first sightings of the year for common animals and not uploading every one or every time I see them, unless it needs more photos for the CV model.


I used to only post photos of things I could identify (at least to genus.) But I started posting photos of other insects drawn to my moth lights, and it’s so much fun! to get IDs on them. I’m starting to learn more about them. And once in awhile they turn out to be a relatively rare species.

So now I happily take photos of critters I have no idea how to ID, like flies. I do my best to take clear photos, and I read up on what shots are needed for ID. And then I wait for the pleasure of finding out what it is. :-)


Most of the time I spend actively collecting observations is in forests around me. These forests are dominated by Eastern White Pines, Oaks, Birches, and Maples, among other species. While I sometimes will grab 1-2 observations of these trees while I’m there (especially if I’m having less luck documenting other things), I definitely don’t miss the forest for the trees, pun intended.
When it comes to what I do try to document every time I see them (or at least can reliably photograph them with my iPhone camera), I usually focus on whatever catches my eyes/ears. For me, thats nearly anything that moves. I’ll never pass up the opportunity to observe an animal of any kind, but plants, fungi, etc that pique my interest are also fair game.
My observation criteria is practically anything but specialized, but it’s allowed me to build a remarkably stable list of the species in my local forests, ponds, and skies; and I think that’s pretty cool.


Also, like @rayray, I try to photograph every species of moth that shows up at the lights. I used to only post new-to-me species, but now I’m going back through my photos posting one of each species each night. (I might actually finish in another 5 years or so.)

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I usually concentrate on fungi and plants. I currently live in an area that has not been yet well documented, so I am having the time of my life ;) 99% of the time I use my phone so obviously I can’t get clear pictures of birds or other animals. As for plants, I tend to select ones that somehow “stick out” from the green mass, flower or just show up early. With mushrooms I try to challenge myself, because I feel like I have already “checked off” most of the common species that are easily recognisable with the naked eye. I know for many people wood fungi are a bit of a mystery, so I like to poke around dead logs and old stumps in search for interesting growths. Sometimes I also check the list of common species I haven’t yet posted, and discover that I “forgot” about something super common, like Fomes fomentarius.

I know I should document more of common “weeds” growing in heavily urbanised areas (sidewalks, edges of plant beds, walls), but I constantly forget about them. I also tend to ignore mosses, lichens and grasses :(


Yeah it’s fun going back, especially if you have consistent lighting spot, and seeing what the species count is for each year and what your most common species is. It’s cool how some species literally show up in the same 2 week window each year and never again.