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

Currently, my observations are bird-centric in Palo Duro Canyon State Park(Canyon, Texas, USA) at the Wildlife Viewing Blind.
I have taken photos and a few audio recordings almost daily for the past two months.
My routine is probably more therapeutic than scientific. :)
However, you never know how the data may be used in the future.


Me, too!


I’m biased against things that seem cultivated or captive, which I imagine is somewhat common; I’m also definitely biased towards things that make me go “huh” or “cool”, which basically means any organism I don’t think I’d notice if I weren’t walking around iNatting. This means I’m biased against uploading large, readily-sighted organisms like trees, common urban birds, and Eastern Grey Squirrels - they’re very cute, but while every other wild mammal is exciting, I just see so many EGSs!

On the other hand, I upload a lot of mosses and lichen, because they’re so small I don’t normally notice them in day-to-day life (so they’re exciting) but also so common around here that they’re easy to find in large numbers.


Great, thought-provoking question!
location bias: most of my sightings are made in the small patch of eucalypt forest where I live (SE Australia). My partner and I have been (informally) studying the local biodiversity and ecology of this site for the past 12 years.
organismal bias: arthropods, with a recent emphasis on wasps and ‘unusual’ flies. Sand-nesting hymenopterans and the parasitic wasps and flies they attract are my current passion.
novelty factor: if an insect or spider is unfamiliar to me I’ll definitely pursue it. But even familiar species are in scope if they’re showing an interesting behaviour or I notice an interaction with other animals or plants. And if get a particularly nice photo, I’ll post that too ;)
seasonality: first sightings for the season, such as first sighting of each butterfly species.
identifiability: I’ll only post photos which I think have a chance of identification. As my focus is insects, and I live in Australia, I accept that many of my sightings will only be indentifiable to genus or perhaps even just sub-family. Most insect taxa in this country include many, many undescribed species. That’s OK – genus-level ID provides clues as to the biology and life-history of the species … and that is what I’m keen to learn. How does it live and what role does it play in the ecology of the forest?

So I end up with a mix of common species and rare ones … all interesting to me, and of potential benefit to someone else, somewhere, at some time.


I think for me (and I suspect others) my biases adapt to the season and to some extent: the toybox!

I was not looking forward to snow come November last year (this is my first year on iNat and I started at the end of last May) and the closing of the ‘macro portal’ of animal life, but to my surprise, I shifted to try other things. Mosses, fungi, liverworts, and oh the wonders of lichen-land! And birds. I mean, I’m always up for a good bird shot.

Last year, I found a terrific deal on a used Olympus TG-6 and it was like an instant pass to many tiny worlds. It’s weird now to think how many things I did NOT observe but did ‘see’ for so many years. This nudged me into super-macro range and a Raynox lens extender and it was like discovering a secret game level! But just as that got going, so did most of my new crawly friends.

But, as they say, limitations are the root of innovation and creativity. So I went out and discovered some secret local hiding places (tunnels, zones), plus some surprising winter species and many examples of non-organism evidence (cocoons, feathers, shells, molts) that kept things going.

Things are just starting to move again and I find myself trying to work out ways to spend even MORE time out there each day. Plus, I added one (and probably final for a while) big toy to my kit – a Nikon P950 which allows me to take great super-macros with the Raynox on it, plus still observe birds, larger animals with it’s great zoom powers. Plus, it’s still relatively light. Combine that with my TG6, and I’ve got most of the range covered that I need all in just one neck camera and a pocket or two. Another thing I discovered about a good superzoom? You can ID tree fungi pretty easily, or other stuff that’s in places that’s too difficult, or too delicate, to get to physically. Right now I’m pondering about having to get another storage drive because already my photo count has gone up so quickly!

But as to what to post? I don’t discriminate against common species. I just don’t post them proportionally to what I observe. I do like to capture behaviour stuff and also out-of-season sightings. Or just the multiple stages of organisms. And there’s always the aberrants, right? Someone just posted a shot of a black Vulpes vulpes the other day taken just a few miles from me walking through a suburb. Pretty cool!

Identifiablility? Well… sometimes that gets a little frustrating. I mean, my pile of unidentified fungi and lichen is so big it’s starting to get a little… mouldy?

My biggest bias is probably avoiding cultivated stuff. I mean, there’s enough of that around to spend the rest of your life documenting it, if you wanted. But to me, it’s like the difference between a real meal and a microwaved dinner. Nice looking package on the frozen entrees but… have those pics ever lived up to the experience?

I joined a local photo club this winter and I’ve already been asked to lead a special interest group in macro. (Probably just to keep me too busy to keep throwing up more spider, fly and maggot shots on the group’s Facebook pages.) I hope to do a little iNat recruiting as part of this new role. We’ll see.

Happy trails everyone!


Same. Unless it is a seriously underobserved taxon such as Tubificid worms.

Yes. Although my aversion to them is only on iNaturalist; I don’t mind the sight of them if they aren’t cluttering up my identify tab. I try to remember that some people are just such newbies to nature that they honestly don’t know the difference, but it seems like such a basic distinction to me – even in a place where I have never been and don’t know the flora, I can still tell when several of the same thing are growing evenly spaced and neatly trimmed along a foundation.

On any given day, I only stop to photograph a small portion of what I see. I have my notepad and pencil out, recording vegetation patterns (“The canopy layer was…”), phenology, and animal sightings, and I don’t really like to interrupt this stream of consciousness to take pictures unless something particularly catches my interest. I have read enough nature writing and scientific papers to know that pictures are not the be-all-end-all.

My what-to-post bias includes a preference for exotic (to me) locales. In the other thread about the Annual iNaturalist Survey, there was extensive discussion about the overrepresentation of the United States. I find that when I am traveling in those underrepresented countries, I am more inclined to photograph and post more of what I see, and also more motivated to go on field days in the first place.

Conversely, when I look at observations in my hometown, I get a sense of what not to post by seeing what has already been observed the most.


In choosing what to upload…

For me:

  • I don’t know what it is and I’m interested to know
  • I think I know what it is but am not 100% sure and want to be sure
  • It’s sometimes helpful to have a record of what I saw when where I can easily retrieve the best photos of the organism.

I am now sorting all my photos into subject folders so sometimes want more certainty with ID than I already have. Some of my folders have thousands of files so having a few of the best easily accessible and searchable on iNat helps with pruning out the excess photos on my computer.

For others:

  • Helping to create records of what is where
  • Showing a variety of views of a species, especially its natural variation
  • Showing behaviour of species when I think it might be helpful or interesting for someone

I try to not have huge numbers of the same species at the same location, but will load enough to show that it is common there. And will also upload anything I think is uncommon. In my retrospective photo indexing/sorting project on my computer I look to see what other records are already on iNat and will upload if that species is not shown at the location within a couple of years either side of the date of my photo. Or if my upload shows something different about the organism that might be of interest to someone. I also try to keep it interesting if I can - eg a bird eating a fish rather than just a photo of the bird doing nothing.

When I’m uploading and trying to figure out what something is, I often appreciate the number and variety of photos posted by a range of people and will do my best to have some degree of specificity in my initial suggestion, even if that turns out to be wrong. That is still a learning opportunity. If my upload ends up remaining at genus or even higher level, to me that shows that there is more work to be done on that organism so the upload is worthwhile and might get a better ID in the future. The exception is when my photos weren’t clear enough - an incentive to do better in that regard which is also a learning opportunity.

Regarding cultivated/captive organisms, I think there is a place for uploads that show what something is so that a future observer in the wild can recognise it for what it is - eg escaped garden plants. I don’t think iNat should get cluttered up with heaps of domestic cultivars, but if something feral is found then it can be helpful to have some idea of what it is and maybe even where it could have originated in the local area.


I record what I see. I favour arthropods since that is my interest, but will post plants if I am curious about them, or know that they are rare - or even just beautiful! Birds are more difficult, since I mostly use my macro lens. Fish also, for obvious reasons.

I post nearly all the spiders I see, and most of the insects. I am well aware that most of them can not be ID’d to species level just from photographs, but I still think the observations are valuable. I post organisms that are common and often seen, but limit it to - say - once a day. I find it interesting to look back on my observations and see the patterns. Some common spiders are seen through the year, some only during summer, some mysteriously disappear during some months. For me it isn’t just about new or rare or interesting things - I want to record normal arthropod life, the fluctuations, the locations, the interactions, the differences - posting only one of each bug will not show any of this.

If I am to visit a new location, I like to filter for the time of year, and appreciate it if others have posted some common arthropods, it is good to know what to look for, and also good to find something that hasn’t been recorded by other enthusiasts there.

I also love bioblitzes, excellent opportunites to open your eyes and see many things you would otherwise be ‘blind’ to. I wish we had more of those!


An interesting stimulus to stop and think a while about the whats and whys of things :-) . I’ve been looking, learning and recording for as long as I can remember, and probably even before that, so participating in iNaturalist is above all a natural extension of what I’ve always loved doing. I tend to post:

  • life-forms of any kind new to me and recordable photographically in the hopes of satisfying my insatiable curiosity and extending my knowledge;
  • observations, particularly flora and arthropods, that illustrate a particular phenological stage or interesting behaviour;
  • given that I am as passionate about photography as I am about nature, I also like to upload images which could help others identify the depicted life-forms in the future.

My focus is learning which plants are native to the localized eco region, versus which have volunteered by spreading on their own after being introduced (for example dandelions in the USA). It’s a fascinating window into human history and activity, and how we have altered the earth. It’s also a good way to be able to curate the landscape and support wildlife.


I’m disappointed that many of you choose not upload what you don’t expect to be IDed to species.
When a new taxon specialist lands on iNat. And works methodically thru the backlog.

Suddenly, it’s just moss - jumps to species. Or can’t go further than … Thanks to Mossy new flora
Or local lichens - from Ian Medeiros

If the obs aren’t there - not much for them to work with. And you miss getting an unexpected ID, even if it is years later! (Must have good detailed pictures of course)


I am too busy and preoccupied with other aspects of life to pay much attention to iNat. Only drop by every now and then for a bit of fun - perhaps catching up on the forum, perhaps providing a few id’s.

Hence I don’t generally contribute observations. I know, that if I were to start doing so systematically, this quest would swallow up time and attention I am not prepared to devote to it. My vanity (silly, I know, but so it is) would prevent me from just adding a few random observations now and then without feeling obliged to either maximize the list, or painstakingly curate it to make sure I had included all the “best”.

Therefore, I only ever contribute if it strikes me that something might be “significant”, on the level of being a first observation for the species, or expanding range or phenology to a considerable degree. It only rarely happens that this even crosses my mind, but if it does, I’ll check it (if, indeed, I get around to it) and if it satisfies these criteria, I’ll add the observation.


A little bias in favor of those inconspicuous, overlooked, small-sized, short-lived, neglected, and/or unspectacular plant taxa - most of them being quite common actually. Ugly ducklings seedlings need some love too.

I’ve also found that for some plant species, photos of their “green parts” (stems, leaves, buds, sprouts, etc.) are surprisingly hard to come by; it makes me want to try and document these beyond the usual flowers/fruits/seeds --or outside of their flowering period-- as long as ID is possible.


I’ve noticed Poa, Polygonum, Veronica, Capsella, Stellaria, and more beginning to push up shoots and leaf out within the past week or so, and I’ve been thinking about whether I should make observations of them yet. I’m confident about what they are because I know what was in my yard (and where) last year, but a third party probably wouldn’t have the same confidence until they grow out some more.

Though, last year I wasn’t as discriminating with some of the larger plants – Fallopia scandens, Erigeron canadensis, Solidago canadensis, etc. I took several observations of the same specimens of these plants throughout the year, and with each new observation, I provided a link to the last one. That way if you question whether a basal rosette is really horseweed, you can just follow the trail (though you’d have to do it backwards with the way I did it) and see that it is indeed just that.

You may just have kicked off my new yearly obsession a few weeks early…


Nothing at all on iNat?

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I think one obs right now.

Deleted old ones without photos.

Might add some based on criteria such as behaviour or variation within a species. Just never thought of the image database a significant part of iNat. Merely thought of images as documenting presence.

I can’t find a profile.
Do you help to ID?

I know there are sound files - which I choose to ignore.
But images incidental to documenting presence - that is a new way to use iNat. I was told yesterday the birders work on reputation (not pictures) away from iNat.
But for a Community ID on iNat, you have to offer an identifier picture or audio - unless they were with you and saw or heard that too.
Otherwise why post an ‘empty’ obs on iNat? Unless for your own records?



Not much, I must admit.

The old observations I deleted were from 2014. I was asked to enter them, did so without taking the time to understand how iNat, which I was unfamiliar with at the time, worked, hence didn’t bother worry about pictures.

When, years later, I remembered, they were still around, worthless without photos, and the photos I did have were of a standard insufficient for positive id’s I simply deleted the records to avoid them polluting the db with something that was worthless anyway.

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Go for it