What observations should I upload?

Newb here. There seem to be two perspectives to iNaturalist - asking for help and providing help (by IDing other’s observations and providing data w/your observations). My question is when is an observation a waste of time and storage space? Should I bother uploading the following:

  1. Common species?
    Anyone could walk around and photograph dandelions and house sparrows. But are they of any value? Where to draw the line?

  2. Landscape plantings? Domestic or captive animals?
    I’m often curious about ornamentals I see in gardens or parks, but is this helpful? Does an “observation” of a penguin in a zoo help anyone?

  3. Old observations?
    I have a lot of pictures of plants and animals from my travels both recent and years ago (digital pics up to maybe 20 years old). Would they be of value?

  4. Duplicate observations?
    I’ve done some citizen science and I believe many of my photos were uploaded to iNaturalist by the sponsoring organization. Since I’m not sure, should I upload again? I’m sure I can search for them (somehow – when I get more proficient with iNaturalist) but that might be a lot of work and not certain to catch all the dupes. So better to duplicate and be sure to have the data, or pass and possibly miss the data?

  5. Non-living evidence of living creatures?
    I saw the question about entrails. What about scat? Tracks? Other signs?

Sorry for the extended post. Thanks for any response.


Common species?

Up to you! There are definitely contexts in which many observations of common species are valuable. If you want to observe them, feel free to do so.

Landscape plantings? Domestic or captive animals?

In general these observations are less useful. But sometimes they can be, and if you want to make them don’t hold back. However, please ensure that you mark the observations as captive/cultivated when you upload them.

Old observations?

Please do, in many cases these are probably more valuable than recent observations.

Duplicate observations?

I would try to avoid this. So yes, try to figure out what photos of yours have already been uploaded. It’s not very common though that organisations will upload photos from other people, and it is sometimes discouraged.

Non-living evidence of living creatures?

Sure, this is perfectly fine and normal.


#1 - so long as it has DNA, it is valid to submit, no matter how rare or common

#2 - captive/cultivated are fine, there is a flag at the bottom of the observation to mark them as not wild, please do so. Hopefully they are a relatively small piece of your records, but as long as you set the flag they are fine

#3 - there is no date limit, submit em if you have em

#4 - it is perfectly fine to submit them under your own account. Hopefully at some point the site will introduce shared observations between users which will elimiate this issue.

#5 - again, just fine, you can use what are called observation fields to record what kind of sign it is, there is one called just that ‘Sign’ that you can use.


I agree with the above. An observation of a penguin in a zoo (as long as it is properly identified as such) might give someone a hint of what the birds look like when they breed in small lots - or captive size, lifespan & etc.
I have added observations of moths from the 1980’s - My region is not well represented in the moth database, so any information is helpful. At least as a record of prior existence if things should change.
Having said all that, I rarely take pictures of Crows or House sparrows!
As for trace observations, there is a project called ‘Scatology’, and Found Feathers. So yes, they are welcome.
Good luck!


@cmcheatle doesn’t even have to be DNA! If u can photo prions, or RNA viruses, go for it! Then we can have a fine discussion about whether they are really alive lol!

The duplicates question raises a thought - how hard would it be to harness TinEye or other image reverse search engines into iNat? It might be quite useful for managing one’s own dups, and probably other uses too. I know there is a command to tell google to search only within a site. Would such a thing work on iNat?

There’s a feature request related to duplicates: https://forum.inaturalist.org/t/duplicate-prevention-notify-observers-if-their-image-checksums-match-others-on-the-site/258


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