What would be best for identifiers to identify?

Is it useful to add supporting identifications to research-grade observations?

Is it better to specialize in identifying a genus or two? Is it better to identify commonly misidentified plants? Is it best to be a generalist? Should people focus on marking items as captive/cultivated or reduce or maintain the amount of “Unknown” observations in an area? How are “Unknown” observations separated from other casual observations?


I think it is best to have a mix of all, or else not much will be done well. A “Unknown” gets uploaded, someone sees it and thinks, this looks like a shell, (Mollusca), an expert sees the find and then identifies it, or maybe an amateur might make it more specific, like to a family, then the expert will see the obs and will identify it. It is a simple system, and every part is as important as each other.

I identify New Zealands molluscs and echinoderms, and I am a general expert in both.


It is best to identify what you enjoy identifying. Really. That way you’ll keep doing it.

I personally vary what I identify. Often I just click “identify” and ID whatever comes up. (That is the only way I get to ID birds, which is fun, and I like seeing the diversity of things that get posted here.) Sometimes I check all records of a particular species or genus. Often I choose one that is commonly misidentified (e.g. Phleum), but sometimes not. Occasionally I search out “unknowns.”

It can be useful to add a third or fourth identification to a research-grade observation because that way if a troll comes along and deliberately misidentifies things, he can’t change the identification. Adding a ninth or tenth identification isn’t so useful to iNaturalist, but sometimes I’ll do it if I’m checking a particular species or genus, just to say, “I’ve been here and I endorse this name.”


i mean this as nicely as possible, this reads like my mind when i’m overwhelmed with anxiety. the great thing about having such a large community on inaturalist is that all of these tasks get picked up by someone or other, and make the system work. the best thing for any identifier to do is what they can do and want to do. if you think that unknowns being sorted is a big priority, you can do that and it will be super helpful. if you find that task painfully boring, there are others who pick up that task so you don’t have to. both specialists and generalists have their place. there are so many possible niches for people to take up on inat and they are all important, and no one can feasibly do it all! so, whatever you can do, that’s what would be best for you to do!


All of these are useful. Do what makes you happy and fulfilled on any given day.
Sometimes I’m in the mood to explore something new, and I’ll beef up on something completely exotic to me; sometimes I feel like helping out with local stuff; sometimes I want to focus on reviewing the observations of the people who have helped me with identifications.
Sometimes, as a curator, I’m in the mood to try to solve a complicated taxonomic puzzle. Sometimes I’m just in the mood to whack the banhammer on spammers.
Do what makes you happy. It’s your time.


and as for additional IDs on RG observations, i was going through a lot of millipede observations in my state because a lot are RG and just totally wrong, so i would often add supporting IDs to any RG millipede i looked at (and i looked at every millipede observation in my state) and knew was correct, to endorse that it was in fact, actually correct, unlike a lot of them, and so i would know at a glance if reviewing later that i was already here and dont need to worry about this observation again. (this is how i became a top millipede observer oops)


I do agree with everything said above, but I also know, for me at least, the advice of “do what makes you happy” can seem vague and a little frustrating in the face of so many options. There are more observations out there than I could ever personally look at! Where to even start?

Do I want to provide IDs to help observers? Which ones? Local people, for a sense of neighborliness? Faraway people, for a sense of globalism? Places where the observers seem to outnumber the identifiers?

Do I want to ID to help iNat as a community? Do I want to help other identifiers by providing rough IDs? Do I want to teach other people how to ID something? Do I hate it when people are wrong, and want to comb for mistake to correct?

Do I want to provide IDs because I want to learn things? Which things do I want to learn about? Do I have a favorite or particular curiosity?

Maybe you can set some sort of goal for yourself, ie, I want to review all of one family in this area, etc.

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In either Explore or Identify, select the dotted leaf with a question mark inside to bring up the Unknowns for whatever your location setting is:

Aside from Unknowns, I highly recommend the Random button when you want to get a feel for what’s out there and stumble upon something you feel like helping out with:


In addition to identifying, annotation (life stage, plant phenology, etc) can be helpful and requires little expertise. I do it when I want to do something without having to think too hard. Unless someone knows a better way:

  1. go to Identify mode
  2. select the taxa (e.g. Lepidoptera or flowering plants) and the place (anywhere in the world as no local expertise is required)
  3. go to Filters and select Research Grade in addition to Needs ID
  4. open More Filters and select Without Annotation and a relevant option for your taxa
  5. click through each observation (with the Annotations tab selected) and annotate away!

Once selecting all the options, you can bookmark the resulting URL for quick access later.

Oh, and I just discovered there are keyboard shortcuts! So be sure and click the keyboard shortcut icon and use those so you’re mouse finger doesn’t break.


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