When an observation is not "in situ"

I have noticed some observations of plants that have been picked and put in a vase or placed on a table or mounted on a herbarium sheet (with some label information).
What is the recommendation for quality grade? Should they be casual or can they become Research Grade?


if their location, date, etc are marked as where collected, they can be research grade. If the location is the location of the vase, herbarium, etc, they should be marked as having the incorrect location and thus will remain casual grade.


This is difficult to discern. The observer is not always (seldom) able to provide the necessary information.

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if it is mapped to the location of a building, it’s probably not at the correct location. If it’s mapped to an outdoor habitat area it probably is. It’s worth asking if you aren’t sure. And of course, sometimes we just won’t know.


It’s pretty much a guessing game. I mostly ignore such observations since 9 times out 10, there’s no need to harvest plants.


There are some gray areas here, but in my opinion:

  • if the date and location are of when and where the organism was collected, then no need to No vote in the DQA.

  • if the location and date are clearly the building where the organism is now, then I’d vote “No” for “organism is wild” because the organism is where it is because a human chose it to be there, even if it was once wild. But I’d also recommend asking the observer to enter the date and location of collection before voting no.


I think it also depends a bit on plant species. If it is in a vase and something commonly sold as cut flowers or cultivated in garden settings, I usually mark it cultivated.


For observations with locations that appear to reflect the post-collection location, I would specifically downvote the “Location is accurate” DQA item. I have a standard comment I add along the following lines.

Hi @<iNatUser>. It looks like iNat didn’t get an accurate location for your observation. Right now it’s showing up at <bad_loc>. Do you have any info that might narrow down where the photo was taken? You can adjust the location by clicking the Edit button in the web interface, or the pencil icon in the mobile apps. For now, I’m going to mark the location as not being accurate in the Data Quality Assessment, but that can change if we can get a better fix on location.

If I can guess the location based on the taxon’s distribution and/or the observer’s other observations, maybe I’ll throw that in. “Did you maybe see this at Yosemite NP?”

Anyone with a herbarium collection ought to be sufficiently engaged to fix their dataset to properly record collection locations. If it’s a wildflower in a vase, then it’s much more likely to be something someone picked up on a hike. Fortunately, most of these seem to be observations of widespread species collected in very small quantities. If I started to see rarer stuff crop up I would be tempted to try to explain the impact of picking native flora.


I don’t always take photos of mushrooms in situ. I’m taking them home to measure, dissect, get a spore print, and possibly to dry and save for a mycologist. It’s just easier to wait and take photos when I’ve got them on my desk. I make sure to record the location and time when I found them rather than when and where I took the photos in those cases.


I do that with small shells, like my Winged Floater and Genus Juga observations. I could not have gotten a good photo with my regular camera or cell phone, so you see them photographed with my microscope camera, with the millimeter measuring card underneath for scale. I think pictures like that are more useful than a picture of sand with one tiny shell barely discernible. But I take care to map the location to where I found the shells.


I totally agree that additional photography under a microscope or dissection of a specimen is required for positive identification of some organisms - for instance grasses.

Thanks for all your thoughtful responses.

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