Which observations should be flagged?

I’m not sure if anyone else has noticed this, but while browsing iNaturalist, I’ve found some observations that cause me to raise an eyebrow. I’ve found various observations which consist of pictures of old newspaper articles about different wildlife. There’s been observations of artwork. I’ve even seen observations of what seem to be archived museum specimens. The only reason I think they’re from a museum is because the dates of these observations are over a hundred years ago. I’m curious as to what should be done about observations like these. Under what category should these be flagged? Should some of these remain unflagged? I’m just curious as to what everyone’s thoughts are on this matter, and what should be done moving forward. (As a side note I’ve already brought up a similar topic to this. Sadly it was closed and unlisted due to using specific observations as examples. I understand the moderator’s reasoning, and I’m going to continue following their guidelines. To correct the matter, I’ve tried to be as vague as possible with this topic. Moderators, if my examples are too specific please let me know. I’d rather edit the comment rather than have the entire topic in a sense erased. Please and thank you!)

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Artwork is actually allowed (but I think listed casual?)

Hundred plus year old stuff is also listed Casual, I think automatically.

Museum stuff works, if the map pin is where and when it was taken. I’ve posted several of these myself, with proper date, location, and who the collector was. Before I started adding these I raised the question on the forum, and several people said it was fine.


These are probably copyright infringement.

Date and location might be inaccurate, which you can use the DQA for it. If the date is correct, and is over 100 years ago, it’s not “recent evidence”, which can be marked in DQA, too.

What kind of artwork? If it’s a depiction of something somebody saw, that’s fine and shouldn’t be marked as casual, so long as the date and location are of where the thing was seen, not where the image was drawn. Drawings are considered valid evidence by iNat.

So, none of these examples should be flagged other than the copyright infringement one. The DQA should be used but flagging isn’t needed. Flagging would only be needed for a violation of the community guidelines.


Collected specimens pinned - are dead to me - that is what the photo shows.
But counted as alive if the observer collected their specimen when it WAS alive.
(I don’t agree, but those are the iNat guidelines)

Award winning photos are probably copyright infringement - but - some observers DO take outstanding photos - so you need to check the quality of their other photos (and they might come back with a ‘using different camera’ comment)

If the obs seems in need of a flag, the onus is on the observer to tell identifiers up front - what the back story is.

If you do flag, follow your notifications, so you can react if something changes.


If the drawing or photo is rephotographed from a book, poster, etc., then it is clearly copyright infringement and should be flagged as such. If a museum specimen is supplied with correct date and place (obviously not the same date as of the upload and not the same locality where museum is), then it is OK. Otherwise it is casual.


Not necessarily related to flagging, but I should note that users shouldn’t really add museum specimens that aren’t theirs/that they didn’t collect/weren’t present for the initial collection. iNat is intended to show one’s own interactions with nature, so, if a user wasn’t present for the initial collection, they shouldn’t upload an observation with the time/date/location of that initial collection. They could upload it as their own observation of a dead specimen in a museum at present day with appropriate DQA, but this would be casual.


It’s artwork of extinct animals taken strait off of Wikipedia.

This would be copyright infringement then unless the user was the artist themselves.


The explanation I’ve seen a lot is that they’re posting these observations for the data to be added to iNaturalist. Wouldn’t the data for these animals have already been recorded, just not on iNaturalist?

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Yes, iNat is not the ideal way to get data from a natural history collection/museum to be available. Many (maybe most now?) museums make collection data available through GBIF, so ad hoc adding specimens is not a good solution (though a few here and there isn’t terrible). There might be some situations where adding one observation could be useful (ie, there’s no pic of the species on iNat at all and it would be useful to have one to help other users, even of a preserved specimen).
I think iNat has “officially” stated that they don’t want the site to be used by natural history collections as a substitute for collection management software, etc.
One issue with making these types of observations of specimens is that the observer on iNat will be publishing it with a license that is under their own name - essentially they will be taking credit for that observation and it will enter GBIF as such, when they should not receive credit for collecting that organism (assuming that they didn’t collect it).


Museum specimens are always casual unless they’re uploaded by collector.

I haven’t seen a case yet, where a person has uploaded a museum specimen that was not their own and has put correct date and location on it.

There’re tons of those, check the oldest observations on the site, they’re 100+ y old.


It’s allowed when it’s the observer’s own artwork, otherwise it’s copyright infringement.

And it’s not automatically casual (see the amount of RG observations in the Nature Drawing & Journaling project because illustrations are considered valid evidence of an organism:



[Addendum: Oops, @dallon already said most of this above. That’ll teach me to read all the way before typing. :laughing:

Leaving my comment for the links, though. I also love plugging the Nature Drawing & Journaling project (it’s not mine!) whenever possible too.]


So I just got sent this regarding my flagging some old artwork.

Link to specific flag removed

As it turns out they can’t be flagged for copyright. Even though I don’t agree with having such observations being made, it seems that there’s nothing that can be done about it.


The DQA on that observation is a warzone.

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Tony has a link in his notes. We have an active, that’s non iNat, project attempting to breed back quaggas. More of a vanity project for future trophy hunters in my eyes.

This obs slots in with - fossil, dead museum specimen, extinct. A few are acceptable, but mostly not for iNat. (My opinion, I know dead specimens are valid obs but)

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You definitely can do something about it, mark it as what it is in DQA.

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Ordinarily I’d agree, but I said above, the DQA on that is a warzone. I have a feeling any votes to turn it casual will be swiftly noticed and countered.
And there’s not much point in trying to overturn it, since staff hadn’t already weighed in via the flag comments to say it is fine.

Though it is odd that some people are voting in favor of “Recent evidence of an organism” in the DQA.
I thought the cutoff for recent was around 100 years, and that is dated 1870.


It’s not a copyright issue, but person didn’t see the specimens nor taken the photo, so it’s a captive observation, etc.