Why are some taxa so under observed?

I guess websites should collaborate with researchers writing their papers, there’re a lot of new keys in articles these days, many can’t be accessed without payment and many free on sites like ResearchGate, it would be cool if e.g. iNat could trsaslate those keys to its website.

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Of course, but you’ve done a basic level of research to determine what organisms need closer inspection. And you know enough to tell the difference between different taxa; your average layperson doesn’t know the difference between a wasp and a bee.
I have also killed and collected organisms, but only a few inverts, and plants only when I know the population is stable.

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That’s what I’m trying to say, like, if iNat is serious for you - you do such stuff eventually, otherwise there’s of course no need to kill anything (I mean if it’s not yor profession).

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And that is so, even though there are guidebooks to grasses, at least in North America. Just that it is a separate guidebook from the wildflower guide, and probably less eye catching.

I for one find grasses fascinating, but the keys frustrating. Plus, grasses naturally hybridize.

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The problem is that the keys in scientific papers are often fragmentary (for a small taxonomic group or a region), then, as @trh_blue correctly states, they are for specialists who know what they are dealing with. I’ve already discussed with several colleagues, that nowadays keys intended for naturalists have to be different than they used to be (and still are). Actually, a starter key for naturalists has to be constructed after analysing most common ID mistakes (starting from the larger groups and descending).And every step has to have figures! But this is a new job, requiring lots of time.

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An excellent point. But it’s definitely possible to make keys/identification more accessible – just look at what has been done for birds!
Of course, amateur naturalists will gravitate towards more charismatic, and easier to identify taxa, but we can start there. Maybe the next big thing will be accessible keys to jumping spiders (which would largely end in genera I suppose but that’s fine).

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Awhile back i came across this beautifully photographed guide to harvestmen in Britain and Ireland https://harvestmen.fscbiodiversity.uk/

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Yes, but if researchers got attention and money they deserve they’d do that for more regions and more researchers>more taxons. Without their wwork we have to deal with very outdated data, if one place had all keys it’d help resolving the issue to find them, now most of easy available keys we have are from USSR (or one quite new but for Far East, still used for European part as it’s the best, huge work that can be used now), it shows how science is underrated as big keys for big taxonomic groups and big regions require collaboration and lots of time & money. Having an international team and getting support from iNatters themselves could solve that problem for at least some things.
I’m glad some scientists are writing keys for whole genuses or for big parts, and some even do stuff like this which is superhelpful and have better figures than many other sources. https://quelestcetanimal-lagalerie.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/01/Ichneumonidae_subfamily_key.pdf But e.g. to id a sp you eed to use this key, then find subfamily key, like https://www.researchgate.net/publication/262696460_Revision_of_the_Western_Palaearctic_Diplazontinae_Hymenoptera_Ichneumonidae, then hope that it contains keys for species, if not - search for it too.
But now you need to be savvy in such things just to find those keys! You have to check multiple websites or even contact the author, it’s just wrong, especially if we talk about citizen science which should be easily available. I know e.g. BugGuide has a cimilar thing, but as iNat is about full biomass it needs all keys possible.

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Yes agreed - I love photographing insects and understand that I cant ID a fair portion of them past family or genus - but Im ok with that - probably three years ago I could only get most of them to order. It’s a constant challenge and I hope by photographing what I see and recording it on INAT ill be helping someone somewhere even if I cant get it down to species.

And maybe amateurs collecting in the past was ok because habitats werent chopped apart and infested with invasives like they are today but I just dont feel it is proper to collect for anything other than purely scientific reasons especially those studies that help us be better stewards of our land…

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I think you should apply the needle in a haystack principle. If you pulled out a handful of hay and found a needle, you might think how lucky, a one in a million chance of finding the needle. But a better conclusion would be, it seems this haystack is full of needles. Similarly, if you are walking through a wood and you turn over a log and find a beetle under it, you can be fairly sure that wood contains lots of those beetles so no harm in taking it for identification.

If you spend hours turning over logs and only find one beetle, you might conclude it is a rarity and ought to be left. But there are other explanations. Maybe they hear you coming and burrow into the leaf litter. Maybe it is the wrong time of year - if you had searched a month earlier you might have found hundreds. Or most likely logs are not their preferred habitat and you should be asking where are all the others hiding?

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I would like to clarify my ‘no kill’ outlook. I have no problem with researchers or some folk pinning and spreading moths. However, I have over 10,000 moth identifications (many folks have lots more that that, for other taxa). If all of those moths had been killed, pinned and spread, there would be over 10,000 less moths in Canada. Even if they are common, this still puts a dent in populations, especially if more folks were to do this. Humans have done this before - the NA buffalo and Passenger Pigeon were abundant, yet were hunted basically, and fully, to extinction. A photo is not always a reliable way to ID a species, but in the larger scheme of things, it doesn’t really matter.

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I have only been posting here a short while using Seek for identifications. Quite often, due to the limitations of my photography, bees and other insects cannot be identified by the app, so I don’t submit the picture.

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If app can’t id it it doesn’t mean experts can, so it always worth posting.

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There are taxa that I have never been able to photograph – quick-reacting, tiny flies for instance. When I walk through a cloud of dancing gnats, I can’t see them well enough to identify them, and I certainly can’t get a clear photograph.

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Thank you I will consider that in future

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I’m sure there are lots of reasons. Yes there are lots of insects out there, but some are much more common than others. Some are also only around at certain times of the year. Some are only active at certain times of the day. So even if you disregard the differences in observational skill, interest in various taxa, and patchiness in where active iNatters live, it’s no great surprise that many taxa have no observations on iNat.

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Here are some of my thoughts, and they seem to corroborate the discussion above:

  1. Difficulty of photographing: Some taxa are too small and/or always on the move/flying about for one to take a decent photograph.
  2. Taxon geographical range/iNat user density: The places where the particular taxon may be found is where there is a low density of users.
  3. Inaccessibility: Some taxa live in habitats that are just too out there to be casually iNatted by someone, eg. creatures of the deep ocean.
  4. User bias: Some taxa are just more visually pleasing and so are more likely to get inatted.
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There is value in most observations. I’ve gotten a confirmed ID on some pretty iffy pictures, made by local experts who know the gestalt of that organism.

And even observations that can’t be IDed all the way to species level can be useful, either by teaching you the characteristics you need to photo or by establishing the range of a genus or tribe. Not all of them will be IDed right away, especially what I think of as “specialty” critters, but I just recently had one of my 3 year old spider observations identified. You just have to wait for a specialist. He even commented that he should come to my area to hunt spiders, because we seem to have more publicly accessible wooded areas.

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I would still say that research is necessary before collecting. Several counties near where I live have reports and iNat observations of American Burying Beetles, a seriously threatened and federally listed species. If I were collecting insects and happened upon a congregation of these beetles (e.g. https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/57444915) without knowing what they were, I might be inclined to think that taking one specimen wouldn’t have a great impact on the population. I am sure that specimen-collection of this species provides valuable information for entomologists and field biologists and has a net positive impact on conservation, but I doubt collecting one for my personal collection would have a net positive impact. I assume this is a fringe case (I am not a specialist in beetles or insects of any kind), and this species can be identified without collection, but I think the needle-in-a-haystack approach should be applied judiciously.

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I agree that it’s because some things are just hard to ID. Grasses and sedges are examples: I posted a sedge once that I thought was obvious, but it wasn’t so simple. In order to get a confirmed ID, I ended up with 8 photos, finally getting a closeup of the bristles on the seeds.

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