Why do we have observations of "Human"?

I doubt if there is any need to document the range of humans, since that is a worldwide species, present on every continent and throughout most continents and habitats. I also doubt if anyone needs identification assistance with that species. I am trying to understand how observations of humans advance the iNaturalist mission.

I can definitely see potential for abuses here. We rightly allow pictures providing “evidence of” an organism – so a picture of a burrow can be tagged as the species that made the burrow, or a picture of a paw print, as the species that made the paw print. This is as it should be, because this kind of evidence of an organism is valuable. But when it comes to humans, I am envisioning someone uploads a picture of the Manhattan skyline and tags it “human” since cities are evidence of humans.


They are permitted for a couple of reasons:

  • humans are a part of the biosphere and the tree of life
  • it is not uncommon for users learning to use the app or site to use a selfie etc. Suspending them or deleting their records could be demotivating to remain
  • it is clearly stated in the help file that while permitted, they should be kept to a small number
  • the same argument about recognition, distribution could be made for many species, Mallard as an example
  • anything identified as human is automatically hidden from most places on the site unless you specifically choose to search for them.

This has come up so many times before, e.g. https://forum.inaturalist.org/t/removing-homo-sapiens-from-reportable-taxa/2137 and with the same kinds of arguments like “this serves no purpose,” too.

Inaturalist is a social network for better or worse. Humans are part of it. People post human observations for entirely their own reasons and the overwhelming majority are benign. Leave the human observations alone, and deal with abuses on a case by case basis - just as with any other observation.


The “human” designation allowed me to post the signage I made for a local flood plain pollinator garden https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/41407560. I also used it for the dragonfly mosaic I made https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/49049651. If there were a category for nature related crafts, etc. I would use that.


I don’t aim to offend but… what is the relevance of posting crafts in a biodiversity database? Why is that different from me posting an automobile, a building, a garden bench, a pencil or a kitchen knife? These are all evidences of human presence…


the relevance there is pollinators and dragonflies.
Not about the crafting.


Well…yeah. Sometimes people DO upload pictures of human artifacts (artwork, litter, buildings, cars, etc). “Human” gives us a legitimate ID for them while also removing them from the potential RG pool (Human observations are ALWAYS casual), so they don’t go to GBIF.

iNaturalist’s mission is to connect people with nature, as @schoenitz stated. I think that part of that is allowing some “ambassador species” like humans, houseplants and pets (tagged appropriately as captive/cultivated, of course) onto the platform, under their appropriate taxonomy on the tree of life.


Why do we have observations of “Human”?

Because otherwise we would have to individually flag each and every human observation. Now, most people that upload “Human” observations are short-lived iNat users or students - I don’t even have an observation of “Human” yet AFAIK, but if I do in the future it would certainly be related to poaching/pollution.

We have a lot of data about humans. We have over 40,000 observations now - the CIA might be interested. Maybe we should start obscuring Humans until they pay us :-)

I am envisioning someone uploads a picture of the Manhattan skyline and tags it “human” since cities are evidence of humans.

Offtopic: I remember an observation of a cloud, made by a longtime iNat user, which was identified as a species that some scientists think perhaps could be found in clouds (IIRC). It sparked a huge discussion, so that wasn’t too bad.

However, I’m sure people have already done this. What is worse than an observation of a human, is an observation of a human-made item that is supposed to look like a real-life animal. For example, fake rattlesnakes, fake lizards - it is extremely annoying to go through these. Even worse are ‘student photos’ labelled as “Chimpanzee”, “Gorilla”, etc. Very funny and all, but go do it on some social media website instead :roll_eyes:


There are no polinators or dragonflies on those pictures. I don’t think the existence of those observations is a bad thing per se, but it sets a precedent for anyone posting anything into iNat… Star3 and I really don’t see how allow the posting of human artifacts helps people connecting with nature.

But if you want to allow it… who am I to say you shouldn’t?


You could post any of those. They would be tagged as Human. :slightly_smiling_face:


I think @dianastuder means the sign talks about pollinators and the mosaic is an image of a dragonfly. They’d clearly still be human, though, as that is the organism that is represented in the “interaction” at that time and place.


I have a great idea! :-) Since mites are everywhere, lets label all humans as “Mites” instead. Problem solved.
(just kidding)


People post what is meaningful to them. For many new users (especially K-12 students), this is going to be their friends, family and pets. If we have a “bucket” for them, it helps to show that:

  1. Humans are a part of nature, not separate from it.
  2. Their contributions have value, and there is a space for the them and the things that matter to them on this site
  3. It gives us an opportunity to engage with them in open communication and encourage different usage (e.g. “That’s a nice photo, but iNaturalist is really intended more for wild organisms and not humans. Do you have other things you could submit as observations?”) to hopefully foster new behavior and an appreciation for nature in ways that just summarily deleting or ignoring (left at unknown because there’s no category that fits) wouldn’t.

Ok, I can understand that… If you think that would work, who am I to say it won’t. I just see in my mind people abusing the system… have little faith in Humans.


It’s almost always the “duress users” who post pics of humans. It’s a very small percentage of observations. I wouldn’t worry too much about it.

Plus, human does give us a way to sort of remove them from sight.

Just as long as they really ARE human (sometimes, if you look closer, there really is something else in what appears to be just a picture of a person or building).


Nature-related crafts like your garden bench or my dragonfly mosaic can encourage others to pause, observe, and value nearby plants and animals more.

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I love meeting other iNat folks face-to-face!
Under my “Favorites” tab are a fraction of the awesome human beings I have met over the years because of iNat. .That is why I make observations of human beings. An album of good memories.
Oh yes… and I also enter an occasional post of the trash left by thoughtless ones. Helps me to deal with my aggravation…


That’s where I wish we did have a “not life” category like @tonyrebelo once suggested. I’ve seen observations with pictures of the sun or moon (especially during eclipses), rocks with no vegetation or lichen nearby, clouds, fire, lightning, water, etc…unlike humans, there’s no category for those.

(Yeah, there’s the DQA…but still)


We have pictures of humans because people post them. I don’t think it really helps iNaturalist, and it might even be illegal, in the absence of a model release. However, in a citizen science project you have to tolerate a lot of slop. I view the posts of humans as part of the inevitable slop. I’ll spend my time worrying about things like willows posted without the lower side of the leaf, etc.


In the US, and I believe Canada, so long as you are not in a private place where you have a reasonable expectation of privacy (which is effectively your home, a health care setting or in custody), so long as it is not commercially used, you have no legal right or expectation to privacy and your photo may be taken and posted as the photographer wishes.