iNat Tips & Tricks (February 2018)

This is a journal post from February 2018. Since then I have been maintaining a longer and more updated list on my website:


I thought I would beef out my user profile a bit, so I added a Tips & Tricks section.
What other little hidden features do you use frequently?

-Bookmark the iNaturalist Blog
-Join the iNaturalist Google Group
-View recent comments (search all comments -- typing your username there is one way to search for mentions)
-View recent journal posts
-View identification stats, e.g. all my identifications of Nabalus albus
-Turn off "confirming identifications" in your account settings (only receive notifications about identifications that don't exactly match your own). It greatly reduces the number of unncessary notifications you receive. You'll still get notifications if there is a comment attached to the agreeing notification.
-Show scientific names first, set your preferred common name place, or completely hide common names in your account settings.
-Search for observations within a group but without a specific member of that group with the "without_taxon_id" search qualifier, e.g. identify Silphiums, but not S. laciniatum, S. terebinthinaceum, S. integrifolium, or S. perfoliatum or search for milkweeds, but not common milkweed. You can do the same thing with places with "not_in_place" and projects with "not_in_project"
-Use the Data Quality Assessment section to mark observations as cultivated, that they lack evidence of an organism, or that the community can't improve them based on the photos provided. A few of us have prepared some frequently-used responses for new users and problematic content.
-View "Marked Atlases" - species that have observations falling outside of their known distribution (read more about Atlases)
-Download data and manipulate it as you please
-View iNaturalist stats

Don't hesitate to reach out to me personally,, or the Google Group if you have any questions/feedback about iNat.

由使用者 bouteloua bouteloua2018年02月13日 14:14 所貼文


a couple of mine:

-If you use the app: TURN OFF AUTO SYNC! It will eat up your bandwidth hardcore or else it will make the app malfunction badly if you don't have good cell service or you enter things too fast (like more than 1 per minute). Autosync is awful and tbh the worst thing about the app. Just turn it off and forget it ever existed.
-if you are making lots of observations you will want to turn off the species ID suggestion algorithm too. You can always use it when you are back at your computer. Doing it in the field is super slow.
-If you're NOT using the app or another GPS, please make sure to learn to use the uncertainty buffer. Data with uncertain precision is not useful for ecologists. Do NOT map to a place name without checking if it is correct. Often the place names you enter (such as 'eaton canyon') display in the WRONG place or the uncertainty circle is wrong or other problems exist. Better not to use it at all, use with caution if you do

發佈由 charlie 大約 6 年 前

Here's something I've been wondering:

How might I search for observations that have been identified as something, even if that's not the community ID? For example, if I want to see every observation that has at least one identification as "Dryopteris intermedia", even if the community ID is just "Dryopteris" or another species altogether.

發佈由 wdvanhem 大約 6 年 前

@wdvanhem, this should get you close, though it's mixed in with observations where the community ID is already Dryopteris intermedia

The new "Observation ID" vs "Community ID" should also help going forward, but I think it doesn't apply to older observations.

發佈由 bouteloua 大約 6 年 前

Thanks for this @bouteloua! Another tip: I'm not sure if this will be regarded as on-topic, but if you upload pictures of threatened organisms, or species you deem to be sensitive, be sure to delete the EXIF data - cameras that store GPS data will show the GPS coordinates in the EXIF data, making it very easy for poachers to find the organism's location.

發佈由 calebcam 大約 6 年 前

pretty sure iNat strips the EXIF data right?

發佈由 charlie 大約 6 年 前

No, I don't think so. This one, taken with a Nikon P900 (which stores GPS data), shows the GPS coordinates in the EXIF. Or does iNat strip EXIF data only for threatened species?

發佈由 calebcam 大約 6 年 前

This obscured one doesn't have the GPS data. None should.

發佈由 charlie 大約 6 年 前

Thanks! Out of curiosity, is there a way to search identifications too? There have been a few times that I've wanted to find an observation that is under a different name than the ID I provided either because the user opted out of community ID, disagreed, or didn't provide a finer ID (before recent update to community identifications). With over 13,000 Euphorbia observations, these can be challenging to track down, but often provide useful examples of a species and occasionally the only observation of a species posted.

發佈由 nathantaylor 大約 6 年 前

We only remove GPS information from the metadata shown on photo pages when the coordinates have been obscured or hidden, and we strip all exif from all photo files, so if you download the "original" size image of that dove, you'll see it does not have GPS info (or anything else).

發佈由 kueda 大約 6 年 前

Great journal post. I use a lot of these features but my favorite is when I learned I could see everyone's journal posts. That is how I found this one.

發佈由 vermfly 大約 6 年 前

I checked some of my obscured records and none of the photos contain EXIF data when downloaded.

發佈由 wdvanhem 大約 6 年 前

Thanks for the explanation!

發佈由 calebcam 大約 6 年 前

Would love to be able to search the text attached to identifications though. :)

發佈由 bouteloua 大約 6 年 前

Search for observations within a group but without a specific member of that group
This is great. Thanks for the tag!

發佈由 bodofzt 大約 6 年 前

Kia Ora @bouteloua - thanks for tips etc.

發佈由 pjd1 大約 6 年 前

WOW, thanks for including me on this, @bouteloua, this is great!

發佈由 aztekium 大約 6 年 前

Thank you for the tips! I've found some shortcuts in recent months for not all of these. I'll have to study them!

Maybe this the wrong time and place but I do have a couple of pet peeves about the site (very minor compared to the benefits!!!).

1 that I never got an answer to from another curator: is there any point in shooting the same organisms over and over again; for example I shoot Swamp rose from the time is starts getting leaves in early Spring, then buds to flowers to rose hips in the winter. I will also shoot a family for Canada Geese from the time the goslings are newly hatched chicks all the way into the fall to document growth rates and survival. Any point to this or is it overkill?

2 I find it confusing that in some cases an ssp. is an acceptable ID on iNat while in the next instance it is not. For example Domestic Duck (Anas platyrhynchos var. domesticus) is an accepted ID on iNat yet the Domestic rouen duck (Anas platyrhynchos f. domestica) is no an accepted ID. I was told by one curator that even when iNat has not caught up with others to use the more up to date ID in the hopes iNat will catch up. However in this case the person giving the ID went for Mallard (not so bad since it is technically a Mallard) but to make matter worse he abribrrily marked it as "No" under the "Is it Wind" field without knowing a single thing about the history or the duck or the fact it has NEVER been seen anywhere but in the wild in the four years I've been photographing it. How does somebody that has zero knowledge of an organism like this make such an arbitrary call?

Another issue, I have posted several observations of Flying Squirrels of which I have four that frequent my place for over a year now. In the beginning I assumed they were Northern but later learned the were Southern. I had one person go through and ID thousands of my observations most always agreeing with whatever I had ID'd it as. When I pointed out that I thought my earlier observations were Northern but later found out they were Southern he went along with Northern and Southern on them just depending on how I had ID'd them for each day I shot them. I mean come on! They are the same four squirrels every night and they can't be Northerns this week and Southerns next week. Right?
Thanks and hope I wasn't out of line here!

發佈由 ken-potter 大約 6 年 前

@carrieseltzer probably has some tips to offer. I'll post some of mine when I'm back at my other computer. Great idea.

發佈由 eraskin 大約 6 年 前


1 absolutely add observations of the same thing at different times of the year

2 I can't speak to the taxonomy of domesticated ducks, but the guide to taxonomy is here for perusing. iNaturalist follows Clements for birds.

3 Know that you can always vote thumbs up under the "Organism is wild?" section to negate their vote.

4 Yes, "trigger-happy identifying" is quite frequent and big pet peeve of mine

發佈由 bouteloua 大約 6 年 前

Yes, shooting the same flower at different times is actually very helpful. It would be great if you could note in the description that "it is the same individual as observation #___" or something like that.
I'm not sure about your observation ID issues, that's probably just a reality of citizen efforts, I'm afraid.

發佈由 calebcam 大約 6 年 前

Trigger-happy identifying -

Its being fixed! The iNat team is working on a Expert ID system that will make Expert's IDs more weighty in the observation's ID (for example, the ID is Lizards, and an expert IDs as Sceloporus occidentalis - it will instanly become RG, without needing a agreement), while new iNatters, particularly amateurs, will not be able to give RG to an observation with an agreement, it will take a agreement of a expert, or several amateur agreements - (it won't be exactly like this, but its a way to think of it)

發佈由 calebcam 大約 6 年 前

I want to thank you all for your positive comments!!!!

發佈由 ken-potter 大約 6 年 前

if you mark the same plant several times, please do fill out the flowering phenology field - whether it is budding, flowering, and/or fruiting That info is very valuable for tracking phenology. Even if you track the first flower of the same plant every year! It adds data on how climate and other factors are affecting plant growth patterns.

發佈由 charlie 大約 6 年 前

For a layperson that carries a camera just to make my hikes and life in general more interesting I sure am learning a lot from you pros! Still a long ways off but suggestions like yours always help. Not long ago I all but gave up on the bumble bees but a couple fellows told me to keep them coming anyway and let the pros (my term) battle it out. I'm still in the blind half the time but have learned so much about getting as many different shots are possible, etc., that at least I know I'm helping somebody. :)
By the way your comment "Even if you track the first flower of the same plant every year! It adds data on how climate and other factors are affecting plant growth patterns" makes a lot of sense! I'll never be a pro but I'll get better through the help of folks like you! :)

發佈由 ken-potter 大約 6 年 前

no one really knows everything about anything, if you choose a few common species and focus on those for a while, you become a local 'expert' on them

發佈由 charlie 大約 6 年 前

@ charlie
That does seem to be the case on FB for whatever that is worth. LOL
I might work on waterfowl this year. Have lots of great spots and a couple really shallow draft boats. Love the herps too!


發佈由 ken-potter 大約 6 年 前

@bouteloua Thank you!

發佈由 nathantaylor 大約 6 年 前

As to the shooting the same organisms at different times of year, I think it would be great if there was a "follow-up observation" button where you could essentially add a duplicate observation with a different time that would be linked to the previous observation(s). Just the ability to link observations and select a reason why these observations are being linked could solve this problem as well, but I think a follow-up button would help to encourage phenologically minded observations that would be incredibly useful.

發佈由 nathantaylor 大約 6 年 前

@calebcam "Expert ID system" - that sounds very good. An expert ID to species with a supporting more general ID.

Many of my sightings might only be identifiable to genus or family level anyway - an artifact of a relatively unpopulated Australia. Ideally I would like to get as much of my stuff (via GBIF) to (our national data aggregator, which researchers in this country would use). Because only species level ID's can go RG, what happens to coarser consensus identifications, e.g. where multiple people agree on order, family, genus or whatever).

With regard to the same individualrecorded on multiple dates, would there be a way to link records that is supported by GBIF/DarwinCore? Tonight I didn't post a photo of a newly emerged dragonfly because I wanted to record the emerging nymph the night before.

And back on track, @bouteloua - I was really happy when I found the Turn off "confirming identifications" feature.

...but I don't have any tips to add at this stage.

發佈由 reiner 大約 6 年 前

Not sure if this falls under "trigger happy identifying" but I like the "improving vs leading" ID distinction. There seem to be a number of users who simply go through and agree with the community ID on already research grade observations (particularly pervasive in birds and other vertebrates). While there's nothing inherently wrong or unhelpful about this, it distracts from users who make constructive, helpful identifications on challenging observations. Even more frustrating is people who immediately hit "agree" observations which are clearly in need of expert opinion, such as the user who made a number of dubious Mountain Lion observations in eastern Canada "Research Grade" when they clearly showed other species.

發佈由 wdvanhem 大約 6 年 前

trigger happy ids seem relatively rare in the sorts of plant observations i look at... but maybe i am just missing them because i usually filter out research grade obs. Maybe i need to look at more of those. The backlog is so high that i usually go for maximum effect. Interesting.

發佈由 charlie 大約 6 年 前

It seems to be becoming more common in plants, insects and other taxa but nothing like the trigger ID epidemic in birds, mammals, etc

發佈由 wdvanhem 大約 6 年 前

I don't really get the point. Wow, people are super weird. I've agreed with something and ended up wrong before, like anyone else, but don't get why anyone would agree without knowing. It's so quick to mark as reviewed and move on, i do that more often than anything else really.

發佈由 charlie 大約 6 年 前

if people are just after stats maybe the site should track and 'credit' reviewed obs too. It would be neat to see how many I've reviewed.

發佈由 charlie 大約 6 年 前

Without mentioning any names, I know for a fact that certain users will pick a taxon and go through and "agree" with every single RG observation just so they can boost their stats. While there's nothing wrong with adding additional support to RG observations, it's low effort and not very constructive.

發佈由 wdvanhem 大約 6 年 前

Every once in a while I do that with taxa I'm familiar with that have lookalikes, so that I can review them for erroneous research grade observations. shrug! I would like leading/improving IDs to be more prominent throughout the website though, and like Caleb says the admins have hinted that we are leaning that way.

@reiner if you mark that the community cannot improve a genus level observation with 2 IDs, it will become research grade and get passed on to GBIF. I guess that's a tip, to get on topic ! :)

發佈由 bouteloua 大約 6 年 前

Back on topic, let's talk about summarizing annotation fields. Say I want to know which plant species a certain caterpillar feeds on. Can I summarize the "insect food plant" field for observations of that species? I feel like these annotations have a lot of potential but are difficult to make use of.

發佈由 wdvanhem 大約 6 年 前

Learning to use the keyboard commands on thr identify page is a good tip. You can add IDs remarkably quickly once you do.

發佈由 glmory 大約 6 年 前

#2 I find it confusing that in some cases an ssp. is an acceptable ID on iNat while in the next instance it is not. For example Domestic Duck (Anas platyrhynchos var. domesticus) is an accepted ID on iNat yet the Domestic rouen duck (Anas platyrhynchos f. domestica) is no an accepted ID. I was told by one curator that even when iNat has not caught up with others to use the more up to date ID in the hopes iNat will catch up. However in this case the person giving the ID went for Mallard (not so bad since it is technically a Mallard) but to make matter worse he abribrrily marked it as "No" under the "Is it Wind" field without knowing a single thing about the history or the duck or the fact it has NEVER been seen anywhere but in the wild in the four years I've been photographing it. How does somebody that has zero knowledge of an organism like this make such an arbitrary call?

I believe forms (i.e. f. domestica) and varieties are not recognised as valid for animals in taxonomy. The subspecies A. platyrhynchos domesticus is what's available in iNat. Regardless, from a quick google I believe f. domestica is just a synonym for subspecies domesticus and thus that's what they should be identified as.

As for the "is it wild" thing, I think this is a serious issue. The iNat policy for this around animals is extremely vague, and as a result whether an observation gets marked as wild is completely dependent on who happens to see it. Look at Red-eared Slider or Mandarin Duck and you'll see that similar observations are semi-randomly marked "wild" or "not wild" within the same area. I raised this issue in the Google Group but nothing came of it...

發佈由 reuvenm 大約 6 年 前


Thanks so much for your comments! I suppose that explanation falls within many fields of endeavour and one we just have to accept. I know if sure applies to my main field of interest, numismatics! I've even had folks tell me I was incorrect in my interpretation of certain accepted terms and definitions when I was in fact the author of those T&Ds, 25 to 30 years ago! Many of the "antagonists" in this case are overnight experts that want to make a name for themselves that all of a sudden know more about coins in one year than I've learned in the past 59 years since I started collecting in 1959 or in the past 39 years since I became a professional journalist in the area. (In fact I refuse to call myself an "expert" anymore in that field because I been around long enough to know how much I DON'T know).

With that said some folks have legitimate differences of view worth reviewing and I think that is probably the case here though it may not end up with any kind of agreement. Your examples here may point to that. Like your Red-eared Slider or Mandarin Duck examples, my f. domestica has been photographed by me many times before I knew what it was and was always marked "wild" and as a Mallard - which of course it technically is. That is frustrating.

To be clear, I'm not upset about one of my observations being marked "not wild" when all indications are that it is wild (other than it and many other waterfowl sure know where to get a free meal in the Winter and spend a lot of time there and as others like them sure show little fear of humans). It just confusing that when it gets ID'd as "wild" several times and then somebody who knows nothing about the organism at all decides to mark it as "not wild." With that said I do occasionally take a shot of some chickens crossing the road or a neighbor's horses or lamas and post them appropriately. I try not to go overboard on them.

發佈由 ken-potter 大約 6 年 前

This is a great list, cassi! I think I have only one to add:
I like checking the stats page from time to time. You can see the huge City Nature Challenge bump last April. I'm super excited to see what happens this year with it going global!

發佈由 carrieseltzer 大約 6 年 前

@bouteloua and all,
I know I went off topic quite a bit and I appreciate the fact it was tolerated and responded to. I just hope it did some good for others besides myself. Many of these questions I asked another administrator about a years ago and were ignored but got answered here.
Thanks again!
And Cassie, thanks for putting me, a layperson, into this group! Not sure why you did but it is appreciated.

發佈由 ken-potter 大約 6 年 前

@bouteloua thanks for the tip about using the "Community ID" field and "No, it's as good as it can be" - although its not very intuitive.I guess I'm always hoping that one day an expert will come along and ID things better and saying that is like giving up hope that it will ever happen. It does however require more manual work so would be nice to be automated somehow.

For example, there's many Australian wasps only identified to a family level and I can now go through and match @susanna_h 's ID's and mark them with the "No, it's as good as it can be" flag.

Although the following didn't go RG at family once I did my family ID and then genus ID. So, as stated by @bouteloua this only works once consensus is reached on genus?

發佈由 reiner 大約 6 年 前

Hm, yeah, should be used carefully-if the image can be identified to species but the community is just slow, I wouldn't check the box. Yes, I think community ID has to be below family for it to be RG if you do check the box. In the example you linked, the community ID should be genus before you check the box (if it really can't be IDed to species).

發佈由 bouteloua 大約 6 年 前

yeah, please don't click it if you just don't think it's a good photo (it's blurry or whatever). Only click it if you know that taxa well and know a diagnostic feature is not visible... ideally make sure also that the observer didn't see and describe those features elsewhere in the observation. I click it pretty rarely and cautiously.

發佈由 charlie 大約 6 年 前

@wdvanhem I'm not sure which specific observation field you're talking about, but I think the only way to get a summarized list would be to download the data and manipulate in Excel. I mostly don't deal with observation fields because they're such an unstandardized mess that I haven't wanted to waste time adding data to the "wrong" obs field, should a different obs field be chosen in the future for something more standardized (e.g. the current annotations: flowering phenology, sex, life stage).

Reminding people they can download data is a worthy tip though!

發佈由 bouteloua 大約 6 年 前

Great list! I'll take a closer look when I have more time. @pfau_tarleton comes up with some great tips too!

發佈由 kimberlietx 大約 6 年 前

Question, if anyone knows offhand... if I want to link observations to a journal post, but they were a year old is it possible to find them without scrolling and scrolling? I wanted to do that here but couldn't figure out how to pull up a 9 month old obsv so I just hyperlinked it instead.

發佈由 kimberlietx 大約 6 年 前

Here is something I find interesting, if a bit "geeky". Upload your lifelist to the Interactive Tree of Life and generate a phylogenetic tree of your observations. The website is:
First, download your lifelist into a spreadsheet. You may need to do some editing of it, depending on how fine-tuned you want it to be. I used just observations that were ID'd to species.
Next, copy and paste the "taxon name" column, or whichever taxa level you are interested in, into the box where it says "Tree Elements".
Under tree options, I leave everything as it is, except the "Ignore Errors" option, which I select yes. Chances are, something on your lifelist will not correspond with the taxa in their database. If you check "no" it will not generate the tree if there is not a match. Clicking "yes" will just eliminate that taxa from the tree.

Next, click on "Visualize in iTOL", which generates the graphical output of your lifelist phylogenetic tree. In the Controls box, the simplest visualization is if you select "Normal" under display mode. The other two modes (Circular and Unrooted) do not display the names of the species. You can also export it into various file formats (PDF, etc.).
Anyway, if you're at all into evolutionary biology, it's kind of an interesting way to visualize your lifelist.

This is mine, btw, as an example of what you can expect:

發佈由 aarongunnar 大約 6 年 前

Many people have already mentioned things that I would have but I'll add a bit here on obtaining IDs.

One of the ways that I've found getting an unfamiliar organism identified is to actively add it to specific projects. But not all projects are the same. Be sure to add to ones that are actively used. I look at the creator of the project and see when the last time they were active on iNat. This has helped a lot with fungi for more.
Also, when people leave you IDs, especially if they leave reasons why they added that ID, take the time to leave a Thank You message to them. Or send them a private message if they if they have done a lot of IDs for you.

發佈由 finatic 大約 6 年 前

@aaroncarlson that is the coolest thing ever!

發佈由 wdvanhem 大約 6 年 前

@kimberlietx I don't think there is an easier way to link old observations to journal posts unfortunately.

發佈由 bouteloua 大約 6 年 前

See also which I've found useful. Maybe worth adding at the top.

發佈由 johnnybirder 大約 6 年 前

@nathantaylor7583, I created a field called "Observation group" for that sort of purpose. I add the field to all observations that I want to be able to group together, eg:
Observations over time of the same feature
Observations over time of the same individual

The number stored in the field needs to uniquely identify the group, I have standardised on using the ID number of the first observation in the group. You can then click on the "Observation group" field name, then "View: Observations with this field and value" on any of the observations, and bring up all the linked observations.

You can then copy and paste the URL elsewhere to show people the group of observations.

發佈由 tony_wills 超過 5 年 前

@tony_wills Good to see some others are making workarounds too. I've also made a workaround that works pretty well (you can find an example here). I think yours is quicker to add observations, while mine adds a bit more detail and is easier to switch between observations.

Here is my template:
Series of observations of the species at different stages:
< a href="">< /a>
< a href="">< /a>
(same individual)
(same individual or group of individuals)
(not the same individual or group of individuals)

After filling everything out, I simply add to and copy and paste to all subsequent observations. It can get pretty complicated if you have a lot of observations to link (see here), but I like the flexibility (I've even applied this method to sets of the same species from the same location that I'm trying to ID).

發佈由 nathantaylor 超過 5 年 前

Yes, I used to do that, but the main disadvantage is that you have to go back and edit each observation each time you add a new one for that group if is an ongoing sort of thing. But it does document things well, and is more obvious to users. I usually supplement mine by adding a link to the group in the description or comments, with explanation.

發佈由 tony_wills 超過 5 年 前

iNaturalist Is there a way to check your observation for a not perfect match.
In other words if the variation or subspecies isn't exactly right.
Plantago ovata is research grade but the actual plant is Plantago ovata var. fastigiata.
So a query to find all Plantago ovata with others giving it and ID of Plantago ovata var. fastigiata, so no perfect mach.

發佈由 efmer 大約 5 年 前

a lot of time photos and iNat data just aren't enough to classify subspecies, and sometimes people choose subspecies based on location not characters which is kind of a no-no. So personally i just don't bother with subspecies. They aren't really built into the functionality so the 'compare' functionality and such doesn't really work for them , and imho that is for the best. A while back people were often adding the wrong species just because they accepted whatever one popped up

發佈由 charlie 大約 5 年 前

@efmer you can use the /identifications page to search for specific taxon_ids, in this case:

The ID is in the "taxon" column, and the current observation ID is in the "observation" column. You can browse through it quickly to find where those two don't match up, for example:

發佈由 bouteloua 大約 5 年 前

@bouteloua But than I have to check hundreds of id's an almost impossible task.
There should be another flag like full research grade, because leaving out the subspecies is not research grade in my opinion.
It may even bump the plant back to genus level on a next taxon change.
Don't know if I can retrieve an xml file from all observations and everyone that agrees and partially disagrees, so I can run my own query.

發佈由 efmer 大約 5 年 前

@bouteloua Is there a way to pull up mentions? I get a lot of notifications. I try to ID them later but I always seem to lose mentions where people have requested ID helps in the notifications overflow. Any tips on this? Thanks.

發佈由 hopeland 超過 2 年 前

They're in the middle of revamping the notifications system and I think a better way to view mentions will be part of it. The only way I know of is to search comments with your username. It won't search "ID comments" though.

發佈由 bouteloua 超過 2 年 前

Ok. Cool. Thanks for the tip! @bouteloua . This is helpful. Just tried.

發佈由 hopeland 超過 2 年 前


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