One Sixth of All Named Species Tallied!

Last week, we tallied 333 thousand species on iNaturalist. We discussed this topic a little under eight months ago when we reached 300 thousand species, so why an update so soon?

Besides the fact that these seemingly insignificant 33 thousand new additions represent about 3 times the global number of bird species, there is also symbolic significance associated with this 333 thousand mark. Most estimates are that there are around 2 million described species globally. That means that we've now succeeded in tallying about 1 in 6 described species with an observation.

The collective capacity of the iNaturalist community to census such a significant portion of life on Earth so quickly is one of the most unique aspects of the initiative and something we should all be very proud of!

So what's next? Unfortunately, unlike many characteristics of iNaturalist that we can extrapolate fairly accurately from the number of participants (e.g. we fairly consistently average about 30 observations per year per participant), its very difficult to predict how quickly the iNaturalist community will continue to tally increasingly rare and hard to find species. For example, we know there are about 11.5k species of reptile. And with about 1.6M reptile observations, we've tallied jut over 7k of them. But how many more observations will it take us to tally those remaining 3.5k species? 5 million? 10 million? It all depends on how small ranged and geographically isolated those remaining species are relative to where the iNaturalist community is most active.

The graphs below show the first iNaturalist observation of each of these species grouped by several vertebrate groups. The dark green dots were tallied since 2020. The light green dots were tallied earlier. For these vertebrate groups, in which most species have been observed, most new species are being tallied in the tropics.

In contrast, for other groups like plants and insects where most species haven't been observed, there is still huge amount of new species being tallied even in well documented places in North America and Europe.

What can we all do to expand iNaturalist's capacity to census greater and greater portions of the Earth's biodiversity? Here are some ideas and please share your thoughts below:

  • Grow the number of observers overall, especially in remote areas
    There are more remaining species are in countries without a lot of iNaturalist usage and in increasingly remote parts of countries with a lot of usage. How can we encourage people who live there to get outside and share with us what they find?

  • Grow the number observers of rare species
    As described above, there's still so much to discover even in well traversed areas like the United States. How can we encourage observers to turn also record often overlooked groups like plants and insects, increase the capacity to document the characters needed to identify these species (e.g. macro lenses), and encourage expeditions to track down rare species?

  • Grow the number of specialist identifiers
    We probably have many more species already represented in existing observations but lack the expert attention needed to identify them to species. This is especially true for diverse and poorly known groups like millipedes where only about 1/3 of observations have species level identifications. What can we do to grow the capacity in the community to identify species in these groups, either by recruiting professionals or teaching one another to become better identifiers?

We've been discussing whether setting a goal of 1 million species tallied should be a part of iNaturalist's 2030 vision. Is achieving that number at all realistic? It will depend not only on iNaturalist's capacity to grow, but also to grow in specific ways and to engage specific types of community members.

Posted by loarie loarie, June 02, 2021 03:44

Comments

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Perhaps promoting iNaturalist through local museums and science foundations in countries with many underdocumented rural/remote areas could help increase awareness of iNat? Similar to the iNaturalist networks.

Posted by kemper 15 days ago (Flag)
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I think it would be very helpful if more volunteers in museum collections could upload voucher photos of obscure species to iNaturalist. I did that with many of the American Polistinae (thanks to help from the CUIC and AMNH) and was able to quickly ID several new species from existing observations.

Posted by humanbyweight 15 days ago (Flag)
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I think 'Grow the number of specialist identifiers' is one of, if not the most important, strategies in this specific context. I would not be surprised at all if there are tens of thousands of 'easily' identified species already on iNat, but sitting at higher taxonomic levels, that just need the right person to stumble upon them

Posted by thebeachcomber 15 days ago (Flag)
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What's that dark green spot for Birds in the Interior West of the US? I'd assume Cassia Crossbill but the first observations were posted well before 2020-2021.

Posted by ash2016 15 days ago (Flag)
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I agree with humanbyweight, we need more referent observations, even museum specimens. Some species are simply not being recognized, and they were already documented on iNat. Also, we need more exposure of iNat in the mainstream research papers - this will involved more specialists to use it, and increase the number of newly observed species.

Posted by opolasek 15 days ago (Flag)
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@opolasek 'Also, we need more exposure of iNat in the mainstream research papers' --> this is quite common practice now

Posted by thebeachcomber 15 days ago (Flag)
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I believe we need to contact universities and museums and maybe even scientific groups that work in those regions to get more representation from there, both observers and iders! Having bionlitzes always worked for iNat to get tons of observations, including rare species.

Posted by melodi_96 15 days ago (Flag)
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I think, fundamentally, engagement with experts off site in meaningful dialogue about why they are not participating, then taking concrete action to address the concerns would help significantly. Few of the ideas on the forum around this seem to come from primary sources and the strongest voices are usually those already active, at ease within the community - not necessarily the best arbiters for how to develop this aspect.

Posted by sbushes 15 days ago (Flag)
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@ash2016 I used the experimental compare tool for the dark green dots in Scotland, England and Russia - without success. Here are my theories what bird 'species' those dark green dots in relatively well known places could be:

a new species has been added to the iNat-taxonomy (e.g. by splitting) after 2020, and the date of creation counts - so that the first observation of that newly erected taxon is displayed on that map, even if by taxon switch older observations have also been affected
hybrids or subspecies are also counted (a rare hybrid might have been recently observed on iNat for the first time)
it was a mis-ID that has been subsequently corrected (thus it cannot be found now by searching for the community ID)

Posted by carnifex 15 days ago (Flag)
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Aspects I think would better support expertise once they are here though, FWIW :

Limit autosuggests for new users and phone users to "pretty sure of", to make it so that a large % of identifier time in complex taxa isn't just having to disagree with species level identification when only genus level is possible from photos.
(It's a massive bore and discouraging for both the identifier and new users)
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When there is no "pretty sure of", then have autosuggest resort to offering a coarser ID, not only offer species level IDs!
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Better UI to help users understand what to do having received an ID - that they can agree, ignore or withdraw
( too many don't realise withdraw exists )
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Add better annotation fields to help encourage detail in observations
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Make it easier to siphon off data which has been verified by a particular identifier into a dedicated project or download.
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Fix the algorithm for community taxon e.g. so that if you need to shift a bee ID to a bee-mimicking fly ID it doesn't take 6+ identifiers.
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Posted by sbushes 15 days ago (Flag)
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I hope we can make it. I know of plenty of species that are missing from Oregon that are endemic, but haven’t been able to locate them yet. Will continue to try and reach out to there and encourage them to add their photos to Inat.

Posted by chrisleearm 14 days ago (Flag)
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Certainly with marine mollusk shells (and to a lesser extent with terrestrial and non-marine too) we need to encourage people to get down on their hands and knees so they can find the really small stuff. Currently most observers are missing all the shelled species that are under half an inch (circa 12 mm) in size.

There are more than ten times as many small species as there are large ones, and there are more than ten times as many tiny species as there are small ones.

The very tiny ones can sometimes be tough to ID, but many of them are not tough to find once you start looking, and once you know how to look.

Posted by susanhewitt 14 days ago (Flag)
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I would tend to disagree about the need to prioritize adding more museum specimens to the site. Yes, someone did observe them at one time, but it's not really the objective of the site to become a reference database. It just seems like an artificial way to increase the species count and observation numbers to me.

I'd rather ask why museum collections and specimens are not being loaded into places like GBIF where both the expertise and desire to collect them is in place and iNat not focus on leveraging that external information.

Make it easier to find and get to external references, be that through increased functionality on the taxon page, better integration with Wikipedia/WikiData/Wikimedia Commons etc.

Posted by cmcheatle 14 days ago (Flag)
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If I can qualify as a "specialist identifer", I know that I have more time to sit down with unusual observations when the easier ones in "needs ID"are already identified by others and out of the way. Mobilizing more non-experts to ID ordinary specimens would go a long way to giving the unusual observations the attention they deserve.

Posted by edanko 14 days ago (Flag)
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One thing I am becoming increasingly convinced of is if the site wants to somehow engage more 'power' users/identifiers or experts it needs to figure out what its strategy is for the use of the site in educational settings.

Nothing will turn off a potential new expert/power user faster than starting an account, searching for their favourite taxa to start identifying and then hitting pictures of duck-faced selfies or insulting ID's of classmates etc. To say nothing of the quality of much of the submissions.

Posted by cmcheatle 14 days ago (Flag)
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So the message I'm getting is that I need to go to remote places and make lots of observations of everything. Works for me!!

OK, more realistically, I do think iNat can get to 1 million species by 2030. Certainly, all the suggestions people made above will help, but if there is some way to generate lists of what species still need to be observed, that might help as well. There's nothing like a list of species to check off to get my odd little naturalist heart beating fast. Or countries/regions/sites that need visiting, for that matter.

And in the meantime, since I am not by any means an expert identifier, I can keep IDing the common stuff and moving Unknowns into taxa where the real experts can find them. (And maybe find susanhewitt some tiny shells, too.)

Posted by lynnharper 14 days ago (Flag)
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Thanks Lynn!

Posted by susanhewitt 14 days ago (Flag)
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@lynnharper if you are looking for a list of what is missing, you can use the places feature to do so. Like for example in Oregon there are 100 species that have been unobserved through Inat but have been reported by the Oregon bird records committee. If you are looking for a specific place or such please feel free to ping me and I will do what I can to get you a list.

Posted by chrisleearm 14 days ago (Flag)
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I know, from my own experience, that many insects just can't be identified down to the species level from most iNat photos. They need dissection of specific parts, or an enlargement of other parts with a camera with a more powerful magnification than the typical phone. For myself, I just can't kill something in order to identify it unless it is an invasive species or a species causing harm to me (i.e. mosquito). Plus, I do not even know which species fall into this category until I've observed some and seen other observations in my area of them going only to genus. In my mind, these observations are never going to get down to the species level, at least not for me with the mindset and equipment I have now. And even if my phone were able to discern them, how would I get the specific enlargement of an active pollinator that spends half a second on each flower and is scared off my the proximity of my phone? So, we may have only documented one sixth of total species, but I bet we actually have instances of many more that we just can't discern to the species level. I wish these species in my lists could get to Research Grade, but they cannot as their IDs stop at the genus level. So, to increase total species of the world, you need experts who know which ones need dissecting, how to dissect them and the equipment to document it. And, to be fair, we need them in many places in the world or we still won't know the range of these species; we'll just have the expert discernment wherever it happens to be. Perhaps, we can look at this issue as not X number of total species we identify, but X plus Y of total species plus total genus' we identify, with the ones under genus being the ones that the majority of iNatters aren't going to be able to observe at the species level.

Posted by pinkspoonbill 14 days ago (Flag)
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@chrisleearm, could you explain how this works? Thanks!

Posted by lynnharper 14 days ago (Flag)
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@pinkspoonbill Genus observations can get RG if you vote on them “can’t be improved”. Researching local fauna will help to find out which groups need dissection and you can find cheap options for miscroscopes.

Posted by melodi_96 14 days ago (Flag)
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@lynnharper go to the relevant place page in this case https://www.inaturalist.org/places/oregon-us

Click on the View Check List Page link towards the lower right.

Add any taxonomic filter down to a specific group you want. On the right side is a series of filters, including one for Observed. Set to No and Refresh via the filter blue coloured button. You'll get something like this https://www.inaturalist.org/check_lists/308-Oregon-Check-List?q=&view=photo&taxon=&iconic_taxon=3&observed=f&threatened=any&establishment_means=any&occurrence_status=not_absent&rank=species&taxonomic_status=active&commit=Filter

Note the probability of finding much of the listed stuff may not be great, many will be one time vagrant sightings that mean they technically have been observed in the state, but the chances of one returning are low.

Posted by cmcheatle 14 days ago (Flag)
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@cmcheatle, ah, that makes sense. Thanks! I just did that for New England, where I live, and apparently there are 603 species that "should" show up in New England, but haven't been observed for iNat.

A quick perusal of the plants on that wanted list for New England showed me a few species that I do know where they grow in Massachusetts, but those species are state-listed and under considerable threat, so I prefer not to post them on iNat, even with obscuring the place. Some of those species are much more common outside New England, though, so their observation in New England isn't really necessary for iNat to hit the 1 million species target.

Posted by lynnharper 14 days ago (Flag)
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The unspoken part about determining which species are not yet documented in iNaturalist is that it requires:

the species actually be in the inat database. For some more charismatic areas this is relatively complete, other areas of life are far from comprehensively entered.

it be documented where those species are known to be found. Basically updating the checklists. This is massively incomplete on the site.

a good reference point is even what percent of species in the inat database are obaerved. As of the start of May there were 832000 species level taxa in the inat database. So about 40 percent coverage.

Of course this means less than half the species known are in the database. And of the 333k documented, almost 70k have no research grade records, which you can interpret how you wish.

Posted by cmcheatle 14 days ago (Flag)
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About tiny species of shells:

This morning I wrote a journal post about how to find small and tiny seashells, for anyone who is interested:

https://www.inaturalist.org/journal/susanhewitt/52887-how-to-find-small-and-tiny-seashells-to-increase-both-your-species-count-and-inat-s-species-count

Posted by susanhewitt 14 days ago (Flag)
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Oh, I was hoping you would do that, @susanhewitt!

Posted by lynnharper 14 days ago (Flag)
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I would like iNat to tweak their SEO.
If I Google for
https://www.google.com/search?q=indigofera+brachystachya+distribution and click images
I should be able to land on the distribution map of the taxon page at iNat.
INat needs to make it possible for Google to find the image of the map which shows the distribution.

INat needs to reach out to new people, who are already interested in nature, but haven't yet found this site. We don't have a wall of text to offer, but we have ... images, distribution maps, taxonomy, and sometimes interesting discussion in comments.

Posted by dianastuder 14 days ago (Flag)
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@ash2016 thanks for noticing that - I realized I had included inactive species in those maps. I've updated the post to include them.

Posted by loarie 14 days ago (Flag)
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My planner brain thinks it's a great idea to set a goal (ie 1m by 2030), identify the barriers to reaching that goal, and work to reduce the most important barriers and enable the most important opportunities for the iNat community to do its thing and observe 1M species by 2030. It's similar to what you're soliciting here, but centers the outcomes you're trying to achieve vs asking what strategies to get there. A structured approach has built-in points for public input/voting/prioritization of which strategies are seen as effective to which audiences (general users, specialists, museums, land management agencies, conservation orgs, educational groups, etc), but the outcomes should come first.

Posted by muir 14 days ago (Flag)
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Can someone make a list of species of insects that need to be dissected for ID that can be compared to a life list? Then I can change the IDs to cannot be improved. Or can someone tell me where I might find such a list from another source?

Posted by cammie 14 days ago (Flag)
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Also, is there a way to see if you are the first observer of a species on inat or the first observer in your area? Just for encouragement/feeling of accomplishment.

Posted by cammie 14 days ago (Flag)
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the 1 million number sounds totally ok as a goal for 2030, to be honest, reaching 500,000 will be fairly easy in less than 5 years, thus, a real challenge will be to hit 1M.
Voucher specimens from museums and collections will be a good target to promote as a goal, also, focusing on megadiverse areas .
Countries already having national nodes can start tracking progress on how much their biodiversity is being documented, I had this short exercise done for Mexico:
58% vascular pants* (13,759 NatMX spp vs 23,514 spp. literature).
96% birds* (1,078 NatMX spp vs 1,120 spp. literature)
84% amphibians* (316 NatMX spp vs 376 spp. literature)
93% reptiles* (805 NatMX spp vs 864 spp. literature)
75% mammals* (424 NatMX spp vs 564 spp. literature)
66% Papilionoidea (1,212 NatMX spp vs 1,825 spp. literature)
72% odonates* (256 NatMX spp vs 355 spp. literatura)
*Data in regards RG observations

Posted by aztekium_tutor 14 days ago (Flag)
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@muir, this (retired) planner got a slight thrill of excitement thinking about the fun of doing that planning. How would the iNat community and staff go about adding almost 75 thousand new species every year for nine years (including the rest of this year)? Is that even vaguely realistic? If the species left to observe are mostly invertebrates, plants, and fungi, how do we encourage people to observe those, much less ID them? If remote places need to be surveyed to reach that one million goal, how would those trips be financed? How can we recruit competent and obsessed observers to go on such trips? And so on.

When I did the math to figure out how many new species would need to be added every year, the answer was sobering. I said earlier that I thought reaching that goal by 2030 was feasible, but now I have my doubts.

Posted by lynnharper 14 days ago (Flag)
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In order to get closer to the goal of getting close to the documentation of all named species, the collective bias of iNaturalist needs to be addressed. As an amateur observer in Korea, I regard the identifications given by the iNat community of mammals, birds, amphibia, reptiles and many insects as a great help. Identifications of plants, fungi, spiders come in less frequently.
iNat is based on the posting of photos. This means, we are limited geographically (by areas accessible to photographers), technically (by the capacity of the cameras), and by the collective area of expertise of the indentifiers. And by the limited knowledge of the observers of the ecology of targeted species.
In regard to posting photos of specimen held by musea and scientific institutions, from a Korean perspective I have to add one point: Korean field guides and other publications contain quite a number not only of outdated scientific names, but unfortunately also of misidentified scientific names.

Posted by aganse 14 days ago (Flag)
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@aztekium_tutor I agree with you on countries and other geographic areas tracking progress. In 2020, I had done similar to what you did for the US state of Alaska:

~73% vascular plants
~99% birds (resident and regularly occurring species)
88% amphibians (only 8 sp!)
~72% mammals
<12% arachnids and insects in general (~74% odonates, ~43% Lepidoptera)
~26% fish
<27% lichens (mosses probably similar)

[the big gaps are intertidal life & other fungi]

To reach higher species levels, 1M or otherwise, the main biodiversity to track is probably going to be the same in many places: plants, inverts, fish and fungi. (the other species groups sort of get taken care of by themselves.) I love what @susanhewitt said, gotta go small.

@lynnharper dunno if 1M is realistic, but it feels both ambitious and within enough reach that the attempt would be fun and probably require a state of intentional continuous improvement by iNaturalist. Wouldn't reach it by passively accumulating observers and observations.

Posted by muir 14 days ago (Flag)
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@muir nice numbers! and I feel confident we could go smaller for lichens, mosses, and other hard to id organisms, and who knows were technology will take us in 5 years, we did not had this tool a few years ago, and now we have accomplished this milestone. during the lats 120 years we failed in this "biodiversity decae" and now we are starting a "restoration" decade, I am sure, iNaturalist community in hand with true experts has achieved more species rediscoveries and many more to come, this one tentative just happened a few minutes ago (https://www.naturalista.mx/observations/20814717).
I hope @ahuereca can provide many more new species and new records on lichens and related organisms, lichenicolous fungi?

Posted by aztekium_tutor 14 days ago (Flag)
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@cammie You can check who is the first observer for an area by going to the relevant place (on the desktop version of the site) and checking the upper left corner of the image tile. There will be a tiny picture of the user who first observed it in that place which, when the image tile is hovered over, generates an iNat green marker with the text "[username], 1st observer"

Posted by whaichi 14 days ago (Flag)
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They say "It all depends on how small ranged and geographically isolated those remaining species are relative to where the iNaturalist community is most active.". I don't agree this is the core part of the limit. A good number of geographically restricted but visually identifiable species will accumulate, but of course take time. With such statements i always see a bias from those who focus on "the big stuff" like birds, mammals etc. But even in those groups it seems there's always a good chunk of biodiversity which are so called 'little brown jobs'. With numbers like 96% birds, 84% amphibians, 93% reptiles, 75% mammals, i'm expecting those numbers will not be far away from what taxa can be identified/split by photos alone. But to clarify, that's talking about taxa with many well informed recorders/identifiers, often using detailed identification guides, where those same taxa are well defined in such resources often each by many robust and visually accessible characters. But my concern is that such vertebrates are only about 5% (at best) of current known animal biodiversity? [sorry non-animal people, i'm focused only on animals, and there even vertebrate knowledge often seems skewed towards terrestrial ones]. But going with 5%, even if given very low estimates of what's yet to be described across animals as a whole, those vertebrates are a small fraction. Others like the arthropods are my concern here, because at least for my own focal group i already see there are MANY where photos are only loosely assigned to certain species complexes, genus assignments, or even just to family or worse. It seems to me that is largely because there simply is not the capacity to split them visually - i mean by even by experienced people in those taxa (if they even exist). It goes far beyond the fraction of a whole which are 'little brown jobs' because for many inverts, then most are exactly 'little brown jobs'! I don't want my comment to be seen as negating the great utility of iNat nor the landmark for this stage. Beyond cataloging and helping others to identify their own finds, the wealth of accumulating photos are of course often useful for helping with taxonomic revisions and such for many taxa across the board. Hopefully there will be an increasing feedback from those revisions etc back to observations where identity gets reassigned with increasingly better visual accuracy is then possible for some such. But, sadly, i suggest for the larger fraction of biodiversity in many non-vertebrates there will never be such confident ability to visually split them to the finer levels from photos alone, simply because of a lack of critical diagnostics from key characters, i.e. detailed view of genitalia etc. That's even if given great resolution, from ideal angles etc., which we all know doesn't often happen for many observations. I'm also fearing that limits will in part come quickly come for several taxa from a lack of competent people even exist (or if they do who are willing to try to help with identification), because nowadays many taxa lack any specialists, and those that exist have a work overload. [What's the incentive for the much needed professionals - expecting their input for free?]. Anyway, at least for several non-vertebrates, I feel all such limits are going to be bigger issues, plus additionally there's related limits of recognition capacity for those taxa that continue to get descriptions relying essentially on molecular data - i.e splitting otherwise cryptic species.

Posted by sjl197 14 days ago (Flag)
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@sjl197 that statement was in reference to reptiles, I agree with you that for inverts the identification piece may be the biggest barrier

Posted by loarie 14 days ago (Flag)
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Great post! Is there a feed or a programmatic way to follow when a species adds its very first RG observation in iNat (ideally in a way that can be filtered by parent taxon)?

Posted by radrat 14 days ago (Flag)
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I would love to see, in the descriptions of the genus or species of the organisms, a mention of whether or not that species can be discerned with typical phone pictures. If the species requires special dissection, for example, that can't be done right there in the field, or needs the know-how to carry it out, I would like to know so that I can make a note that my observation can't ever get to species level - as was suggested by Melodi_96. Most iNat observers are going to be out with their phones, and not capturing the creature and taking it home for dissection, and most i Nat users don't know what they're observing (they're learning a lot here), so I think it would be helpful if, on the species screen, there's a description of whether or not that genus can be discerned to the species level and how. Also important to me is, when I view the species screen, a mention of what I need in the photo to get it to species level. Users very well may be able to photograph their bug well enough to species level, but if they don't know they need the end of the antenna, or a joint in a leg, then they won't take special care to get that particular spot in the pic. Here's my example. When I was new to this, I wasn't very expert at getting the pics - at all. Unfortunately, I missed a fantastic opportunity to capture an insect that hadn't been seen much in my area at the time. I didn't know that I needed the end of the antennae in a close up. I even got the picture of the end of the antennae, and still, it was pointed out to me that it can't get to the species. I am now looking for this bug every year since so that I can get a close-up of the end of the antennae but I have never seen it again. It is a milkweed beetle on asclepias viridis in our field. I am also still confused as to why it can't be at the species because in my photos you can see the antennae and the tip of the antennae and it looks like tetraopes texanus. I had researched this beetle at the time, and was only able to find one source that told me how to discern two species, which I thought I had identified in the pics. It would help many new users, I think, to have this information in the species synopsis page. Here's the observation I'm referring to, and, as you can see in my comments, I was all over the place trying to figure out how to get to texana when my reasoning wasn't at all what I needed to get it to the species level. https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/11908333. I'm hoping I can find my original pictures and possibly upload them in a different way to get better detail.

Posted by pinkspoonbill 13 days ago (Flag)
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to make more headway on the inverts, folks will need to employ beatsheets, sweep nets, and other trapping methods, plus invest in photo equipment that can get quality shots of the under 5 mm fauna. here's an overview of the techniques I use. http://texasento.net/Pic_Tech.html

Posted by entomike 13 days ago (Flag)
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@bouteloua amazing, I had no idea that API method existed!

Posted by radrat 13 days ago (Flag)
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I agree with @edanko that one of the ways to support expert identifiers is to increase the number of mid-level identifiers. If all the easy and moderately challenging IDs have been covered, and anything unusual has been earmarked / noted in advance, the expert's work is made much easier. They can focus on the rarer species and the unusual circumstances which are of particular interest to them. It works very well for Euphorbia!

Posted by trh_blue 13 days ago (Flag)
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We each bring different skill sets. I enjoy clearing our unknowns each day, following the notifications, unsubscribing when I lose interest.

I type Av ... es and the answer can come in almost immediately. Maybe some birders trawl the unknowns for birds?

Posted by dianastuder 12 days ago (Flag)
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There’re just that many people iding birds, and they can do it worldwide, we need as many of them iding each other group in each region separately.

Posted by melodi_96 12 days ago (Flag)
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What I would really like to see is focusing on growing observations in "dead zones", both geographic and taxonomic. Perhaps the best way to handle the geographic "dead zones" would be to collaborate with institutions actively promoting floras like Kew botanic gardens or various herbaria. If you could encourage them to mention it to their colleagues out in the field, perhaps a few would jump on board to help document those out of reach areas in hopes of some expert input on certain groups.

In conjunction with the above, I think we should try to figure out where across the tree of life that we have experts, where we have mid-level identifiers, and where no one wants to touch the identification to species unless they're so new that they don't know how to ID properly. Put another way, assessing identification strengths and weaknesses of across the platform. That way, we can highlight the taxa we are strong in and help connect these experts with researchers in the field if they are interested. These connections are extremely important to researchers on both ends (almost like a form of currency) and promoting these connections will go a long way towards increasing species count. As for weaknesses, we will know what taxa we desperately need more experts in. Knowing this may be enough but perhaps even actively looking for and inviting individuals who are strong in our weakest areas could be worthwhile.

A simple way to assess this might be to use the taxa and regions that people subscribe to as a way to gauge general interest in a group and geographic region. If there are taxa or regions that no one is following, you can bet that will be a weak spot. This is a very coarse approach, but anything else would require intense user input. I could probably tell you the ID weaknesses across Euphorbiaceae with some research., and perhaps others could tell weaknesses in other families too. By eliminating the groups where people know where the weaknesses are, you might be able to find where the deepest weaknesses are (the areas where no one knows what the weaknesses are). But, I'm guessing lack of input will hinder that approach.

Also, I think developing ways to indicate to observers that observing organisms (especially those with high-quality photos) that experts can't identify to species is a very good thing. Too often, it seems like observers get discouraged from a group because the community can't ID it very far. I suspect that these observations represent significant holes in the species count.

There are other problems of getting this expertise across the community (e.g., ID guide creation and/or sharing), but I suspect this will not grow the number of species but rather the number of higher quality observations. Both are important, should be pursued, and even go hand in hand in some individuals, but I think recognizing that focusing on one doesn't necessarily mean improvement for the other is important.

Posted by nathantaylor 12 days ago (Flag)
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I think worldwide it’s quite easy to name weakest spots, it’s everything one celled, fungi, different worms, viruses and bacteria where we have a couple of iders but not that it’s idable at all, algae, mosses where we have only regional iders and even with all photos needed they don’t know non-local flora enough. So mosses win for being pretty idable from photos and not having enough iders plus having awkward AI suggestions thus thousands of totally wrong ids. Worms also can be ided from photos but again almost nobody does that or even checks wrong ids.

Posted by melodi_96 12 days ago (Flag)

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