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How and why to add "Observation Fields" to the iNaturalist records?

Updated: May 26, 2021

iNaturalist has things called "Observation Fields" which I've been trying to use to help expand the knowledge accessible on our observations. These are additional to "Annotations" (Alive or Dead, Life Stage & Sex).

One example of the thousands and thousands of currently available observation fields is "Caste", with options including "Queen", "Worker", etc.

Finding an observation with one of these set took a bit of investigation. But here's a search link that uses it. You can find ALL Large Big-headed Ant (Pheidole antipodum) marked as Queens on iNat like this:

Or all Queens like this:

So if you've got some ant observations on iNat it'd really add value to those observations to add an observation field such as this.

While some people might wonder what the point of adding observations fields to your iNat observations is, it allows the addition of extra information that may not be captured in the photo or may not be extractable from the photo. For example, say you upload an observation of a bird that was killed after being hit by a car. You can add an observation field that notes what the speed limit of the road was. Researchers can then come along and check all the observations of roadkill that have this observation field attached; they may find a pattern that roads where the speed limit is over 80 km are consistently associated with the death of a particular bird species. This could then lead to legislation changes reducing the speed limit for roads near this bird species’ habitat.

This blog has been adapted from a Facebook post by Brett Smith of Ellura Sanctuary in outback South Australia.

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