My (current) identification strategy

  1. Start with the lowest level taxon that I know offhand.
  2. Search iNaturalist observations for that taxon, filtered by state (or any relevant area defined by map).
  3. View by "Species" (not by "Observations") and have two windows open--one with the critter that needs the ID, the other with the grid view of species.
  4. Start scrolling (anything likely to be observed will show up here). Be cautious, there may be misidentifications, especially for those that are rarely observed.
  5. If I find a match (or close match), go to BugGuide and use the advanced search for the genus (by state) to see if any other species are similar.
  6. Still on BugGuide, examine the Info and Taxonomy pages for the genus and see if all known species have photographs (it usually states how many species are known from N.A.). If not, I can't be "absolutely" sure of an ID myself because one of the species without photos may look superficially identical the one I'm IDing.
  7. If it's a moth, go to Moth Photographers Guide for confirmation.

If I don't find a match or close match on iNat (viewing by Species), then the work really starts. And what I do depends on what taxa it is. But it usually involves looking at the plates on Moth Photographers guide or digging around in BugGuide. Basically, looking for a needle in the haystack.

Posted by pfau_tarleton pfau_tarleton, April 01, 2017 14:09

Comments

Excellent, excellent, excellent post. This is a great way to tell others how you ID things. Very true that there are mis-ID's in iNat (as is the case with ANY natural history collection). Any ID is eternally temporary in natural history collections -- in a few hundred thousand years, who knows how many of my ID's are corrected on iNat -- probably most of them. ;)

Tagging some of the folks that have provided me with ID's as well:
@gcwarbler @greglasley @aguilita @annikaml @suz @cgritz @krancmm @anewman @connlindajo @d_kluza @kueda @loarie @tiwane

Posted by sambiology about 5 years ago (Flag)

Even the best of the best taxonomists misidentify things!

Posted by pfau_tarleton about 5 years ago (Flag)

Good lesson in using iNat for identification which I've never done! Need to start...

For those of us in the eastern part of Texas, BugGuide isn't as reliable for a state search. I've had a number, or at least a few, that were first observations from Texas because they were eastern taxa that just ooze over into Texas and not many reporters from the area...I sure didn't find them on a state search.

I'm less conservative about an invert ID as the number of listed species in N.A. aren't broken down by geographical area; there's no way of knowing whether that photo-less possible cryptic species is only found in North Dakota so I just plow ahead with what is current knowledge. So some probably get mis-IDed...just like the experts, and, as Sam stated, "eternally temporary".

For moths, I do the opposite. First is MPG (South-Central Region - live and pinned) then confirmation on BugGuide. There is a reason: since Bob Patterson, the "father" of MPG, retired 2-3 years ago hardly anything has been updated. There's a monster list on the MPG Facebook site of corrections that need to be made; from incorrect images to revamped taxonomy to updated range maps. BugGuide has remained up to date on the latest taxonomy. In addition, I cross-check with BOLD - sometimes useful, other times a bunch of sepia trashed museum specimens, and the Lep Society Database.

If iNat users really want to know what is needed for an invert ID, there was a post on BugGuide started years ago that is still very useful:
A Bug Photographer's Guide to Critical Images Needed for Identification - http://bugguide.net/node/view/258535.

@sambiology Sam, anything similar for plants as the BugGuide Critical Images?

Posted by krancmm about 5 years ago (Flag)

One can also view by species in iNat within a certain map area (rather than by state) by going to map view and zooming in on the map to whatever extent you want and hitting the orange "redo search in map" button--then go back to grid view. That'd be useful for folks on the edge of the state who want to capture more of the regional diversity (or anyone in a small state with fewer observers who want to pull from a larger region).

Good advice on knowing what angles are best to get IDs. As many as possible is the general rule of thumb! Take shots from as many angles as the critter will allow before it's patience wears thin.

Posted by pfau_tarleton about 5 years ago (Flag)

Oh, and how could I forget to include all the guides at"Texas Entomology" by Mike Quinn!
http://texasento.net/index.html

Posted by pfau_tarleton about 5 years ago (Flag)

Some more tips (as I'm learning them):
--when you "redo search in map", you can precisely choose the area by resizing your browser window and then hitting the orange "redo..." button.
--you can bookmark any of these selections once you've made them (for future reference). I'm putting together a list of bookmarks for different taxa in my common search zones. Here's an example: http://www.inaturalist.org/observations?nelat=37.23410683852991&nelng=-91.07940673828125&place_id=any&swlat=27.024211596037404&swlng=-102.79083251953125&taxon_id=47208

Posted by pfau_tarleton about 5 years ago (Flag)

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