Identifying "Unknown" Observations

The suggestion has been made for this ID-athon that we concentrate on "unknowns" from certain countries. Actually, you can identify anything you want, but if you are looking for something to work on, consider unknowns in Albania, Algeria, Armenia, Austria, Belarus, Belize, Benin, Bhutan, Botswana, Bulgaria, Chile, Croatia, Cuba, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Dominican Republic, Eswatini, Fiji, Georgia, Greece, Guam, Guatemala, Honduras, Hungary, Iceland, Indonesia, Ireland, Israel, Japan, Kazakhstan, Kenya, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Madagascar, Mozambique, Namibia, Nepal, Nicaragua, Norway, Pakistan, Puerto Rico, Romania, Serbia, Singapore, Slovakia, Slovenia, South Korea, Sri Lanka, Sweden, Switzerland, Tanzania, Thailand, Trinidad and Tobago, Turkey, Uganda, Ukraine, United Arab Emirates, Vietnam, Zambia, and Zimbabwe.

To get "unknown" observations to ID, start with "Identify" on the banner at the top of the page. Select the last of the little pictures, the one like a dotted leaf outline around a question mark. Wait a moment and the observations you want should appear.

Most "unknown" observations lack a name because the person posting them didn't post a name and nobody else has since. The problem is, an identifier who is good at, says, spiders isn't going to search through the millions of "needs ID" records looking for spider photos. If he searches on "spider" he'll find more than enough observations to fill up his time. When you identify unknowns, your job is to make the observation available to more specialized identifiers by narrowing down the identification somewhat. The identifying can go very fast. Green and leafy? Plant. Apparently a bird? Bird. And so forth. You can, of course, study the observation carefully to narrow it down further if you want. Maybe that bird observation can easily be labeled Perching Bird or Waterfowl, or even to species. Any name you can apply, from species to kingdom, is a help.

Not long ago, I labeled an unknown as "Spiders" and the observer was annoyed. He knew it was a spider, he wanted to know what KIND of spider. To head off this sort of protest, I often write, "I put the general name "butterflies and moths" on your observation so that people who know them well can find it and perhaps give you a more precise name." Obviously, I substitute "spiders" or "flowering plants" or whatever for "butterflies and moths," as appropriate.

An observation can get an "unknown" rank, or more specifically a "state of matter, Life" rank, if two suggested names belong to different kingdoms. For example, earlier this summer I posted some coastal organisms are Brown Algae, but somebody else named them as Red Algae. They spent time as "Life" until I withdrew my identification. If you can "vote" for one of the names, do. Otherwise, move on.

Some unknowns are probably impossible to ID, even to kingdom. Is that scum bacterial or fungal? I have no idea. Is that plant disease caused by a virus or a fungus? Clueless. If you know it, name it; otherwise, move on.

One odd problem with identification of unknowns is that some serious iNatters upload a whole bunch of observations without identifications and then add names over the next day or two. They tend to get testy if you add names, especially if they're names above the species level. So if you see many very recent "Unknowns" by an observer who already has many observations, skip them. One way to minimize these interactions is to go to click on Identify, then on Filters, and set the Sort By to "Random." Then you'll get old and new posts mixed and probably won't deal with more than one or two of the unknowns that were posted this way. Or choose a range of dates with the most recent a month or two ago.

Posted by sedgequeen sedgequeen, May 22, 2021 19:53

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