Observation fields are a way to add extra details to any observation. For example, if you've got a butterfly observation, you can add the observation field "insect lifestage" and set it to "adult". If you photographed a caterpillar of the same species, you could set the "insect lifestage" field to "larva".
This adds extra value to observations. That's because it makes these details much easier for researchers to find and use than if they were written down in lots of different ways in paragraphs in the observations' descriptions. For example, insect lifestage lets researchers quickly figure out at what time of year adult butterflies are flying, since they can quickly separate observations of adults from observations of eggs, larvae, and pupae.
Any user can add observation field details to any observation. Just click the "Add/edit more fields" link on any observation web page, and start typing the name of the field you want to add. You can help not just by adding observation fields to your own observations but also adding them to others' observations. (Note that a few users have turned this off in their profile so that only they can add these details. They tend to be the pros who do it all themselves.)
For all fields in NatureWatch NZ (and the global iNaturalist network), see http://naturewatch.org.nz/observation_fields/. Any of these fields can also be added to Projects as required or recommended fields for people to fill in. This is a great way to add value to the observations in a project.
If you cannot find the field you need, you can create it. Any field you create will be available to everyone across NatureWatch NZ and the whole iNaturalist Network. If you do create a new field, please take the time first to ensure that a field doesn't already exist with the same function. You can search all of the existing fields at http://naturewatch.org.nz/observation_fields/.
Observation fields work best when everyone uses the same one field for a particular purpose. With that in mind, we list here our favourite fields that are commonly used throughout NatureWatch NZ.
Your name will automatically be added to your observation. However, sometimes you may also want to add names of other observers.
Substrate refers to the kind of thing a species is growing on.
Nature is filled with species interacting with other species. These interactions are often poorly documented (what eats what, what pollinates what, etc.) so it's really helpful to add these fields to observations of species interacting. It's best to add each appropriate interaction to an observation using the relevant field starting with "Interaction: ". When things are more complicated, there's the "associated species with names lookup" field for naming a species in an interaction. In the past we used to pair that field with the "ecological interaction".
Or, for including five minute counts inside longer bird counts:
These fields are for people good with names. Many NZ species don't have scientific names yet. Taxonomists say that species without formal names and scientific descriptions are "undescribed". Some are easily recognised and expected to be real species when the taxonomic work is done. These are given "tag names" in the mean time. To make observations of probable species with tag names, you can use the following two fields.