Retain matches between 2 (or more) unknown / unnamed animals

What Wildbook should this feature be in? ACW

What would you like to see?
The ability to link 2 encounters together as a match without having to assign them to a known individual (since the animal may not be known to the researcher), and without having to create a new individual record, immediately upon match. Then enabling all matched encounters to be attached to a Marked Individual when one of them gets attached to that individual.

How would this functionality help you?
This would eliminate redundant matching. Once a match is made between encounters, they will always be linked and then, when any of them are finally assigned to a Marked Individual record, all will follow. We wouldn’t have to go back and re-review matches that have already been visually verified by the researcher.
An unknown individual is not named or given an ID by the researcher as soon as they are seen. Naming is a process that takes time and consultation. So a match of an unknown individual in the system to a second image of the same unknown individual cannot be immediately assigned a new ID in the system.
Also, it’s possible that the system doesn’t serve up a match to a known Marked Individual in the system, in the match results, so further investigation could be required before assigning an ID.

Per my reply on a different (support) ticket, I thought I should add what I wrote there to this feature request ticket for additional clarification on why this is needed.

The dataset composition is key here. We have, and will have tens, even hundreds of thousands of images per species in which the animals are unidentified. We will have maybe a few dozen marked individuals. Lion & elephant datasets will be even more skewed to unknowns. So when a user sees 2 unknowns that match, the instinct is to capture that, obviously. If the 2 unknowns are not a match to any indiv. in ACW, great, create a new ID and all’s good.

But what if the 2 unknowns are a match to an indiv. in ACW but that indiv. is not offered in the matches presented? There’s no way for a researcher to know that they match a known indiv. except if it’s offered in the matches run. The challenge then is twofold: 1) how to know to re-run matches and how many times before one can be sure that there’s no match in the system? 2) what if the researcher assumes there’s no ID’d match when there is, and proceeds to create a new ID? Now we have multiple ID records for the same individual. Assuming this gets discovered at some point after that (which is not a given) all encounters from one indiv. have to be un-linked from it and then connected to the other known indiv record. The steps to do this are several and even more if there’s a social group connection. Not connecting 2 unknowns bec of the hassle of un-link/re-link process is a waste of time bec the researcher would then have to re-do their visual inspection of matches presented that they’ve already inspected and confirmed, or rejected.

Historical data is extremely important bec of the patterns and trends it can show researchers, including the impact of intra-species interaction as well as the impact of human encroachment, etc. So we can’t not import ‘old’ data. So our volumes are huge and will get huger, skewed to unknowns, over ID’d individuals.

I appreciate you adding this information here! It seems that some of this is addressed by the ability to merge two individuals, which is something that’s been requested before (and is actually in the works). With the ability to merge individuals, you could use individual searches to find likely matches across individuals, something likely to be necessary when reconciling catalogues that span the same time and region.

That being said, this seems like an intermediary point in the process, and I do want to discuss it more with you in person. There were just actual developments around part of your statement that I wanted to put out there for you to know! :slight_smile: