FieldData and data

What data does FieldData software capture?

FieldData is a tool designed to capture high quality information about many aspects of positively idetified species in the field. High quality is needed because only high quality information can be used by people and organisations (government and industry) to do good science. The poorer the quality of the data the more records are discarded during research and the more complex statistical techniques have to be to ‘make up’ for the lack of quality.

High quality means at minimum:

  • positive identification—if we don’t know what the species is then the record is not useful
  • accurate geographical location—if we don’t know where the sighting occurred then the record is not useful
  • precise geographical location—if we don’t know how accurate the location is (coordinate uncertainty) then the record is less useful
  • logged by a known user—if we don’t know who logged the sighting and their qualifications and experience in species identification then the record is less useful
  • number of individuals observed—if we don’t know how many individuals of a species were seen then the record is less useful
  • known date and time—if we don’t know when the sighting was made then the record is much less useful.

These basic attributes are part of the Darwin Core data standard—often abbreviated as ‘DwC’.

Of course, the more information you can collect about the location, environment, weather, habitat condition, other species seen at the time, and so on for each sighting event, then the more useful the record becomes for all kinds of scientific analysis.

FieldData and surveys

In FieldData you log your species sightings in web pages called ‘surveys’. You can create all kinds of surveys in the software: from the simple—the DwC list above—to quite complex, with multiple species sightings, pre-programmed locations, habitat assessments and so on. Even no species at all…What?

This way you can use FieldData to describe a location—eg a farm or other property, a reserve, or even activities you have done or plan to do in this location. At this point it’s time to read the manual!

What does this mean for the software?

In order to positively identify a species two things are required:

  1. You need to be able to do the identification in the field yourself.
  2. An identification tool must provide you with a list of species that include the accepted common and scientific names and other information and attributes that can help you confirm your identification.

So you are not allowed to just type the name of the species. Why? Because you may spell it’s name wrong, may use a common name that isn’t that common and so can’t be resolved into the correct scientific name later, and so on.Therefore every instance of FieldData has a field guide of some kind containing lists of species with the minimum necessary information for correct identification.

What happens if I am not sure of the identification? In this case you select the ‘Other’, ‘Unidentified’ or ‘I’m Not Sure’ species option, depending on what has been chosen as the default.

You will then be asked to nominate what you think the species is and why. You will be encouraged to provide a photo or other proof of your identification.

When you save the sighting one of the local experts will review it and make a determination, to confirm your nomination, suggest another based on a variry of factors including the image and other information you have provide, or perhaps decide that this record cannot be used (hopefully not very often : )

This last process is called moderation.