[Tdwg-obs] Monitoring definition and protocol repository

Steve Kelling stk2 at cornell.edu
Wed Nov 30 15:57:20 CET 2005

I really like comments that Lynn has brought, and appreciate that she 
forwarded the definition around NatureServe. I do have a couple of 
comments, which are found in the text below.

At 06:36 PM 11/22/2005 -0500, you wrote:
>There was concern that including "defined protocol" in the definition of
>observation could be overly restrictive and prevent the inclusion in an
>observation data repository of high quality / high confidence
>information that was collected opportunistically and not as part of an
>official survey with a protocol.

While in some ways I feel that it is good to include a protocol in the 
definition, I can agree that it is not really essential in a primary 
definition of an observation. My reason is that in the NA bird monitoring 
community, even opportunistic observations are considered a protocol. These 
are characterized as opportunistic or incidental observations. Furthermore, 
in our development of the a data exchange schema for bird monitoring data 
the variable protocol figured prominently.  So, while not part of the 
definition, I suggest that we make sure to spend some time on a discussion 
of protocols in future discussions.

>We'd like to propose adding some language to incorporate explicit
>tracking of negative data. These would be data where a survey was
>conducted for a certain species (such as a rare orchid) in an area where
>it would be expected to be found, and the observer wants to document and
>communicate that information to inform future survey efforts,
>distribution mapping efforts, and activities such as conservation
>planning. This would be different from inferring negative data as is
>sometimes done with bird observation data.

I think that this is a good idea. The concept of negative data is an 
important one, with a variety of different angles. But, as with protocol I 
don't believe that it is absolutely essential in our definition. My feeling 
is that the way we use occurrence in the definition does not infer only 
positive observations. So, I suggest that we do not include this, but again 
spend quite a bit of time on this topic as we expand and explore the basic 

>Also - does the "defined spatiotemporal location" need to be highly
>precise, or can it be defined generally (with spatiotemporal uncertainty
>as needed) to reflect knowledge of the observation or observer? For
>example - include imprecise dates (e.g. spring 1998) and locations (3
>miles SW of the intersection of Clear Creek and Main Road)?

Yes, I believe that we can be less explicit on the location. So having more 
vague terminology in the definition is a good thing.

Finally, I always feel that a definition should strive to get its message 
across in as few a words as possible. So, I might suggest:

"An observation characterizes the occurrence of an organism or set of 
organisms through a data collection event at a location.  An observation is 
not necessarily an independent entity and could be linked via 
characteristics such as time, place, protocol, and co-occurring organisms."

The words or phrases in bold in the definition need to be developed more 
fully. As we work through the definitions of these words and phrases I 
believe that issues being brought up such as negative data, protocol, 
spatial temporal issues, and data aggregation can be addressed.


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