[Tdwg-obs] Definition of an observation
stk2 at cornell.edu
Sun Nov 20 17:01:11 CET 2005
I think that the issues being brought up around the proposed definition of
an observation, and the subsequent discussions and proposed modifications
of the definition have been illuminating. The result, I believe, is that we
are creating a more useful definition of an observation. I do want to make
a couple of points.
First, what we are trying to define is the fundamental datum, or fixed
reference point from which observational data can be integrated with data
from other biodiversity initiatives such as the organization of museum
specimen collections. I agree with Denis that in order to accomplish this
we must be able to define the "core elements" of an observation.
Consequently, this definition only needs to recognize protocols, sampling
area, quality etc. Addressing these issues are the next step and Matt's
comments are right on.
Second, Lynn's comment about the inclusion of ecological communities is
extremely important for the same reasons that aggregation of observational
data are. These two points have a major impact on how biodiversity
informatics, particularly international efforts such as TDWG and GBIF
organize and present information. These concepts move away from the
specimen as the foundation of organization. For example, the community
concept is based on species assemblages (instead of a single species), are
well embraced by other ecological organizing initiatives as Bob Peet points
out, and necessitates a change in organizational schemas. Furthermore,
aggregating observations into collecting events changes the hierarchical
structure of organizational schemas, because the collecting event and not
the individual species record is the principal focus.
I suggest that we go with the definition of an observation as:
An observation characterizes the occurrence of an organism (or a community
of organisms) through a collection event using a defined protocol and
spatiotemporal location. Individual observations are non-independent
entities that can be linked to each other through their common characteristics.
If this group agrees with this I will post it on the TDWG observational
monitoring web page.
Cornell Lab of Ornithology
More information about the tdwg-content