[Tdwg-obs] Antw: Re: On observation definition / moving forward

Denis Lepage dlepage at bsc-eoc.org
Fri Feb 10 18:30:35 CET 2006

Hi Sabine,

What you describe for plants is very much like what we often find in vertebrates.

At any given sampling event, you may want to characterise differently units that belong to the same taxon. In birds, if you are talking about banding (ringing) data, you typically want to record the characteristics of each individual (mass, body measurements, sex, band number, etc.). For that reason, a schema needs to allow repeating the same taxonomic unit multiple times in the same sampling event, each record with its own characteristics. On the other hand, if you have a group of organisms that all share exactly the same characteristics, it makes a lot more sense to have a field that tell you how many times this unit was repeated, rather than have separate records for each.

For all biodiversity monitoring, there are common fields that will allow you to describe what your unit is (taxonomic fields), in addition to other fields such date, time, location, etc. But each discipline will also have its own requirements. Bird banders typically do not care about soil or water pH, and you surely do not need to describe whether your units had a brood patch.

In a schema, the way to handle this is to put everything that is common to all disciplines in the core list of fields. DarwinCore already gives a number of those fields, but there are more common fields that can be added (DarwinCore was initially designed for museum specimens). Everything that is specific to a limited number of disciplines then need to be part of a schema extension. In birds monitoring, we think so far that this will represent about 4 or 5 different extensions (one for surveys, one for bird banding, one for nest records, etc.). The agrobiodiversity community will have to work on it's own extensions, as will other communities (which don't necessarily have to be taxon-based).


Denis Lepage,  Senior Scientist/Chercheur sénior 
National Data Center/Centre national des données
Bird Studies Canada/Études d'Oiseaux Canada
PO Box/B.P. 160, Port Rowan, ON  N0E 1M0
519-586-3531 ext. 225, fax/téléc. 519-586-3532

> -----Original Message-----
> From: Tdwg-obs-bounces at lists.tdwg.org
> [mailto:Tdwg-obs-bounces at lists.tdwg.org]On Behalf Of SABINE ROSCHER
> Sent: 10 February 2006 9:11 AM
> To: Tdwg-obs at lists.tdwg.org
> Subject: [Tdwg-obs] Antw: Re: On observation definition / 
> moving forward
> Hello,
> We work in the field of agrobiodiversity, e.g. crop wild 
> relatives. For us the combination of oberservation data and 
> samples is very important.
> We consider the unit as central element, which can be a part 
> of an organism, an ogranism, or a group of organisms. The 
> reason for going under the level of organism is that 
> sometimes the plant with all roots etc. can be quite larger 
> than the part that is observed and recorded for a certain location.
> This describes the line we think along :
> "A unit in our context is uniquely identified by time, 
> place(site) and taxonomy. In addition a particular unit could 
> be sampled to further assist in characterising it. Such 
> samples could be (1) seed samples/planting material 
> (classical ex situ accessions), (2) photos or (3) herbarium vouchers."
> UNIT {time, site, taxonomy} (+ sample)
> (With regard to the prior discussion I agree that we also 
> have to handle legacy data with missing entries for time and place.)
> Sabine
> Sabine Roscher
> 513 - Informations- und Koordinationszentrum für Biologische 
> Vielfalt (IBV)
> Bundesanstalt für Landwirtschaft und Ernährung
> Deichmanns Aue 29, 53179 Bonn
> Tel.: +49 (0)228 6845-3235 (oder -3237)
> Fax: +49 (0)228 6845-3787
> E-Mail: sabine.roscher at ble.de 
> Internet: www.ble.de 
> weiterführende Information: www.genres.de 
> >>> Steve Kelling <stk2 at cornell.edu> 09.02.2006 18:55 >>>
> Hello,
> I really like the improvements made on the definition, and I 
> might suggest 
> that I put it up on the TDWG-obs website 
> http://www.avianknowledge.net/tdwg.
> I think we still need to define occurrence, and I think that Arthur 
> Chapman's "species occurrence data" gets us most of the way 
> there. My sense 
> is that the elaborations need to be expanded a bit more. For 
> example, data 
> collection event.  I suggest that we include in the definition some 
> information about time, minimum required data, and so forth. These 
> definitions can be longer and more detailed than the observation 
> definition. So taking data collection event:  An event, 
> during or after 
> which at least the minimum required data were recorded.
> Can we identify the minimum required data? For us it is:
> who the collector is
> where the information was collected (and should refer to occurrence 
> information and all of the discussion with it)
> when the data and time
> what was observed (and how many)
> effort distance covered, time spent etc.
> I'm sure there are other data for the minimum required data 
> and this is 
> worth discussion.
> We should also discuss the event. For example, one of ours 
> and Bird Studies 
> Canada projects (Project FeederWatch) the event can last 2 days.
> We also need to think about whether we want to include 
> protocol. In our 
> definitions no protocol (incidental observation) is also a protocol.
> Anyway, thanks for the improvements on the definition of 
> observation. I 
> (like Lynn) look forward to discussing some of these other issues.
> Steve
> At 05:03 PM 2/8/2006 -0500, you wrote:
> >With only comments from Bob & Arthur (thanks!), the latest version of
> >observation definitions is as follows:
> >
> >"An observation characterizes the evidence for the presence 
> or absence
> >of an organism or set of organisms through a data collection 
> event at a
> >location. Observations are not necessarily independent and could be
> >linked via characteristics such as time, place, protocol, and
> >co-occurring organisms."
> >
> >With the following draft elaborations for various terms 
> (many thanks to
> >Bob Peet for providing most of these draft definitions):
> >
> >1) occurrence
> >
> >"Occurrence" has been changed to "evidence for the presence 
> or absence".
> >
> >The key idea is that the organism or set of organisms was either
> >detected or not.  We also need to provide an opportunity for the
> >recorder to note the certainty.
> >
> >As an aside, recall we need to support minimalist protocols (e.g.
> >"organism/community (not)seen in field", "organism heard in field",
> >"scat seen in field", "tracks seen in field", "museum collection".)
> >
> >2) data collection event
> >
> >An event, during or after which at least the minimum 
> required data were
> >recorded.
> >
> >3) location
> >
> >Ideally, at least geocoordinates plus an accuracy term. 
> Since there is a
> >considerable amount of historical / legacy data that does 
> not presently
> >have a georeference yet has valuable information that should 
> be included
> >in observation databases and shared, we cannot at this time 
> require data
> >to be in a GIS format.
> >
> >I (Lynn) suggest:
> >(a) Location information be required, preferably geocoordinates and
> >mapping precision, but if not available then a text 
> description and the
> >finest level of geolocation using the Darwin Core attributes.
> >
> >(b) Location data include the representation of observations 
> as point,
> >line, or polygon data (with the necessary spatial metadata).
> >
> >4) entity
> >
> >Dropped from the definition of observation.
> >
> >5) could be linked
> >
> >Can have a pointer or pointers to other observations, 
> thereby creating
> >aggregate observations.  Note that commonality of date, time, place,
> >etc. is not sufficient in that the none of the observation authors
> >explicitly made the connection
> >
> >
> >Please share your comments / thoughts on all of the above definitions
> >with this email list.
> >
> >If people are generally comfortable with the above as working
> >defintions, then I'd like to propose that we move into the 
> fun part of
> >identifying attributes to be developed into a schema.
> >
> >Thank you -
> >Lynn
> >
> >
> >Lynn Kutner
> >Data Management Coordinator
> >NatureServe
> >phone: (303) 541-0360
> >email:  lynn_kutner at natureserve.org 
> >http://www.natureserve.org/ 
> >
> >
> >
> >
> >
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