vi. National Biodiversity Data Centre Ireland


Interaction Type public -> government
Trigger Event NBDC strategy to encourage the submission of biodiversity records by the general public.
Domain Update and submission of  National Biodiversity Database.
Organisation National Biodiversity Data Center (NBDC) Ireland
Actors NDBC and the Irish Biodiversity Community (in particular University researchers).
Data sets in use Existing NBDC database.
Process Users enter their observations through the appropriate HTML forms on the NBDC website. Observational data is checked internally in NBDC and then made available for access and visualisation on the online maps and charts. Data submitted in any other file format is converted by the Data Centre to the appropriate format for added to the Centre’s database.

The Data Centre has also provided a free mobile phone app for real time, in the field, data capture. This feeds observations directly to the online system.

Feedback Any data submitted is mapped and viewed immediately. Citizen can visualise their own data using their own email address. Once checked and validated, the validated data are added to the national biodiversity database.
Goal The NDBC leverages the potential of outreach groups for data survey and observation thus widening the base from which observational data may be obtained. The Data Centre also provides a suite of thematic data capture systems as shared services that partner organisations used for their own data capture needs, and these are dynamically linked to the core system.
Side effects
Contact Point Dr. Liam Lysaght, National Biodiversity Data Centre, Carriganore, WIT West Campus, Waterford, Ireland

The National Biodiversity Data Centre (NBDC) initiated this project to leverage the potential of outreach groups and the general public for data survey and observation. This widens the base from which observational biodiversity data may be obtained in Ireland. The NDBC also launched this project with an aim to initiate a stronger engagement of non-professional scientists and heighten the understanding of biodiversity related matters in the general population in Ireland. There is a good tradition of observational work being performed by volunteer community groups in Ireland.

All of the systems and software are housed at NDBC. Contributors are also given assistance in working out grid references for their records, observations, and sightings. The system provides online forms for recording of observations but these can be also submitted in bulk via email if the contributor has collected a lot of data. Since June 2012 there have been over 213,000 citizen science records submitted, validated, and stored in the NDBC databases. Approximately 5,000 records are submitted per month. These are complemented by data provided from other sources, such as NGOs, researchers and learned societies. Currently the entire database is in excess of over 4 million records.  NDBC also makes these data available to the Global Biodiversity Information Facility (GBIF) is a network of 90 participants worldwide working on an open biodiversity data infrastructure, funded by governments. It allows anyone, anywhere to access data about all types of life on Earth, shared across national boundaries via the Internet. The NBDC is Ireland’s GBIF node and contributes Irish data to the more than 700 million biodiversity records mobilised through the GBIF data portal.

For the submission of observational data there are species and site forms, with the latter allowing a more detailed recording of biodiversity information. The species forms include Birds, Amphibians and Reptiles, Bumblebees, Dragonfiles, etc. The data from these forms and collections are extracted and merged with other datasets in the NBDC for insertion into their spatial databases. Data is submitted through the web-application, mobile phone app or by email (for large and maybe incorrectly formatted observations). Data is quickly checked and made available for access and visualisation on an online map. Those who submit their data to the system can access this data in the future. A new online capture system will be released before mid May which will provide far more visibility of all recording efforts, and will include leagues of records by region, by taxonomic group and even by recorder.

The Data Centre has also build a Species browser, which bring together information on the ecology of the species with maps of empirical data feeds from the Data Centre’s own data capture system and that of GBIF and links to the Encylopedia of Life.

The NBDC ensures that the contributors have their efforts well recognised and advertised online. For example there is an annual distinguished recorder award presented to the person who has shown outstanding contribution to the recording and documenting of Ireland’s biological diversity. This is very important in recognising the work of the volunteers who submit data to initiatives like this. Workshops are also held on a frequent basis which report on the progress of this project, the types of uses that this data is being put to, and how the project can be sustained and improved. Events such as Bioblitz (held annually) involve the general public in biodiversity data collection events which have an aspect of fun and competition.

Main Lessons

  • Feedback for contributors is a very important and can be established in many forms. For example personal contact with contributors, publishing information on the website (“we have x records this month”), awards for distinguished contributors.
  • Providing several options for users to contribute their biodiversity observations improves accessibility for different users. The website and forms are flexible to allow citizens complete as many of the form fields as they can. Those citizens with greater levels of detail and higher resolution data are also catered for in the same forms.
  • Allowing contributors to provide as much (or as little) information as they have available means there can be great diversity in the resolution of data provided, requiring manual and automated checking controls.