Data Quality

The Species Diversity program (formerly the Idaho Conservation Data Center) is the central repository for observation information about rare and sensitive species in Idaho. For most of its history, the Species Diversity program obtained data primarily from professional biologists or other well-known experts in various taxa. Utilizing new Web-based tools, the Species Diversity program has begun to receive reports from the general public, which will likely increase in the future.

The quantity and quality of data in the Species Diversity database is dependent on the research and observations of many individuals and organizations. The data represent the existing information reported to us and does not provide a definitive statement on the absence, continued presence or condition of biological elements at any specific location.

Assuring that the data are accurate has always been a top concern for the program. The Species Diversity program generally follows the NatureServe Natural Heritage Program Methodology for gathering, collecting, and managing biological data. More information about this methodology can be found on the NatureServe website.

Currently, every reported observation is reviewed by one of our data coordinators. The data coordinator examines a number of data fields that are part of the data set: Survey Method, Observer Background, Location Accuracy, Citation or Reference Code, Observation Type, Observation Confidence, Count Accuracy, and Verified By.

Survey Method: Describes the manner in which the data were collected.  Indicates whether an observation is incidental vs. having been derived from a monitoring or one-time inventory project.

Observer Background: Describes the level of biological expertise of the observer.  Indicates whether a person is known to be a biologist/researcher/taxon expert, a citizen scientist working under the supervision of a biologist, or an unknown observer in that his/her background concerning species identification skills is uncertain.  This value is assigned by data managers and/or agency biologists upon review of the original submitted observation.

Location Accuracy: Location information is determined to fall within or near Idaho’s borders.  Locations not meeting these criteria are further researched and the locations are updated with the correct coordinates, mapped at a lower precision, or assigned ‘location unresolved’.  The ‘location unresolved’ records are not distributed; however, they are retained in the database.   In addition, all location data submitted are assigned a ‘location accuracy’ based on how the location information was captured and reported.  A location captured using a post-processed GPS location will have a better ‘location accuracy’ than a location submitted only describing a Township, Range and Section.  Currently there are 6 categories that describe the location accuracy, ranging from ‘exact’ to ‘unknown’.  The value for ‘location accuracy’ is assigned by data managers and/or GIS analysts upon review of the original submitted observation.

Full Citation and Reference Code: Describes the citation and format type of the original document from which the observation was obtained. Some examples of resources used are an observation report form submitted by a citizen, a field survey sheet submitted by a biologist, or an agency report.

Observation Type: Describes the type of observation.  Values include: Sighting, Photograph, Vocalization, Scat, Tracks, Nest/Burrow, a Museum or Herbarium Specimen (museum name and specimen number are included), or DNA samples (verified by lab analysis).

Observation Confidence: Describes the observer’s species identification confidence.  We ask that the observer provide us with an observation confidence.  This indicates to us how confident the observer was in identifying the species.  There are 4 categories for this confidence ranging from “unknown” to “high confidence that identification is correct.”  The value for this field is derived from the observer’s original observation submission.  If an observer indicates there is a level of uncertainty in the identification of the species, a corresponding value of “possible/questionable” is assigned.  If an observer does not indicate his or her confidence in correctly identifying the species and provides no other evidence to corroborate the identification, the value in the field is a default of “unspecified.”

Count Accuracy: Describes whether the given number of individuals observed is an absolute count, an estimate, a minimum count, or a percent.

Verified By: Describes the name of a biologist/expert who has deemed the identification of the indicated species to be true.  Not available for all records, and typically only pertains to situations in which a photograph or specimen/sample was submitted.  This information is sometimes provided at the time of the original observation, but may also be populated upon further review of the database record.  Laboratory data may confirm species identification, or a biologist/researcher may review a given photograph, thus making it possible to populate this field and list the name of a verifier.  This field is left null when the name and title of a verifier has not been submitted.