Behind the scene: creating and operating the Species Observations database – an important Citizen Science system
The Species Observations reporting system is an Internet database that grew out of a cooperative effort between the Norwegian Biodiversity Information Centre and SABIMA, the Norwegian Biodiversity Network, and five of the network’s member societies.
The system named Artsobservasjoner was first released in May 2008. It allows any member of the public to report georeferenced sightings and observations for all species, from fungi to plants, insects, fish and birds.
Reporters are encouraged to document their observations with as much evidence as possible, including photographs or other documentation.
Users and managers provide checks
In the Species Observations system the reporter determines what is entered into the database and owns the reported sightings or findings of species afterwards.
All findings are first published and then quality checked afterwards by managers from the appropriate respective societies. A key aspect of the system allows observations to be corrected by other users through direct comments to the person who has made the report.
SABIMA itself has three mapping coordinators who organize the quality assurance of the data collected as part of the Species Observations system. More than 150 voluntary species experts in the organizations are involved in data validation.
These coordinators also provide user support, suggest updated user interfaces and functions, and encourage field biologists to use the service.
One mapping coordinator works with botany and mycology (with the Norwegian Botanical Society and the Fungi and Useful Plants Federation) and the other with zoology (with the Norwegian Entomological Society and the Norwegian Zoological Society). The third (the Norwegian Bird Society) is organizing the quality control of the huge amount of bird sightings, where more than 100 persons are validating county wise.
The mapping coordinators work to stimulate, educate and coordinate the hundreds of amateur and hobby biologists who pursue their passion by collecting and mapping plants and animals in Norwegian nature.
Seminars, guidance and grants
A key focus of the mapping coordinators is to encourage these amateurs to enter their data into the national report system.
The accumulation of these observations and the larger patterns that emerge from the data make the volunteer efforts very useful in monitoring and as a knowledge base for land management in Norway.
The mapping coordinators facilitate this through seminars, guidance, small grants, subject matter support and personal follow-up with field biologists.