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1 What information does BISON offer?

BISON provides access to georeferenced (those with latitude and longitude coordinates) and non-georeferenced data describing the occurrence or presence of terrestrial and aquatic species recorded or collected by a person (or instrument) at a specific time in Canada, the United States, U.S. Territories (American Samoa, Guam, the Federated States of Micronesia, the Republic of Palau, the Republic of Marshall Islands, the Northern Mariana Islands, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and U.S. Minor Outlying Islands), and U.S. marine Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZs). We refer to these data in general terms as 'species occurrence data'. The species occurrence data that are available through BISON have been contributed by various data providers including Federal and State agencies, universities, and non-profit organizations either directly to BISON or indirectly through their participation in the Global Biodiversity Information Facility (GBIF - www.gbif.org). Each record in a species occurrence dataset available through BISON will typically consist of a scientific name (genus and specific epithet), a date, and one or more geographic references such as a state name, county name, and/or decimal latitude and longitude coordinates. In addition to these typical data fields, species occurrence datasets often include many other data fields that describe each species occurrence event in more detail.

2 What is "species occurrence data" and why is it important?

Most research on biological organisms in the wild involves recording or collecting evidence of an occurrence of a species by a person (or instrument) at a particular place and time: We refer to these data in general terms as 'species occurrence data'. Regardless of the initial reason why the species occurrence was recorded somewhere, the knowledge that it was actually at a specific place at a specific time is extremely useful in many areas of science. For example, these occurrence records are instrumental in tracking the spread of invasive species, the decline of threatened species, and the movement of ranges in response to climate change or other environmental factors. Species occurrence data is used as baseline data for modeling and analysis, in ecological research, and in the management of natural resources.

Each record in a species occurrence dataset available through BISON will typically consist of a scientific name (genus and specific epithet), a date, and one or more geographic references such as a state or province name, county name, and/or decimal latitude and longitude coordinates. In addition to these typical data fields, species occurrence datasets often include many other data fields that describe each species occurrence event in more detail.

3 What data fields are included in species occurrence data in BISON?

Basic summary descriptions of data fields accommodated in BISON (and their Darwin Core Standard (DwC) equivalent labels, if different):

DATE

  • Event Date - the date on which the species sighting or collection event was observed or recorded (ISO 8601 standard format YYYY-MM-DD)
  • Verbatim Event Date - the original, uncorrected date and date format of the occurrence, retained as it was provided in the original, raw dataset
  • Year - the year in which the species occurrence or collection event was recorded, in the ISO 8601 standard format YYYY
TAXONOMY/IDENTIFICATION
  • Clean Provided Scientific Name (DwC:scientificName)- the standardized Latin scientific term for the organism. Most commonly but not always a binomial name. In BISON, it does not include taxonomic author. Matched whenever possible with values in the Integrated Taxonomic Information System (ITIS - www.itis.gov)
  • Provided Scientific Name - the original, uncorrected scientific name retained as it was provided in the original, raw dataset
  • Valid Accepted Scientific Name - the standardized current valid or accepted scientific name of the species according to ITIS, that is taxonomically linked to the Clean Provided Scientific Name value (the latter may or may not be a valid or accepted scientific name)

  • Provided Common Name (DwC:vernacularName) - the original, uncorrected vernacular name(s) of the species, retained as it was provided in the original, raw dataset
  • ITIS Common Name (DwC:vernacularName) - the organism's vernacular name according to the Integrated Taxonomic Information System (ITIS - www.itis.gov)

  • Provided TSN (DwC:taxonID) - the original, uncorrected taxonomic serial number retained as it was provided in the original, raw dataset
  • ITIS TSN (DwC:taxonID) - the unique, persistent, ITIS Taxonomic Serial Number (TSN) associated with the Clean Provided Scientific Name value
  • Valid Accepted TSN - the unique, persistent, ITIS Taxonomic Serial Number (TSN) associated with the Valid Accepted Scientific Name value
  • Kingdom - the name of the taxonomic Kingdom of the taxon in the occurrence record
LOCATION/GEOGRAPHY
  • Decimal Latitude - the decimal angular distance of a point north (+) or south (-) of the earth's equator for the location of the species occurrence (in BISON: up to 6 decimal places)
  • Decimal Longitude - the decimal angular distance of a point east (+) or west (-) of the earth's Greenwich UK Prime Meridian for the location of the species occurrence (in BISON: up to 6 decimal places)
  • Geodetic Datum - the ellipsoid, geodetic datum, or spatial reference system (SRS) upon which the geographic coordinates given in the Latitude and Longitude fields are based e.g. WGS84, NAD83, etc.
  • Centroid - a text string indicating that the latitude and longitudinal coordinates represent the central point of a polygon, and describing the polygon type e.g. "10min block"
  • Coordinate Precision - a decimal representation of the exactness of the latitude and longitudinal coordinates
  • Coordinate Uncertainty in Meters - the horizontal distance (in meters) from the latitude and longitudinal coordinates, describing the smallest circle containing the whole of the species occurrence location

  • Provided State Name - the original, uncorrected Canadian Province, or U.S. State or Territory name as it was provided in the original, raw dataset
  • Calculated State Name - the standardized Canadian Province, or U.S. State or Territory name computed based on the geographic coordinates or Calculated FIPS value
  • Provided County Name - the original, uncorrected Canadian or U.S. County, Parish, or Borough name retained as it was provided in the original, raw dataset
  • Calculated County Name - the standard name of the Canadian or U.S. County, Parish, or Borough in which the species occurrence is located (based on the latitude and longitudinal coordinates if available)
  • Provided FIPS (DwC:higherGeographyID) - the original, uncorrected 5-digit numeric geographic Federal Information Processing Standards of FIPS code for the U.S. State/Territory-County name combination, retained as it was provided in the original, raw dataset
  • Calculated FIPS (DwC:higherGeographyID) - the standardized 5-digit numeric geographic Federal Information Processing Standard or FIPS code for the U.S. State/Territory-County name combination

  • Verbatim Locality* - the original, uncorrected text describing the location of the occurrence, as it was provided in the original, raw dataset (*This field is only available through the BISON API and Web Serivces)
  • Calculated Waterbody - a standard name for the U.S. marine Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) or other named waterbody in which the species occurrence was recorded
  • mrgid - a standard numeric identification code associated with the U.S. marine Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) in which the species occurrence was recorded

  • Verbatim Depth - the original, uncorrected description of the depth below the local surface retained as it was provided in the original, raw dataset
  • Verbatim Elevation - the original, uncorrected description of the elevation (altitude, usually above sea level) retained as it was provided in the original, raw dataset

  • Country Code - the standardized two-letter geographic country code of the species occurrence according to the ISO 3166-1 alpha-2 standard.
COLLECTION EVENT

  • BISON ID (or ID)- a unique identifier assigned to the species occurrence record during the upload process, which may or may not be persistent

  • Collector (DwC:recordedBy)- The name(s) of people, group(s), or organization(s) responsible for recording the original species occurrence
  • Collector Number - an identifier given to the species occurrence record by the collector at the time it was recorded
  • Catalog Number - a unique (preferably persistent) alpha-numeric code or key for each record (row) in a dataset
  • Basis of Record - the type of species occurrence or evidence upon which it is based. Basis of Record values include the following:

    • fossil - petrified evidence in geological time
    • literature - assertion in a scientific publication
    • living - the organism is kept or in captivity at the given location e.g. a zoo or botanical garden
    • observation - record of a free-living organismal occurrence that did not involve the collection of a specimen or germplasm
    • specimen - the organism or a part of it has been collected and preserved in a formal collection
    • unknown - the nature of the record is obscure
  • Establishment Means - a controlled vocabulary of codes indicating the process by which the species represented in the occurrence record became established at the location e.g. AK=nonnative in Alaska; HI=nonnative in Hawaii; L48=nonnative in the 48 Contiguous United States

  • General Comments (DwC:eventRemarks) - a free text field for additional pertinent information or notes associated with the species occurrence.
OTHER INFORMATION
  • Associated Media - a URL link to media files (e.g. images) associated with the species occurrence record
  • Associated References - a bibliographic citation and/or URL for a resource or reference associated with the occurrence such as a publication or web site
  • Related Resource ID - a URL for the species occurrence record if it is also available elsewhere on the Internet

  • Provider (DwC:institutionCode) - name of the data provider
  • Provider ID - a unique, non-persistent integer identifier for the data provider e.g. BISON's Provider ID value is 440
  • Provider URL (DwC:institutionID)- a URL link to the data provider or source of the species occurrence data

  • Resource (DwC:collectionCode and/or datasetName) - the name, acronym, or code, identifying the service, group, collection or dataset from which the species occurrence record was derived
  • Resource ID (DwC:datasetID) - a unique, integer identifier for the Resource or dataset, usually prefixed with the provider ID value e.g. 440,100012
  • Resource URL (DwC:collectionID) - an identifier for the collection or dataset from which the record was derived. In BISON, this value is a unique URL link to the metadata record that describes the dataset to which the species occurrence record belongs

  • License - a URL link to the Creative Commons license that applies to the species occurrence record e.g. https://creativecommons.org/publicdomain/zero/1.0/legalcode

4 What's the difference between 'Provided' and 'Calculated' data in BISON?

Any data field whose label that begins with ‘provided’ or 'verbatim' contains the original, uncorrected value, retained as it was provided to us in the raw dataset. Data fields whose labels begin with 'calculated' or 'computed' were added to the data set during processing and contain cleaned or standardized versions of original values.

When the information in provided and calculated data fields differ, it may indicate a difference in format or accuracy, and not necessarily an error, in the data. These differences commonly occur in species occurrence data when the contents of data fields are misspelled, abbreviated, old (such as old U.S. counties that have since been renamed), or include additional characters that can inhibit database indexing. Calculated fields in BISON often reflect the conversion of data such as latitude and longitude coordinates or a date to a standard format e.g. reformatting coordinates from a degrees-minutes-seconds format to a decimal degrees format. This standardization of the data can improve data indexing and search functionality.

In BISON, calculated values do not replace original values, they are only added to datasets in specifically designated data fields and are curated carefully so as not to change the original ‘story’of individual species occurrence records or the dataset as a whole.

5 Does BISON include species absence data (e.g., for conducting Environmental Impact Assessments)?

No, BISON does not include observations of the absence of species (or species absence data). And the absence of georeferenced or non-georeferenced species occurrence (presence) data in BISON does not prove or indicate the absence of that species in Canada, the United States, US Territories (American Samoa, Guam, the Federated States of Micronesia, the Republic of Palau, the Republic of Marshall Islands, the Northern Mariana Islands, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and U.S. Minor Outlying Islands), or in U.S. marine Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZs). In order for species absence data to be useful, detailed information about the sampling methods used to collect the data must be known and incorporated into any interpretation of the data in a statistically defensible way.

6 What are the sources of the data that are available through BISON?

The species occurrence data that are available through BISON have been contributed by various data providers including Federal and State agencies, universities, and non-profit organizations either in direct collaboration with the BISON Team or indirectly through their participation in the Global Biodiversity Information Facility (GBIF). BISON is a product of the United States Geological Survey (USGS) (Administrator of the U.S. Node of GBIF), and thus works closely and shares data with GBIF. As data providers contribute data directly to BISON, they have the option to also become part of the network of more than 400 data providers whose data are submitted regularly to GBIF. In turn, as Canadian and U.S. data are added directly to GBIF, those data also become available through BISON. There is a time lag between updates, so a search of GBIF and BISON may not always yield the same results. While data in BISON conform to the Darwin Core standard, data providers are ultimately responsible for the quality, scope, and resolution of the data that they provide.

7 What is the geographic scope of data available through BISON?

BISON provides access to species occurrence data recorded or collected from within the coastal boundaries of Canada, and from within the United States, U.S. Territories (American Samoa, Guam, the Federated States of Micronesia, the Republic of Palau, the Republic of Marshall Islands, the Northern Mariana Islands, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and U.S. Minor Outlying Islands), and marine Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZs). However, some of these data are contributed by data providers who are not themselves located in Canada, nor the U.S. and its Territories.

Some species occurrence data in BISON contain only partial geographic information. For example, some records may have a state designated, but no county or latitude and longitude coordinates. These non-georeferenced records cannot be displayed as dots on the map in BISON. Non-georeferenced records can be viewed in the Checklist view (accessed from the upper right corner of the map display) and in data downloaded from BISON in CSV format. Note that data downloaded from BISON in KML or zipped shapefile bundle (ZIP) formats will include only georeferenced records.

The absence of data for any species in BISON does not prove or indicate the absence of that species from Canada, or the U.S. and its Territories. Thus, data available through BISON should not be considered comprehensive in terms of species' geographic ranges or distributions.

8 What is the temporal scope of data available through BISON?

BISON provides access to species occurrence data from any time period that can be represented in a four digit year (YYYY) or year, month, day (YYYY-MM-DD) format (see ISO 8601). A four digit year is BISON's minimum requirement for a species occurrence date or date upon which a species' presence was observed, recorded, or collected. BISON does not currently accommodate geologic time units. However BISON does provide access to species occurrence data that are based on fossil evidence. In this case, the occurrence date usually represents the date upon which the fossil was found and/or the fossil-based observation of the species' presence or occurrence was recorded.

9 What is the taxonomic scope of data available through BISON?

Data available through BISON are not limited to any specific taxon or organism. BISON does not however include occurrence data for all species known to currently or to have historically occurred in Canada, or the U.S. and its Territories. The absence of data for any species in BISON does not prove or indicate the absence of that species from Canada, or the U.S. and its Territories. Thus, data available through BISON should not be considered comprehensive in terms of taxonomic coverage.

10 Who determines the scientific names used in BISON? What is the taxonomic authority?

Each data provider is responsible for choosing what scientific names they will use to refer to species in their datasets. BISON uses the Integrated Taxonomic Information System (ITIS - www.itis.gov) as its taxonomic authority for scientific names and has incorporated an ITIS index into its search functionality. ITIS is extremely rich in U.S. taxa and fully complete for most high-profile taxonomic groups. When a scientific or common name search is conducted in BISON with the ITIS enabled search option selected (this is the default setting), BISON compares the name entered by the user with those in ITIS, and based on that comparison, retrieves all species occurrence records that include an exact match, plus any records for taxonomic synonyms and their children.

Sometimes very different organisms (i.e. a plant and an animal) can have the same scientific or common name and are only distinguishable by their taxonomic name authors and higher taxonomic groupings e.g. the genus Ficus authored by Linnaeus is a group of plant species but it is also a genus of snail species authored by Röding. If the user has chosen an ambiguous name like this for their search, they will be asked to choose from a list of scientific names in order to clarify their search criteria e.g. did they mean to search for the plant or the animal known by that name? The ITIS index and disambiguation capability allows BISON to provide comprehensive search results for individual species and for entire hierarchical taxonomic groups (families, orders, etc.), while also being able to include related, old, invalid/not accepted or ambiguous names.

If a user chooses a scientific or common name for their search that is not currently included in the ITIS index, or if the ITIS enabled search option is not selected, BISON will perform an 'exact-match' search, retrieving only those species occurrence records that include exactly that scientific or common name.