How to Use the Catalog
The monitoring locations that are described in the Catalog are associated with one or more projects, and each of these projects is assigned to an organization. Information stored for each monitoring location includes where it is located, its period of record (beginning and ending dates of data collection), what projects use its data, and other details. This User Guide explains how the Catalog works.
Information stored about each project includes the name of the organization that sponsored/initiated it, contact information, a link to the data collected (if available), what data are collected and at what frequency, activity dates, and information about the objectives and design of the project.
The geospatial database that contains the Catalog's metadata can be viewed and downloaded either in tabular form (data tables) or spatially (on a map). To view the metadata in tabular form, choose the Browse or Search menu option. To view the monitoring locations spatially, choose the Map menu option. Both options provide browsing and searching tools and download options.
The Browse, Search and Map functions provided by the Catalog will allow you to answer these questions:
- Who? Using the Catalog's Browse, Search and Map tools, you can find all monitoring locations associated with a particular organization. Similarly, you can find all monitoring locations associated with a particular project or projects.
- What? You can use the Search and Map tools to find all monitoring locations that are collecting a certain kind of data (recruitment, habitat extent, species diversity, for example) or that focus on a particular species or group of species (largemouth bass, mollusks, invasive species, for example)
- Where? The interactive Map tool allows you easily to visualize where monitoring is being performed.
- When? The Search and Map tools allow you to search for monitoring locations based on the timing of data collection, by specifying a "period of record" and/or data collection frequency.
- Why? Each monitoring location is associated with one or more projects. By reviewing the description(s) of the project(s) associated with a monitoring site, you can discover what those who established it hope to learn from the data collected.
Once you have identified a list of monitoring locations that are of interest, you may download their information (metadata) in one of several formats. Data tables may be downloaded in tab-delimited (.txt file) or comma-separated (.csv file) format. These files may be read with text editors or spreadsheet/data analysis programs. Mapped data may be downloaded in Keyhole Markup Language format (.kml file), readable by Google Earth and other geographical information viewers.
Frequently Asked Questions
- Q: Will I be able to use the Catalog to get the "actual data" – i.e., the monitoring results?
A: Yes, in most cases. Where available, links to online sources of parametric data will be provided. If no link is available, contact information for the monitoring organization can be used to request the data from the source.
- Q: What types of monitoring are of interest?
A: Metadata associated with all types of habitat and species monitoring are appropriate for inclusion in the Catalog.
- Q: My monitoring data are already submitted to a government agency. Do I need to submit it to the Catalog?
A: Possibly not, but your help is still needed to check the accuracy and completeness of the metadata that appears in the catalog, and to correct it if necessary.
- Q: How often is the metadata updated?
A: Primary responsibility for providing updates lies with the project that is performing the monitoring. Whenever feasible, periodic automatic updates will be performed, using metadata from federal, state and regional databases. The frequency of these updates will vary depending on the source.
- Q: Can I send you a file containing my metadata?
A: Yes. Contact us and we will assist you in creating a properly-formatted file. The User Guide includes a sample metadata submission form.
- Q: I already report monitoring data/metadata to other agencies. Can I reuse the files I send them?
A: Possibly, if the files have the same or very similar fields and are in a format we support. Contact us for guidance.
- Q: Can volunteer monitoring organizations participate?
A: Yes. The Catalog contains metadata from many different kinds of organizations—governments, educational and research institutions, and nonprofits that perform "citizen science" environmental monitoring as an educational or civic endeavor.
- Q: If my organization is not listed, can I still submit metadata?
A: Yes. Contact us to discuss adding your organization to the database and we can provide you with login credentials.
- Q: Do you need metadata for sites that are not currently active?
A: Possibly. Knowledge of the existence of sites with legacy data is useful for researchers who are investigating resource trends.