Internet-based Biodiversity Database Workshop April 24 - 27, 2000


Multi-jurisdictional (MJD) Data Project - Providing Access to Species Locations

Shara Howie

Acting Director of Heritage Data Services, Association for Biodiversity Information

The MJD project is an effort being lead by the Association for Biodiversity Information (ABI) to expand the provision of species locations to a wide variety of customers. The initial scope of the data included in this effort includes generalized species data, as well as, species locations for species occurring in the U.S. and Canada. The generalized data includes species descriptions, conservation statuses, management practices, and similar range-wide data. But the emphasis of the MJD effort is to make available, for the first time ever, species locations for all species occurring in the U.S. and Canada through a central point. This effort is unique in that it is creating a central source for current species locations using data from an established network of Natural Heritage Programs and Conservation Data Centers located throughout the U.S. and Canada. Due to time and funding constraints, the MJD effort draws on existing technologies and data management procedures. The data will be aggregated into a centralized database system using an on going 'data exchange' process between ABI's Natural Heritage Central Databases and each data center. The data is provided to customers in an electronic file or through an interactive website. The web site, called NatureServe, will provide a dynamic query form and provide users with several data outputs including viewable reports, hardcopy printouts, and downloadable electronic files.

Some of the reasons ABI and the heritage network are interested in providing species data at a multi-jurisdictional scale are: 1) it promotes large scale conservation planning and action, 2) it meets our customers needs, 3) it provides a high level of recognition and support for individual programs and ABI, and 4) it improves data quality. Some of the advantages of creating the MJD include one-stop shopping for species data and the sharing of data access costs among data users.

There has been significant progress on the MJD effort. Data use agreements have been signed between ABI and 40 U.S. programs, and an agreement with the Canadian programs is close to completion. ABI has aggregated data from more than 20 programs and there are six U.S. federal agencies that are supporting our efforts. In order for the project to be successful, there are a few major areas of activity that must be completed including the development of a standardized pricing structure, the finalization of procedures to ensure appropriate use of data, and the development of a secure web site to serve species locations. In the long term, ABI plans to expand the scope of the data to include Latin American species and plant communities. In order, to ensure ABI customers with the most current data available, the technological implementation of the MJD effort must transfer from a centralized database system approach to a decentralized database system approach.