05 November 2007

Location, location, location

A brief from the Biological Survey of Canada gives recommendations on how to prepare data labels for collections of terrestrial arthropods.

Some pointers from the document:

The absolute minimum label data required on any specimen are locality and collecting date.

Label data must be unambiguous...Accordingly, the use of abbreviations and codes should be minimized.

Private buildings, research stations, businesses, etc. are questionable landmarks because they tend to change name or even disappear...Local names for physical features often do not correspond to official names.


Therefore, buildings and their names and local names should not be the primary means of fixing a location.

The most practical solution to all of the above problems is to include geographic coordinates on each label in addition to the politically defined locality...It is recommended that latitude and longitude readings be given to the second (95°40'12"W) or decimal degree to three decimal places (95.563°W or 95°40.2'W). This information is easily obtained in the field with handheld Global Positioning Systems (GPS).

Although they recommend against using UTM coordinates, I prefer them because they, being in meters, are easier to relate to in the field, especially if one is trying to return to a previous collection spot. However, coordinates in latitude and longitude can easily be converted into UTM or vice versa at this page of the Geodetic Survey of Canada.

...every insect label should have accurate latitude and longitude data, and this is the only locality information really necessary to incorporate the associated specimen into specimen databases or Geographic Information Systems for geographic analysis and distribution mapping.

The collection date is important in establishing phenology, activity periods (e.g., flight times), ecological interactions, etc. The preferred sequence is day.month.year, separated by periods, with the year written in full (13.iv.2001)... The day and year should be in arabic numerals, the month in roman numerals...Time should be expressed using a 24-hour clock.

The name of the collector should appear on the label, partly for credit, but also because it can often help to link the specimen to additional data, especially if field notes are published or archived.

Habitat information should be brief, but as informative as possible.

Where possible, all collecting data should be on the same label.


You may include multiple copies of the same label with your specimen(s), but avoid spreading the vital information on different labels.

These recommendations are, of course, good to follow to prepare a label not just for arthropods, but also for almost any other kind of terrestrial specimen. Tim Pearce and I stressed the importance of recording similar data for land snail collections in our book chapter, Terrestrial gastropoda (Chapter 22 in C. Sturm, T. A. Pearce & A. Valdés, editors, The Mollusks: A Guide to Their Study, Collection, and Preservation. 2006).

1 comment:

Katie said...

I have noticed that some herbarium specimen(s) tend to be somewhat ambiguous regarding the location found. I am glad to see you are encouraging proper labeling with your specimen(s).

BTW, I really like your current cell phone wallpaper!