Data Management

Data management is a process involving a broad range of data handling activities including data policy and administration, data collection and capture, and data longevity and use. A guidance document on best data management practices for bird data is provided by the U.S. North American Bird Conservation Initiative Monitoring Subcommittee.

Taxonomic Names

Scientific (taxonomic) names serve as the common language for sharing data about species and populations. The following sources provide information on standard taxonomic names and classifications:

What is Metadata?

metadata image

Metadata is information that describes a digital data resource such as a dataset, data layer, or map. When metadata is collected, standardized, and stored, it facilitates data use, management, and retrieval. Because there are different types of data and data uses, there are different types of metadata and metadata standards available.

The types of metadata most widely used for sharing biological data are:

  • Descriptive metadata - describes and identifies a data resource.
  • Structural metadata - describes and maps the internal structure of a data resource for its machine-readable display.

Examples of these metadata standards are provided throughout this page.

To learn more about NBII's metadata activities, please visit the NBII Metadata webpage.

Standards & Protocols

Data sharing standards, protocols and common methods set criteria and specifications on structure, format, definitions and representation of digital data resources. Use of these accepted practices increase data compatibility and improve our ability to share data. This page highlights standards, protocols and methods for data sharing and management as well as the projects and initiatives that promote their use in order to improve access to data and information resources needed for bird conservation.

Sharing Monitoring Protocols & Project Information


The Natural Resources Monitoring Partnership (NRMP) is a collaborative effort to increase the open exchange of information regarding ongoing monitoring activities and methodologies. NRMP has developed an internet-based database of monitoring protocols (Monitoring Protocols Library) and a mapping application for finding monitoring projects (Monitoring Locator System), both of which are based on the use of the following standard metadata to describe a protocol or monitoring project:

Use of these standards is required to contribute information on projects and protocols to NRMP. To find information about contributed projects or protocols, visit the NRMP website.

Standards for Exchanging Bird Data within Distributed Data Networks

Data exchange involves submission, transmission and receipt of electronic data via a computerized network. Use of standard metadata and protocols are necessary for mapping and linking the contents of independent databases when these are stored in different formats or have different structures. The following metadata standards and protocols are being used to exchange bird data:

  • Bird Monitoring Data Exchange (BMDE) - an XML metadata schema that extends the Darwin Core metadata standard for use in exchanging bird monitoring data (observational and banding data) across North America. Use of BMDE by the Avian Knowledge Network (AKN) allows retrieval of distributed bird monitoring and banding data from a central location.

  • Darwin Core Metadata Standard - an XML metadata standard used to exchange information about the geographic occurrence of species and the existence of specimens in collections. Use of the Darwin Core metadata standard by the Ornithological Information System (ORNIS) allows simultaneous retrieval of distributed bird specimen data from museums and academic institutions across North America.

  • TDWG Access Protocol for Information Retrieval (TAPIR) - a client/server-based protocol for searching and retrieving information from remote independent databases, linking them into a single searchable virtual collection.

Sharing Information on Biological Datasets

Discovery and identification of biological datasets is facilitated by access to metadata records describing the content, quality, condition and other relevant aspects of a dataset. The following metadata standards are used to describe bird-related datasets:

  • Biological Data Profile (BDP) - An extension of the Federal Geographic Data Committee (FGDC) Content Standards for Digital Geospatial Metadata used to describe spatial and non-geospatial biological datasets in the United States. Use of the BDP metadata standard is mandatory in the federal government, and it is used to document biological datasets developed by federal agencies or from federal funding. To find BDP metadata records describing bird monitoring datasets, please click here. You can also view these and other BDP metadata records in the NBII Metadata Clearinghouse website.

  • Ecological Metadata Language (EML) - An XML metadata standard developed by the academic community to describe ecological datasets. To access EML metadata records visit The Knowledge Network for Biocomplexity website.

Standards for Exchanging Geospatial Data

Geospatial One-stop
[Image: Geospatial One Stop]

OpenGIS Standards - Technical documents developed by the Open Geospatial Consortium (OGC) to encourage implementation of interoperable geospatial content and services, and GIS data processing and exchange.

OpenGIS standards are used in implementing the NBII Geospatial Interoperability Framework, NBII's contribution to Geospatial One Stop, a portal for one-stop access to maps, data and other geospatial services offered by the federal government.

The NBII Program is administered by the Biological Informatics Program of the U.S. Geological Survey
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