Notice: This is the charter submitted on 26-Feb-2007 and is not the group's latest charter.
See the latest group charter for more up-to-date information.

Observation and Specimen Records (OSR) Interest Group Charter

TDWG Interest Group


Steve Kelling
Cornell Lab of Ornithology
Cornell University
158 Sapsucker Woods Rd.
Ithaca NY 14850

Core Members

  • Walter G. Berendsohn
    Botanic Garden and Botanical Museum Berlin-Dahlem
    Freie Universität Berlin
    Königin-Luise-Straße 6-8,
    D-14191 Berlin, Germany.
    Phone: (+4930) 838-50143
    Fax (+4930) 841729-43
    Email: w.berendsohn(at)
  • John Wieczorek
    Museum of Vertebrate Zoology
    University of California
    Berkeley, CA 94720, USA
    Phone: 01-510-642-5409
    Fax: 01-510-643-8238
    Email: tuco-at-berkeley-dot-edu


  • Observational data, whether comprised of measurements gathered through specific procedures, or specimens maintained in biological collections provide the overwhelming majority of data resources for biodiversity studies.
  • The nucleus of all observational data is the record of the occurrence of an organism at a specific location on a specific date.
  • The goal of this interest group is to explore concepts and methods of biodiversity data description and standards development that provide the basis for modelling species' distribution and abundance from basic occurrence data.

Becoming Involved

  • Anyone with and interest in organizing observational and specimen data can be involved.
  • Contact Steve Kelling (stk2(at)


  • Activities that gather observational data include specimens collected and housed in biological collections, data gathered via sensor-derived measurements, or survey or monitoring data gathered by trained or volunteer observers. The focus of this interest group is on specimen data and survey and monitoring data.
  • Observational data maintained in biological collections provide the physical evidence for the geographic occurrence of organisms in the environment. Collections document and archive species taxonomy, diversity and distribution and provide the most dependable resource for biodiversity studies. Collections serve a key role by documenting, through a physical specimen, the historic through present day occurrence of organisms in the environment. At the same time, specimens are indispensable as vouchers for research in fields ranging from molecular genetic research to Ethnobiology. Specimens allow re-visiting the original material and falsifying its determination.
  • Observational data gathered by observers can be classified as either systematic and directed surveys or monitoring and surveillance surveys. Systematic and directed surveys are based on the needs and data requirements necessary for hypothesis testing. Most of the data are gathered by trained observers following strict protocols. Monitoring and surveillance surveys seek to track the trends and patterns of species occurrence and abundance over time. These surveys typically use simple and straight-forward protocols and may rely on volunteers to gather data.


  • Identify the priority issues to discuss in the Interest Group
  • Explore the similarities and differences in observational and specimen records
  • Define core data items for data discovery in key subject areas
  • Discuss issues that are unique to observational or specimen records. This could include discussions of collection event, gathering protocols, and related issues.
  • Provide semantic definitions for data items in biological collections that provide a complete representation of observational or specimen data.
  • Formally investigate observational and specimen data attributes and identify those that overlap, those that should be characterized by other standards, and those that require input from other working groups to provide the appropriate description.
  • Discuss the problems of data integration paying particular attention to the processes of data flow between data providers, data integrators, and other data users. Identify standards needed for these processes.
  • Consider how to represent information relating to data-gathering protocols, to support either human or machine selections of data sets for particular analyses.
  • Support and provide input as well as detail to the TDWG core ontology, identify objects that may be assigned GUIDs and vocabularies that may need to be developed.


Most primary biodiversity is based on observational data, which consists of observer-derived measurements of organisms in the environment, or specimens collected in the environment and stored within Natural History collections. There is sufficient overlap in the information stored in observational data and specimen records to allow existing data standards to integrate these data types. However, specific data types have unique requirements that need to be addressed. The purpose of this Interest Group is to explore concepts and methods of biodiversity data description, integration and transfer that fully integrate specimen and observational data into existing data exchange schemas.


  Last Modified: 07 May 2007