OSR - How Did It Die?

A Task Group of the Observations and Specimens Interest Group

task group

How did it die?

'How did it die?' is a placeholder name for the Task Group until the name is agreed.

Convenor

  • Sophia Ratcliffe, NBN Trust, UK

Core members

  • Quentin Groom, Meise Botanic Garden, Belgium
  • Janeen Jones, The Field Museum, Chicago, United States
  • Libby Ellwood, Natural History Museum of Los Angeles, United States

Motivation

There is a requirement that species records express whether the organism was dead or alive at the time of the observation or collection, and what the cause of any death was. Currently no such explicit terms exist in Darwin Core.

The addition of such terms will improve the interoperability of datasets relating to, but not limited to, the monitoring and reporting of:

  • roadkill;
  • Biodiversity Action Plans/mortality of endangered species;
  • marine animal strandings;
  • hunting and culling activities;
  • disease control;
  • communicating the origins (causes of death) of collected specimens;
  • contemporary and deep time mortality events;
  • quantifying by-catch in invasive species control programs; and
  • identifying optimal specimens for genetic research.

Goals, outputs, and outcomes

  1. to propose a new Darwin Core term, including a controlled vocabulary, to express whether the organism was dead or alive (or dormant?) at the time of the observation or collection;
  2. to propose a new Darwin Core term, including a controlled vocabulary, to detail the cause of death;
  3. to develop use cases to support the addition of each term and the vocabulary for cause of death; and
  4. provide datasets where the terms and vocabularies have been implemented.

The scope of the terms, their names and vocabularies will be discussed within the Task Group and also cross Task Groups with other disciplines.

Strategy

  • Agree Task Group name
  • The scope of the terms will be agreed before proposing names and developing controlled vocabularies.
  • The outputs will be produced by the convener and core members in consultation with any other interested parties.
  • Information on the group’s deliverables will be maintained on GitHub.
  • Meetings will be conducted online, with communication via email.
  • The Task Group will submit its proposals to TDWG’s journal BISS and follow the TDWG Vocabulary Maintenance Standard for any final proposals to be adopted.

Timeline

21-25 September 2020 (How did it die? Working session, TDWG 2020 virtual conference)

  • Agree Task Group name
  • Agree scope and proposed names for the terms.
  • Decide whether to make separate proposals for the two terms, which might be more efficient as cause of death is the more complex of the two concepts.
  • Agree proposed controlled vocabulary for the term to express whether the organism was dead or alive at the time of the observation or collection.

November 2020

  • Finalise use cases for the term to express whether the organism was dead or alive at the time of the observation or collection.

March 2021

  • Agree proposed controlled vocabulary and finalise use cases for the term for cause of death.

May 2021

  • Provide datasets where the terms and vocabularies have been implemented.
  • Submit proposals to TDWG’s journal BISS.

Becoming involved

This Task Group welcomes anyone who has a practical interest in recording and reporting biodiversity occurrence or collection records. The group may need support for the development of machine-readable vocabularies.

History/context

The breadth of disciplines that will benefit from the inclusion of the terms was apparent by the range of interest at the Unconference session ‘How did it die?’, Biodiversity_Next, Leiden, October 2019.

As a pilot the NBN Atlas (https://nbnatlas.org/) started using the term vitality in October 2019 and now (June 2020) has over 1.6 million records with the attribute. There is no default value; the value (alive or dead) is as supplied by the data provider.

Summary

The vitality of the organism at the time of the observation or collection is an important attribute of a species record, which currently cannot be expressed in a machine-readable manner. This group has been convened to propose the addition of terms, and associated controlled vocabularies, to Darwin Core to enable the interoperability of datasets that hold information on the vitality of the organism and any cause of death.

Resources

Examples of datasets that use the term vitality: