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What Is BIOS?
BIOS is a system that enables the visualization of the spatial distribution of biological data generated by the Department of Fish and Game (DFG) and its Partner Organizations, the management of those data when necessary, and the sharing of those data with Department employees and partners. It is an evolving system and is expected to change in response to the Department's needs and improvements in technology.
The volume of environmental resource data being collected by DFG has ballooned in recent years, and personnel are facing challenges associated with managing, storing, and distributing the data from past and current studies. Complicating this situation is a general lack of standards in terms of how data are recorded in the field, how and where they are stored, and how they are shared. BIOS is designed to help alleviate some of these issues.
One of the mandates of the Biogeographic Data Branch (BDB) of the Department of Fish and Game is to provide high quality scientific information, tools, and expertise needed by Department employees, other government agencies, private organizations, and the public to facilitate the development of informed conservation decisions regarding California's biological resources. Commensurate with this goal is the standardized collection, tracking, and integration of departmental data in support of resource assessment, conservation planning, ecological analysis, and resource management.
- Create an information system to manage and integrate digital and hardcopy information.
- Establish a data management system that provides a standard structure without limiting the ability to gather and analyze field data.
- Provide an information distribution system that facilitates use by Department employees and its partners.
Biological and physical data have been collected by Department and other biologists for decades to record animal and plant observations, habitat conditions, and harvest results. Some observations exist as hand-written notes on paper while others have been captured in the field digitally using PDAs, GIS and/or GPS. All are likely to have some value to current and future biologists in evaluating species and habitat changes; especially if they can be compared within a common system.
BIOS provides a means to share and compare data from biologists in the Department and Partner Organizations by using its ability to manage, archive, display, and distribute information. BIOS staff are continuously working to identify individuals who might have data that can be contributed to BIOS.
Establishing the System
The idea of a general biological observations database has been around for over a decade, and our need for access to this type of information has grown. BIOS is based on principles first defined in a two-year study called Uniform Field Observation Data Management Strategy (UFO). The broad UFO structure came to the fore in the development of the CEQA and 1600 project tracking databases. UFO was designed to track geospatial data as well as attribute data, and was combined with ESRI's ArcIMS to create BIOS.
BIOS provides a statewide, integrated information management tool for biological field data. In the collection and warehousing of datasets, BIOS follows the premise that complete uniformity among all biological databases is unattainable (and undesirable). BIOS, therefore, seeks to identify common themes, to allow for logical data groupings, and to utilize general levels at which datasets can be standardized. In this way BIOS allows data from disparate sources to be collected and considered jointly, exploiting similarities, while allowing for variation in content and focus.
BIOS uses standard guidelines, protocols, and tools that enable the analysis and management of field observation data. Notable features include:
- Recommendations on how to build, collect and store datasets that can be used together,
- Outreach group to locate and incorporate important datasets into BIOS,
- Data warehouse to receive datasets, store them in a consistent manner, and serve spatial and attribute data associated with biological observations,
- Catalog and tools that enable online queries based on attributes and spatial location,
- Management system to create and maintain GIS features,
- ArcIMS (Internet Map Server) to view, query, and retrieve biological and spatial data from BIOS, online.
The primary tool used to share this information is the ArcIMS-based BIOS Data Viewer. The BIOS Data Viewer is an easy to use, interactive, web-based GIS tool that allows basic geospatial viewing and querying without the need for GIS software installed on the user's local computer. Most BIOS data are designated for use by Department employees and Authorized Partners only, and are available through the password protected Data Viewer button on the BIOS homepage. However, there is also a Public Data Viewer on the BIOS homepage that contains datasets that are available to the public (as requested by the data provider). This viewer does not require a password.
The ArcIMS viewer is a mature program that enables observation points to be displayed on a large number of backgrounds including county boundaries, shaded relief, and topographical maps. There is a well-developed sub-program to select particular biological data layers for viewing, and query routines for searches based on a data field, text, geographical area, or geographic coordinates. In addition, the tabular attributes of the features in the map can be displayed. The program also allows the user to export tabular data and to create, annotate and print their own map by choosing the area and data to be displayed. Currently, printing is limited to an 8 1/2 by 11 inch format. Metadata are available and can be displayed for each data layer.
We are currently building a BIOS database with a dynamic structure designed to handle large volumes of data from many different types of bio-spatial projects. This effort originated from the need to compile data from ongoing and past surveys, monitoring and research projects, mainly in Southern California. Future features may include the development of specialized catalogs of data to meet the needs of distinctive audiences. In addition, we are working to allow Internet reporting of incidental observations to serve both BIOS and the California Natural Diversity Data Base (CNDDB).
For the future we are considering additional power and functionality for the BIOS Data Viewer. We would like to be able to select data layers not only from the current host server but from data libraries on dispersed servers at other Department facilities, and provide improved printing, report generation, and analytical capabilities.
The BIOS web site will remain as the portal address for viewing BIOS-integrated datasets. We will be adding information, as it becomes available, to the web site to augment training on the use of the BIOS Data Viewer. We hope to provide in-depth information on the structure of the BIOS database to facilitate consistency in database structure and design, and provide downloadable database packages if these are needed. This should help promote a common use of terms among datasets and provide a powerful search and query function for BIOS. Additionally, this should help the Resources Assessment Program, working with biologists and the BIOS program, to coordinate identification and implementation of standardized field data collection routines for use in their sponsored projects. This would increase the Department's ability to compare different datasets on the same subject, collected by different Department employees and contractors, in different parts of the state.
Contact the BIOS Staff — if you have any questions.