The University of Queensland, 4068
tsx@uq.edu.au

Contributing data

How can I contribute my threatened species monitoring data to the index?

The TSX has been made possible through the contributions of 100s of individuals and teams responsible for monitoring threatened species across Australia, and through the collaboration and support of our index partners.

The current index includes threatened Australian birds, mammals and plants, and we are hoping to expand to other taxonomic groups in future.

If you are involved in a monitoring program that collects population-related measures for an Australian threatened species, your data may be able to contribute to growing the TSX. To contribute or find out more, please contact our project team via email: tsx@uq.edu.au.

What data are useful for the index?

Calculating trends requires “time series” data. A time series is when data is collected at the same place, over time and with the same method, which allows us to be able to compare the results from different years.

In order for your data to be able to be used as a time series for the Threatened Species Index, it must:

  • Be collected at the same specific place each time, not in a general region, e.g. ‘Sherwood Arboretum’ is acceptable, ‘Brisbane’ is not.
  • Have full resolution coordinates (e.g. a latitude and longitude) with a specified datum/projection e.g. WGS84
  • Be collected in at least two different years.
  • Contain information on the year the survey was undertaken. However, month and date is also helpful for seasonal comparisons if that information is available.
  • Specify the species and (if applicable) the subspecies that was surveyed.
  • Specify what you counted (e.g. nests) and have a count, e.g. 50.
  • Be collected with the same method each time.  Metadata on effort, such as survey duration and size of area surveyed, are also important so that we can compare ‘apples with apples’.

What data are not useful for the index

  • One-off surveys (i.e. incidental sightings).
  • While incidental observations are valuable for spatial applications such as defining/modelling species ranges, one-off data points cannot be used to build a time series which are needed to accurately estimate population trends.

How to maximise the usefulness of your data?

Be consistent. Don’t change survey methods/protocols. Survey in the same season/month each time, especially when this is influential. For example, Far Eastern Curlew numbers have been going up in Darwin Harbour over the last decade, but a shift in the survey timing (to winter, for example) could completing undermine the trend data, as Far Eastern Curlews are migratory and only present in Australia at particular times of year.

Decide what you are counting. Choose the unit of measurement you use and stick to it. Examples include counts of breeding pairs, nests or individuals, trapping rates, densities of individuals (counts over fixed areas/transects) or occupancy rate (no. of presences / no. of absences).

Monitor for the long-term. Although a time series can be as short as two years, this is an extremely short time-frame. The longer you monitor a site, and the more consistently surveyed it is, the greater the ability to detect change. Note that monitoring sites every year is preferable; however, the TSX can include time-series with missed years, which occurs commonly in ecological monitoring (due to gaps in finances, fieldworker availability or even something as mundane as a vehicle breakdown on the way to a site one year!).

Add to existing time series. Why start a new time series from year zero if someone around the corner has been surveying a site for 10 years already?  Find out if you can help to keep their monitoring going, replicating their method to ensure consistency in survey effort and methodology.

Record true absences of species. Zero counts are just as important in ecological data as non-zero counts. If absences or non-detections of a species are not recorded then trend estimates may be significantly biased.

Collect representative data. Try to sample sites across the entire species range, but don’t try to do too much. You don’t need to count every individual every year to get a reliable population trend.

Are my data good enough?

Probably yes! You don’t need to be a professor of science with decades of experience to do good monitoring. As long as data are collected consistently and repeatedly they are probably more than good enough. Some of the best ecological monitoring data in the world are collected by citizen scientists who follow strict and consistent protocols.

Does it matter what methods/protocols I use?

As long as you use only a single, consistent method/protocol at a site each time, your data are likely to be good enough to include in the TSX. However, it is worth finding out methods/protocols others monitoring your species are using. If you can use the same protocols as others do, this opens up more opportunities to compare data from different sites.

How often should I survey?

A general rule is at least once per year, however there are exceptions. Sometimes once every 2 or 3 years is sufficient and for some species multiple surveys in a single year across different seasons may be needed. It really depends on the ecology of the species.

If you provide data from surveys more than once per year, we will aggregate these data (by taking an average, maximum, or calculate reporting rates) to obtain a single annual value per site. If there are seasonal considerations we can limit aggregation to appropriate months for your species.

Get in touch

If you are interested in contributing data to the TSX and have queries about how to do so, please get in touch via email: tsx@uq.edu.au.

You can download the data upload template here.

Reference

Collen, B., J. Loh, S. Whitmee, L. McRae, R. Amin, and J. E. Baillie. 2009. Monitoring change in vertebrate abundance: the Living Planet Index. Conservation Biology 23:317-327.How

Threatened Species Index data factsheet