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MVZ Data Capture Guidelines: Specific Localities

MVZ Policies, Guidelines and Procedures > Entering Locality Data into the MVZ Database
Pasu Cathedrals Pasu cathedrals
(about 6000 m asl),
Hunza-Valley, Pasu, Karakoram, Pakistan,
36°30'N, 74°52'E, 2600-2800 m a.s.l.
Type locality of Bufo pseudoraddei baturae

Photo: Matthias Stoeck

The locality is the specific place associated with a specimen, document, or image. Localities refer to, but do not contain, higher geography (cf.) information. A locality can be uniquely defined by geographic coordinates (latitude, longitude, and datum) with or without a descriptive specific locality.

There are two types of locality fields in the database: Verbatim Locality, which is the locality exactly as written in the original field notes, catalog, and/or specimen tags (see collecting events); and Specific Locality, which may or may not be the same as Verbatim Locality. The Verbatim Locality is what should be recorded on the catalog cards. The Specific Locality can differ from the Verbatim Locality in many ways. For example, the Verbatim Locality may include TRS information that should be put in fields separate from Specific Locality in the database. Also, the Verbatim Locality may contain misspellings or unclear/variable word order that should be amended to create a single clear, descriptive Specific Locality during date entry. Specific Locality, but not necessarily Verbatim Locality, should satisfy the "rules" of data entry enumerated below.

Data Entry protocol

Specific Locality: The Specific Locality is meant to refer to the locality from which the specimen was collected from the wild, regardless of whether the animal was brought into captivity and killed at a different time and place. If the wildcaught locality is not known, put the location where the animal died, was killed, or was purchased (e.g., the zoo, aviary, pet store, lab, or market) in the Specific Locality field (see Collecting Events, for more details).

  1. When entering Specific Localities, the highest priority should be to maximize clarity and minimize the possibility of confusion for a global audience.
  2. Do not include higher geography (continent, ocean, sea, island group, island, country, state, province, county, feature) in the Specific Locality unless it references a place name in another geopolitical subdivision, in which case include that subdivision in parentheses. The following example is located in California. Example: 10 mi below Ehrenberg (Arizona), Colorado River
  3. There some situations in which no Specific Locality is given, or no Specific Locality would be appropriate. For example, collecting events on the high seas which are specified by geographic latitude and longitude. Example: North Pacific Ocean, 45 52' 24" N, 165 21' 48" W

    ...Or a collecting event on an island that is specified in the Higher Geography.

    Example: USA, Alaska, Petersburg quad, Thorne Island

    ...In these examples, as well as in record for which appropriate data are missing, the correct value for Specific Locality is, "no specific locality recorded."

  4. Do not anglicize words in Verbatim Locality or Specific Locality. The database currently supports diacriticals only from the Unicode Latin-1 character set, which includes the following:

    Àà Áá Ââ Ãã Ää Åå Ææ Çç Èè Éé Êê Ëë Ìì Íí Îî Ïï Ðð Ññ Òò Óó Ôô Õõ Öö Øø Ùù Úú Ûû Üü Ýý Þþ ßÿ

    Example: Matas do, Departamento, Isla, Río, Montaña, Monte, Carretera, Avenida

  5. Enter Township, Range, Section (TRS), Lat/Long, and elevation data in the separate fields provided for them (see below). Do not enter TRS data in the Specific Locality field.
  6. If an obsolete name for a geographic place is given in Verbatim Locality, put the current name in Specific Locality, followed immediately by the obsolete name in parentheses after an "=".

    Example: Whistler (=Alta Lake=Mons), N of Vancouver, British Columbia

    ...In this example, Whistler has historically been known as Alta Lake and Mons

  7. Specific Locality should start with the most specific part of the locality and end with the most general.

    Example: 0.25 mi S and 1.5 mi W Mt. Edith, Big Belt Mts.
    Not: Big Belt Mts., 0.25 mi S and 1.5 mi W Mt. Edith

  8. Use 'and' rather than '&' when describing multiple directions in localities. Do not omit the 'and' in favor of a comma or any other separator.

    Example 1: Lauterwasser Creek, 1 mi N and 6 mi E Berkeley
    Not: Lauterwasser Creek, 1 mi N, 6 mi E Berkeley

    Example 2: between Davis and Sacramento
    Not: between Davis & Sacramento

  9. Do not abbreviate directions when they are part of a place name.

    Example: S of West Lansing
    Not: S of W Lansing

  10. Use 'of' to clarify the intention of a locality description.

    Example: S of West Lansing

  11. Enter distances in decimals, not as fractions.

    Examples: 1/2 = 0.5; 1/4 = 0.25; 1/8 = 0.125, 1/3 = 0.33, 2/3 = 0.67.

  12. Put a "0" before the decimal in distances between 0 and 1 units (e.g., 0.5 mi, 0.75 km).
  13. Put a period after an abbreviation unless it is a direction or a unit of measure (e.g., mi, N, yds, etc.).

    Example: 1 mi N junction of Hwy. 580 and Hwy. 80
    Not: 1 mi. N. jct. Hwys 580 & 80

  14. Do not put a period at the end of the specific locality except as part of an abbreviation.
  15. Include parentheses when giving a description such as "by road" or "by air," and place the parenthetical between the direction and the named place that it modifies.

    Example: 1 mi N (by road) Berkeley

  16. Capitalize "Junction" only for proper names. When not a proper noun, "junction" should be spelled out and followed by "with" or "of."

    Example 1: 10 km S junction of Hwy. 1 and Hwy. 5
    Example 2: junction of Strawberry Creek with Oxford Ave.

Use only the following Accepted abbreviations:
Word or phrase Abbreviation Comment
yards yds  
feet ft  
meters m  
miles mi  
kilometers km  
east (of) E  
west (of) W  
north (of) N  
south (of) S  
northeast (of) NE  
northwest (of) NW  
southeast (of) SE  
southwest (of) SW  
approximately, about, near ca.  
Highway Hwy. Only as part of a proper noun (e.g., "Hwy. 1", but not "on the highway").
Route Rte. Only as part of a proper noun (e.g., "Rte. 66").
Provincia, Province Prov.  
Departamento Depto.  
Road Rd. Only as part of a proper noun (e.g., "Sunset Rd.", but not "on the road" or "by road").
Saint St. Only as part of a proper noun (e.g., "St. Sebastian Church.").
Mount Mt. Only as part of proper noun in which it is spelled out (e.g., "Mount Holyoke").
Mountains Mts. Only as part of a proper noun (e.g., Rocky Mts., but not "in the mountains N Lake Tahoe").
Number, Número No.  
Avenue Ave.  
Boulevard Blvd.  
United States U.S. e.g., U. S. Forest Service
University of California U.C. Should be followed by a modifer, e.g., U.C. Berkeley
Doctor Dr. e.g., Dr. Pearson's house. Do not use for Not for "Drive" (e.g., "Sunset Drive").

If elevational data are part of the Verbatim Locality, they should be entered into separate elevation fields associated with Specific Locality. The database has three fields for elevation: Minimum Elevation, Maximum Elevation, and Elevation Units (ft, m). If the Verbatim Locality contains an elevational range, e.g., 500-600 ft, these values should be entered into the minimum and maximum elevation fields, respectively. If a single elevation is given in Verbatim Locality, put that value in both the minimum and maximum elevation fields. Do not forget to provide the units.

TRS data:

Township, Range, Section information is sometimes given for collecting localities. If TRS data are part of the Verbatim Locality, they should be entered into the TRS fields associated with Specific Locality in the database. Legal descriptions to 1 mile square sections have 4 parts: the Meridian, Range, Township and Section. Note that an official legal description is always written from the smallest scale to the largest. For example, the NW1/4 SE1/4, sec. 12, T11N, R15E, San Bernardino Meridian is the northwest quarter of the southeast quarter of section 12, Township 11 North, Range 15 East, San Bernardino Meridian. This example describes a square 1/16th of a mile on each side. Collectors often neglect the Meridian in TRS data, and we do not store this information in the database because it can usually be inferred from the state and county. There are 6 fields in the database to accommodate TRS data: 1) Township, 2) Township Direction, 3) Range, 4) Range Direction, 5) Section, and 6) Part. In the above example, the data would be entered as
1) 11
2) N
3) 15
4) E
5) 12
6) NW1/4 SE1/4 (variations on section part may be: SE 1/4, "western half," NW corner, etc.)

A thorough description of TRS data, along with a tool to translate them to latitude and longitude can be found at the following URL:
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