This is the second in a series of blog posts highlighting new guidance from the Dryad curation team. Part 1 covered human subjects data. Part 2, from curator Shavon Stewart, focuses on best practices for sharing data associated with endangered species.
Ensuring safe data sharing for species under threat
Tasmanian devils, mountain gorillas, and black rhinos all have one thing in common. They are listed as critically endangered on the IUCN Red List of threatened species. Data archived in Dryad are publicly available, therefore, potential risks to endangered and vulnerable species must be carefully assessed before submitting data.
It is imperative that threatened species remain safe in their natural habitat. Publishing location data and habitat descriptions can expose species to hunters, poachers, and wildlife enthusiasts which can lead to their further decline, as well as hinder conservation efforts. The key is to provide fewer details of the species’ location for those with the intention of doing harm, without overly compromising analyses or replication by other researchers.
Here at Dryad, we recommend simple actions such as masking coordinates by a few decimal points or removing exact geo-coordinates from the dataset, which can limit illegal access to these vulnerable creatures.
Researchers who work with vulnerable species are encouraged to consult the following resources prior to submitting data:
- The Endangered Species Act (ESA) and similar organizations offer information on current conservation efforts and programs relevant to the species they are studying. The ESA also provides lists of protected plant and animal species nationally and worldwide.
- The Global Biodiversity Information Facility’s (GBIF) “Guide to Best Practices for Generalising Primary Species-Occurrence Data” provides some guidance in determining whether sensitive occurrence data should be restricted.
- Dryad’s recently added guidance on endangered species summarizes some of this information and includes tips for assessing risk, documentation and otherwise preparing such data to be shared openly.
- If you’re still uncertain, contact the Dryad curation team!