Making your observations available for research and authorities
After you have made an observation and identified it, or even if you are unsure about identifying it, the next crucial step is to get your observation into databases. Only then can it be used by scientists and authorities. In Tasmania, this is particularly relevant, as data on the Natural Values Atlas has to be regarded in Environmental Impact Assessments.
Databases fulfil two main functions for you: They let you upload your observations, and they let you check which observations have already been made. There are a number of databases around, and it can be confusing which one to use. See below for a quick overview.
Our recommendation is to use iNaturalist to upload data, and the LIST Map to access existing data.
iNaturalist is an online network for logging and sharing data about the natural environment. It can be used as a learning tool, a way to connect with nature, and to create a database of what species are found where. It is also being used, indirectly, to inform planning authorities in Tasmania about natural values of an area (more about this in a moment!).
We recommend that you use this for recording information, as it is easy to use, free, and has a large pool of knowledge from other users that you can tap in to! On top of that, the observations that are put in to iNaturalist are also being put in to a database that must be consulted for developments and for land management.* This means that your data can help to inform those that are making decisions about land-use in Tasmania.
*Note: This transfer of data is in it's early stages, so it still quite slow and can take up to 3 months. This is likely to speed in a few year.
iNaturalist is relatively easy to use. The best place to start is to go to the iNaturalist website and check out their written and video tutorials.
The LIST Map
The Land Information Service Tasmania (LIST) Map can be accessed for free here. It is much more than a map, and can be used to geographically display an enormous amount of data.
The most useful feature is to add Layers to the map. You can simply do this by clicking on the blue 'Layers' button in the top right corner and going through the pop-up menu. For example, you can add layers called 'Threatened Fauna Point' or 'Threatened Flora Point', which will give you point on the map for where threatened species were recorded. You can zoom into one of these point and click on it to find what exactly the record is about.
A fun thing to do is to add these layers to the map, and then zoom into an area that you know well or have access to. Maybe you spot some gaps that you can fill. Do you know where eastern barred bandicoots live, but they are not on the map? Use iNaturalist to add them.
Check out the LIST website here for in-depth instructions on using the map.
The Natural Values Atlas
The Natural Values Atlas (NVA) is Tasmania's main database for recording all kinds of ecological information. It is important, because everyone in Tasmania who prepares and environmental impact assessment or natural values report is required to check the NVA. So observations have to be on there, or there is a good chance that they will be missed in these reports.
However, the NVA is awaiting an update and is currently a bit difficult to use. The easiest way of getting an observation into the NVA is via iNaturalist. Only if you are under time pressure it might be worth to try to use the NVA directly.
The Atlas of Living Australia
The Atlas of Living Australia (ALA) is similar to the NVA, and both datasets are connected, but it is for the whole of Australia. The ALA is more user friendly, so if you just want to have a look around, it can be a fun thing to use.
Check out this brochure for a quick overview.
TASVEG is The Digital Vegetation Map of Tasmania, and basically a map of vegetation communities that occur in Tasmania. The easiest way to access TASVEG is as a layer in the LIST Map, called 'TASVEG 4.0'. There is a array of different vegetation communities, and if you want to find out more about them, you can download the free guide From Forest to Fjaeldmark.
The problem with TASVEG is that a lot of it only comes from satellite images, and has not been confirmed by ground surveys. So it is often inaccurate. A fun thing to do, though slightly more advanced, is to find the TASVEG community for a certain area where you have access to, and then go out and compare whether you see is actually what is recorded on TASVEG. See this guide for instructions.