What is an observation?

We define any identification of a taxa element at a point and place, be it a trailcam picture, animal mark recapture, waterbird survey or an incidental sighting as an observation.  Some are very complex including hundreds of attributes.  For some it may be as simple as an historical observation of Bison in Cassia County in the 1880s.

In order to be able to query all of what we collect regardless of survey and protocol differences it is necessary to standardize every sighting into a core set of fields.  We call this our Core Observation Entity.

Observation Core Entity

  • Species
    • Species Confidence (0-100% with labels for certain thresholds)
    • Count (Integer)
    • Count Type (absolute, estimate, minimum)
    • Sex (unknown, male, female, both, not applicable)
    • Life State (unknown, alive, dead)
    • Life Stage (immature, yearling, nymph, flowering, dormant….)
  • Date Time (from – to range with timezone)
    • Date Confidence (In seconds with labels for certain thresholds)
  • Location (geojson… lat/lng also accepted)
    • Location Confidence (In meters with labels for certain thresholds)
    • Location Resource (text, how location was derived… GPS, Google Maps Click, Lat/Lng Entered)  {may be dropped}
  • Observer(s)
    • Full Name (some part of First or Last name required)
    • Occupation
    • Employer
    • Phone
    • Email
    • Physical address
    • Background (Long Text)
    • Observer Confidence (0-100% with labels for certain thresholds)
  • Observation Methods (seen, heard, scat)
  • Reporter (username)
  • Report Date (timestamp)
The following are also auto-calcuated for all observations:
  • County
  • GMU
  • Region
  • HUC6 (proposed)
  • 5km Grid (proposed)
  • 6km Hex (proposed)

Common Optional Components

  • Site
  • Survey
  • Project
  • Field Methods (under construction)


You can see these core observations and their default settings and user interfaces on our bulk import form (login required) or the basic observations form

New Observations and Survey Upload Form

Do you collect lots of data?  Not about to sit down and upload your observations one by one?

We don't blame you!

Since our start, we've always encouraged our partners and collaborators to share their data with us, but there hasn't been an easy way to do so online. 

We've just changed that with our new Observations Import form.  While not fully automated, this form will allow you to attach your spreadsheets, databases or shapefiles while configuring some sensible defaults.  We'll take it from there and you'll be able to track the status of your import, follow a log of processing and answer questions about observation details we might come across.

You'll find the form here:

*Note:  If you have incidental and/or one-time survey data yet to be compiled into a spreadsheet, you also have the option of populating our MS Excel template which includes our core database values.  Click here to download a spreadsheet with built-in drop-down lists.  Click here to download a copy of the same spreadsheet, but without the built-in drop-down lists.


Idaho State Ranks - in need of Bird Data

We are assessing the state ranks (SRank) for various species to include in the upcoming State Wildlife Action Plan. Listed below is a list of birds where we could use additional information.  Please feel free to submit your entire dataset if it includes multiple species beyond this list.  

please direct any questions to Suzin Romin, or Nikki Wade

Submit your data here, (login required)

If you have incidental and/or one-time survey data yet to be compiled into a spreadsheet, you also have the option of populating our MS Excel template which includes our core database values.  Click here to download a spreadsheet with bulit-in drop-down lists.  Click here to download a copy of the same spreadsheet, but without the built-in drop-down lists.

Common Name Sci Name SRank
Pygmy Nuthatch Sitta pygmaea S1
Pinyon Jay Gymnorhinus cyanocephalus S1
White-winged Crossbill Loxia leucoptera S1
Scott's Oriole Icterus parisorum S1B
Forster's Tern Sterna forsteri S1B
Great Egret Ardea alba S1B
Virginia's Warbler Vermivora virginiae S1B
Common Tern Sterna hirundo S1B
Black Swift Cypseloides niger S1B
Northern Mockingbird Mimus polyglottos S1B
Upland Sandpiper Bartramia longicauda S1B
Harlequin Duck Histrionicus histrionicus S1B
Blue Grosbeak Guiraca caerulea S1B
Black Tern Chlidonias niger S1B
Common Loon Gavia immer S1B,S2N
Trumpeter Swan Cygnus buccinator S1B,S2N
Bohemian Waxwing Bombycilla garrulus S1B,S3N
Eurasian Wigeon Anas penelope S1N
Juniper  Titmouse Baeolophus ridgwayi S2
Boreal Owl Aegolius funereus S2
White-headed Woodpecker Picoides albolarvatus S2
Three-toed Woodpecker Picoides dorsalis S2
Black-throated Sparrow Amphispiza bilineata S2B
Long-billed Curlew Numenius americanus S2B
Cattle Egret Bubulcus ibis S2B
Yellow-billed Cuckoo Coccyzus americanus S2B
Lesser Goldfinch Carduelis psaltria S2B
Grasshopper Sparrow Ammodramus savannarum S2B
Red-necked Grebe Podiceps grisegena S2B
Lark Bunting Calamospiza melanocorys S2B
Merlin Falco columbarius S2B,S2N
Hooded Merganser Lophodytes cucullatus S2B,S3N
Black-backed Woodpecker Picoides arcticus S3
Northern Saw-whet Owl Aegolius acadicus S3
Northern Pygmy-Owl Glaucidium gnoma S3
Loggerhead Shrike Lanius ludovicianus S3
Northern Goshawk Accipiter gentilis S3
Great Gray Owl Strix nebulosa S3
Black Rosy-finch Leucosticte atrata S3
Lesser Scaup Aythya affinis S3
Swainson's Hawk Buteo swainsoni S3B
Wilson's Phalarope Phalaropus tricolor S3B
Flammulated Owl Otus flammeolus S3B
Sage Thrasher Oreoscoptes montanus S3B
Gray Flycatcher Empidonax wrightii S3B
Gray-crowned Rosy-finch Leucosticte tephrocotis S4B,S3N
Species currently not ranked    
Pacific-slope Flycatcher Empidonax difficilis  
White-tailed Ptarmigan Lagopus leucura SNA
American Golden-Plover Pluvialis dominica SNA
Snowy Plover Charadrius alexandrinus SNA
Broad-winged Hawk Buteo platypterus SNA
American Oystercatcher Haematopus palliatus SNA
Gyrfalcon Falco rusticolus SNA
Yellow Rail Coturnicops noveboracensis SNA
Horned Grebe Podiceps auritus SNA
Green Heron Butorides virescens SNA
White-throated Sparrow Zonotrichia albicollis SNA
Golden-crowned Sparrow Zonotrichia atricapilla SNA
Brown Thrasher Toxostoma rufum SNA
Clay-colored Sparrow Spizella pallida SNA
Swamp Sparrow Melospiza georgiana SNA
Ovenbird Seiurus aurocapillus SNA
Curve-billed Thrasher Toxostoma curvirostre SNA
Hoary Redpoll Carduelis hornemanni SNA
Ancient Murrelet Synthliboramphus antiquus SNA
McCown's Longspur Calcarius mccownii SNA
Anna's Hummingbird Calypte anna SNR


Update the data source in an ArcMap project using python, arcpy.mapping

Need to update a path in your ArcMap project to reflect the new location?  Here's how...

There are several methods for updating data sources using arcpy.mapping, check out this help topic from ESRI.  The example listed below is just one of several methods.

 Attach the following python code to a script in the toolbox of the mxd you wish to update.  This will allow you to update the directory the data layer is referencing, but will NOT allow you to change the data layer source name itself.  To change the data layer source name use the 'replaceDataSource' method instead.


import arcpy
mapdoc = arcpy.mapping.MapDocument("CURRENT")
mapdoc.findAndReplaceWorkspacePaths("<the directory you are changing from>" , "<the directory you are changing to>")
del mapdoc


TIPS / Notes:

--You could get fancy and set the 'directory you are changing from' and the 'directory you are changing to' to input arguments.  Then, the script could be used for resetting any project.

--If you don't know the directories your data are referencing you can insert print lyr.dataSource.  This will  return a list of data sources used in the mxd.

--If you know you have broken links in your mxd, here's how to get a list printed to the python shell window.

import arcpy
mapdoc = arcpy.mapping.MapDocument("CURRENT")
brokenlist = arcpy.mapping.ListBrokenDataSources(mapdoc)

      for lyr in brokenlist:      


del mapdoc



Remove Logo Background in a GIS Map: A Step-by-Step Guide

Do you want to add a logo but the background sticks out like a sore thumb on your GIS map?

This may be the help you need.

Download and View PowerpointPresentation


XY Coordinate Validation Rules for Idaho

The following extents are based upon Hydrologic Units Fourth Code (Hydro_HUC4) projected in NAD83 Idaho Tranverse Mercator meters.


UTM XY Coordinate Validation Rules for Idaho GIS data per HUC4 intersecting Idaho


The value for the Northing field must be an integer between 1,000,000 and 9,999,999.

In Idaho, we can narrow that down further (if we want) to ?



The value for the Easting field must be an integer between 100,000 and 999,999.

In Idaho, we can narrow that down further (if we want) to ?


Latitude and Longitude Coordinate Validation Rules for Idaho GIS data per HUC4 intersecting Idaho













Observations, Idaho Species Catalog - Status Lists

TIP: Before you begin be sure to log into your IFWIS account to obtain all the functionality assigned to you.

The Idaho Species Catalog menubar provides three options. This blog describes the functionality of the Idaho Species Catalog (ISC) 'STATUS LISTS' option at . For an introduction to the ISC please view our background blog.

Status Lists allow the user to query and download Conservation Statuses for a species or a taxonomic group. Attributes included are United State Endangered Species Act, Species of Greatest Conservation Need, BLM Type, USFS sensitive species, and IDAPA classification.

Click "FILTER" after you have specified one or all of the criteria under Keyword, Category, and Idaho Classification.  Be sure to "RESET" the filter before you begin a new filter.

Downloading the Status List is easy.  Once you have filtered your species of interest simply click the orange .csv button at the bottom of the page.  The .csv can then be saved and opened in MS Excel.  To download a Status List for the entire state simply make sure there is no filter set and download the .csv.


Observations, Idaho Species Catalog - background

TIP: Before you begin be sure to log into your IFWIS account to obtain all the functionality assigned to you. 

Want to search for a species within the online system? Need a rank or status for a particular species?  Want to download a taxonomy list? Want to verify the species you saw before you enter an observations?  Do it all by exploring the Idaho Species Catalog at, (simply remember "SPECIES" after the idfg url).

Take a Tour - provides background information about 'Observations'.

Start Exploring! - Opens the Idaho Species Catalog.  The Idaho Species Catalog is a great place to start if you want to query for a particular taxa and view the observations. 


The Idaho Species Catalog menubar provides three options.  Here's a brief explanation of each option. 

EXPLORE - the home page of the Idaho Species Catalog. Details on 'explore' can be found here.

STATUS LISTS -Filter and/or download taxonomy lists by species, taxonomy group, or IDAPA classification. Details on 'status lists' can be found here.

EXPORTS - User-defined custom queries on the taxonomy to lists based on a species, groups of species, various statuses, and ranks.  This can also be downloaded to a .csv textfile compatible with MS Excel. Details on 'exports' can be found here.



ArcGIS Server, ArcGIS Online - Questions, Answers, and Resources

ArcGIS Server Services

  • Should we use fewer Services with more layers or more services with fewer layers?
    • From an application performance perspective.
    • From a server demand perspective.
      Is server demand currently an issue?
  • Should we use dedicated services with everything an application needs or general services that can be used by many applications or both?
  • How many services are too many and is that likely to be an actual problem for us in the foreseeable future?
  • Is there any advantage to separating the services that run our applications from services we are sharing?
  • What data are we, and should we be, sharing through services?
  • What can we do to increase the efficiency of our services?
  • What kind monitoring can we set up?
  • What testing can we do?
  • Should we move some of our data and services to the State server or ArcGIS Online?



ArcGIS Server Caching

  • How are our current caches set up?
  • What is being cached?
  • How will they be used?
  • What else do we want to cache?
  • For what layers do we want to build caches and for what do we cache dynamically?
  • Can we do a combination of predefined caching?
    i.e.  Build a cache to a certain scale then cache dynamically beyond that.  Or, cache the most likely layer combinations and dynamically cash the less likely combinations.
  • Does it make sense to cache small simple layers like IDFG Regions beyond the most general zoom levels?
  • How many and how large cached services can we support?


ArcGIS Online

  • What do we have on there now?
  • Where do the data, services, application code actually reside?
  • What are we likely to use it for in the future?
  • Who will be the “Named Users”?
  • How many named users do we want to license?
  • Should we move some of our data and services to the State server or ArcGIS Online?
  • Do we want to upload data, create services, build caches, now while it’s free? Will they delete everything and make us start over.

Observations: Finding and Reviewing

To “View & Export Observations” that have been submitted and entered into the IDFG-IFWIS database, for Animals you can go to, while for Plants you go to  From this page you can begin filtering and querying the data to fit your need.  Filters currently included are by: Common Name, Scientific Name, Category [of species type], and Region.  An updated form will also include filters for Observer and Reporting Organization.  If you require a specific filter, that you believe will be useful by many, please let us know.

These filters should be fairly intuitive, but a helpful note is to remember to “Reset” the filter when you want to change your search criteria, otherwise, the filter will continue to narrow down on the search criteria that are already entered.  You may also increase the number of observations returned per page by changing the Items/page filter.