Distribution by collection data - what does this mean?

OZCAM - The Online Zoological Collections of Australian Museums

Museums estimate the distribution of animal, plant and mineral groups by building collections that include information about each specimen, including what species it is, where it was collected, as well as when, how and by whom. This is used for many purposes ranging from looking at relationships between species, to conservation planning activities such as selecting new areas for National Parks or for development applications. The Online Zoological Collections of Australian Museums (OZCAM) website performs this function for many users, including scientists, land managers and planners.

Natural history collection databases that have been made web accessible and integrated with mapping technology - such as Google Maps - make it very easy for people to understand the distribution of a particular species. All of the known locations from which that species has been collected can be shown on a map. However, the distribution of the species based on this collection data is only an estimate, as it shows just those locations where that species was actually looked for and found. There may be many other places in which a species occurs but has not yet been collected or recorded.

One way to overcome the limitations of collections in estimating a species' distribution is to model its environmental niche (the position it occupies in its environment). This involves using existing known locations of a species to define what type of environment that species has already been found in and then suggesting other locations where the same conditions exist. Websites such as OZCAM enables users to do this.


What is OZCAM?

OZCAM is a web based system for accessing and analysing biodiversity distribution that currently enables access to around 1 million records from museum databases around Australia. The OZCAM website was developed by the Atlas of Living Australia.

By working with the Atlas of Living Australia (ALA), OZCAM will greatly increase the amount of biodiversity data available to users for mapping and analysis.

How does OZCAM work?

OZCAM provides tools for accessing and analysing biodiversity data. It enables visualisation of data through a map interface and provides analytical tools for helping planners and scientists to investigate biodiversity distribution and explore possible climate change impacts on biodiversity. By pioneering web delivery techniques for biodiversity data, tthe ALA and OZCAM teams are broadening access to both biodiversity information and innovative methodologies for analysing it.

How can OZCAM be used?

Scientists, planners and land managers need to study, understand and sustainably manage biodiversity. They can use OZCAM to:

Discover what species have been collected in an area.

create reports and maps

view related images and information for species

download the data for use in desktop applications (eg for site assessments)

Find and map where species have been collected
  • search by common or scientific names
  • find where and when a species was recorded/collected
  • create a map of where a species has been found
  • overlay point locations on a range of information layers
Find images of and information about species
  • search by species names
  • include in reports
Predict the environmental niche of a species using current and future climate scenarios
  • screen capture a map of the predicted area
  • how might a species range change from climate change
  • Identify the most important areas at which to carry out biodiversity surveys
  • choose locations requiring biodiversity survey based on what environments have inadequate survey coverage
  • download the coordinates to a spreadsheet


Paul Flemons
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Tags collections, data, mapping, BioMaps, distribution, databases, CIAU, Informatics,