25 Jan 2023 The VBA is back online after a software update. Searches and Maps are functioning again and data can be added and edited
Please note the new URL: https://vba.biodiversity.vic.gov.au/
All the VBA services are now in one place. This should make the tools much faster for you and will enable us to make more incremental updates and improvements going forward.
How can I contribute?
The VBA species observations are a foundation dataset that feeds into some of the many biodiversity tools used in everyday decision making - showing where wildlife is now and how this has changed over time. This makes it a core input to the majority of the governments processes and programs that impact native species.
It is used in conservation status assessments, assessment of major emergencies such as the Bushfire Response to the 19/20 fires, Habitat Distribution Models (HDMs) that feed into the Strategic Management Prospects and Native Vegetation Removal Regulations and into our public land management, research activities and State of the Environment reporting.
Monitoring and time series data, where you have visited the same site over multiple seasons or years using the same method to count individuals, can tell us so much more than one off and chance observations. If you are a keen naturalist, especially in the bushfire affected areas, and have data on any native species not currently in the Victorian Biodiversity Atlas, please get in touch.
1. Best available data
Quadrats or surveys that meet national standards (e.g. see EPBC guidelines as examples; see links below)
Data needs to contain information on when the survey was undertaken. Year, month and day is useful for seasonal comparisons, if that information is available.
Specify the species that was surveyed. Where applicable and possible, identify species to the subspecies level.
Specify what was surveyed (eg nests; woody plants only) and have a count or abundance, eg 50 or Cover abundance score of Domin 5.
Survey data - repeat visits should collect data using the same method. Please specify the survey method in the data. Metadata on effort, such as survey duration and size of area surveyed, are also important.
2. Additional data – VBA Go
One-off surveys or incidental sightings – if possible, collect information on the numbers and status of the species (e.g. breeding; fire killed).
Incidental observations are valuable for spatial applications such as defining/modelling species ranges. However, one-off data points cannot be used to build a time series, which are needed to accurately estimate population trends over time.
Other data collection apps – if you regularly use other apps to record species information (such as iNaturalist or Birdata), your information will be passed on to us, but it will take a little longer due to the additional processing required.
Be consistent. Don’t change survey methods/protocols. If possible, survey in the same season/month each time, especially when this is influential.
Decide what you are counting. Choose the unit of measurement you use and stick to it: example things to measure are quadrats, breeding pairs, nests, traps, counts of individuals; densities of individuals (counts over fixed areas/transects) or occupancy (# presences/# absences).
Monitor for the long-term. Although a time series can be as short as two years, the longer you monitor a site and the more consistently a site is surveyed, the greater the ability to detect change.
Add to existing time series. Why start a new time series from year zero if someone around the corner has already been surveying a site for 10 years? Find out their method and contribute to this data-set by repeating what they did.
Record true absences of species. If absences or non-detections of a species are not recorded, then trend estimates may be significantly inflated. So, if you are doing a targeted survey in an area you expect/ know a species population use to occur and do not see it – record that effort with a species count of zero.
Collect representative data. Try to sample sites across the landscape, but don’t try to do too much. You don’t need to count every individual every year to get a reliable population trend.
Probably yes! You don’t need to be a professor of science with decades of experience to do good monitoring. As long as data are collected consistently and repeatedly, they are likely to be valuable.
No. As long as you use only a single, consistent method/protocol at a site each time. However, it is worth finding out methods/protocols that other people monitoring your species are using. If you can use the same protocols as others, this creates greater more opportunities to compare data.
Guidelines are available if you want more information:
Knowing where and how many non-native predators, herbivores and weed species there are is useful information and will also help us prioritise actions to protect native species. We don’t need the same level of detail for these, just the species, where and the date they were seen. These can be shared via VBA Go.
What is the Victorian Biodiversity Atlas?
The VBA species observations are a foundation dataset that feeds into some of the many biodiversity tools used in DELWP’s everyday decision making - showing where wildlife is now and how this has changed over time. This makes it a core input to the majority of the governments processes and programs that impact native species.
It is used in conservation status assessments, Habitat Distribution Models (HDMs) that feed into the Strategic Management Prospects and Native Vegetation Removal Regulations and into our public land management, research activities and State of the Environment reporting.
You can use the atlas to search and map species from across the state, check for threatened species in your area. Also, by sharing your observations in the VBA format you can help us measure the progress to meeting the Biodiversity 2037 targets.
Adding your records to the VBA is your main way to influence a range of government investment, regulation and management decisions.
The VBA includes a dynamic list of all species found in Victoria and provides information including conservation status. Currently there are more than seven million records of species distribution and abundance collated from many different data providers.
Questions and Answers
The VBA includes most species recorded in the state: plants, some fungi, birds, mammals, fish, reptiles, amphibians and most invertebrates. This includes both native and introduced species (including weeds and pest animals).We work with other government agencies such as the Royal Botanic Gardens and Museums Victoria to ensure we maintain an up to date species lists and current conservation status from state, national and international treaties.
DELWP considers that some information held in the VBA is sensitive, so the general level of access will only show you an approximate site location for these records.
We have reviewed the sensitive data policy to make it more consistent and transparent allowing for protections to not only the species but also types of observations that may result in harm to a population.
Data may be considered sensitive for many reasons including:
- conservation, e.g. the locations of threatened species or species subject to illegal poaching (e.g. CITES listed species)
- privacy, e.g. records from private property, observer's names etc.
- species targeted for hunting
- species sensitive to recreational disturbance
- species at risk of collection, e.g. orchids
- species at risk of having conservation actions prevented
- species at risk of general trade
- other reasons specified by the Data Provider
To aid in determining if data is sensitive and should be restricted in the VBA we have a decision tree that also takes into account when this list or process should be revised.
You can apply for access to sensitive data by emailing email@example.com. Your request will be considered based on the type of data and the reason for your request. Access to data that has not been reviewed is restricted – only the contributor and the expert reviewers have access to the data until they have been independently verified.
The full species checklist including conservation and restricted status is available to download direct from the VBA application (Search > Download Species Checklist), alternatively the list below is a snapshot:
You can request a species is considered for inclusion on this list by completing a nomination form and submitting to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Anyone can access the VBA as a guest to search for species in an area.
If you want to see detailed records and contribute your own observations you will first need to register and agree to the VBA terms & conditions of use, noting that sensitive data will denatured. See above about how to access full access to restricted datasets.
To help you to get started this is a link to different video tutorials on sharing and viewing VBA data.
Alternatively, spatial datasets containing the latest VBA data are also available. Download spatial datasets:
Visit the Victorian Spatial DataMart website
Visit the Victorian Government DataVic portal
The VBA dataset is collated from a wide range of contributors including DELWP biodiversity staff, government agencies and partner organisations, non-government organisation such as BirdLife Australia, ecological consultancies, university students and the many and varied community wildlife survey groups.
The majority of the data is from project based work where structured surveys were undertaken to assess presence or abundance of targeted species. It also includes all the records from previous department managed datasets such as the Victorian Rare and Threatened Plant Population monitoring database ((VROTpop).
DELWP manages the data in conjunction with key partners, including reviewing and verifying new records, error checking and managing the consequences of taxonomic (classification) and nomenclature (naming) changes.All new records submitted are forwarded to the appropriate expert to verify. DELWP completes the expert review cycle approximately every 4 months. After this time all newly approved records are available in the VBA reports area and new VBA spatial datasets will be released.
As part of emergency operations for critically impacted species you may have been involved in animal and plant translocation projects. For these records it is important to record both the location of where the individuals where taken from and where they end up, be it wild to wild translocation or being places in captivity or herbariums.
As this is a unique type of data we have some specific methodology and guidance to assist you.
Recording where plant and animal populations are and where activities to protect and improve our environment are delivered is increasingly important to understand how our activities are impacting Victorian biodiversity. In order to gather consistent information where the Department has invested in species assessment or monitoring work the following standards have been developed to align with the VBA.
These standards describe what makes up a species occurrence record and will assist you in collecting the minimum required attributes so your records can be easily shared and compiled into the VBA dataset and used many times, maximizing the benefit of your efforts.
Further information can be obtained by emailing email@example.com. We endeavour to respond to all emails within 5 working days.
Page last updated: 25/01/23