My East Africa, Madagascar & other wildlife photos

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Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Wildscreen Exchange and tagging photos. How to do it?

If you contribute photos to biodiversity and conservation projects like Encyclopedia Of Life and Wildscreen ARKive, people need to understand your photos. What is in it? What animals do we see? Where was the photo taken? For that purpose you tag your photos. And for automatic and easier processing, you add machine tags to your photos on Flickr.

That is precisely what I do. Actually, all photos on my site are filtered and displayed based on those tags.

With the new Wildscreen Exchange initiative, there will be a need for being able to automatically process the photos as well. But. There is no standard for the tagging of photos yet. So I've started a discussion on Flickr to see what the tagging standard should be.

How should you tag your photos? What do I use?

I've been contributing my wildlife photos to ARKive (now Wildscreen ARKive) and Encyclopedia Of Life groups for years.
I've used extensive tagging (machine tags) as a way to be able to determine what is in the photograph.

In the rules for Wildscreen Exchange I've only read that you should provide tags that sum up all context of the photo as good as possible. With thousands of photos it will be impossible to manually sort photos, so you need to be able to automate this. Hence: machine tags.

I suggest to read the ARKive discussion on tags
. It may be a good thing to also read this discussion in the Encyclopedia Of Life group.

Machine tags
A machine tag is just like a normal tag, but it follows a special format. Machine tags always have 3 parts:

namespace:predicate=value

It may sound more complicated than it is. For geo location data e.g. a machine tag is geo:city=Amsterdam. It defines a city within the geo namespace. For machine tags with values that contain a space, always put the tag between double quotes. E.g. "geo:city=New York".

Machine tags: taxonomy
The machine tags I think that should be available for all wildlife (species) is:
- "taxonomy:binomial=Genus species" Example for the common lion: "taxonomy:binomial=Panthera leo"
- "taxonomy:common=English common name" It can be useful to add common names as well, Example for the lion: "taxonomy:common=Lion"
-> note: the taxonomy:common= is a standard, but does not provide for different locales, e.g. en-GB or nl-NL. I provide common names in English and Dutch for all species, but they are now mixed up.

Other machine tags I use are within the taxonomy standard for each level of the taxonomy:
- taxonomy:kingdom=*
- taxonomy: phylum=*
- taxonomy:class=*
- taxonomy:order=*
- taxonomy:family=*
- taxonomy:genus=*
and all intermediate super, sub, infra, parv, etc. levels.
As well as:
- taxonomy:species= for the species identifier, e.g. for the lion taxonomy:species=leo.
- taxonomy:trinomial=, for subspecies e.g. for the Masai lion subspecies "taxonomy:trinomial=Panthera leo nubica".
- taxonomy:subspecies=, ith optional subspecies separately, e.g. taxonomy:subspecies=nubica.


Geo tags
The location of the photos is also important; it can help identify your species and it can also help with identifying regional differences and even (new) subspecies. Geotags can be provided in 2 ways:
1. Geolocation in your photo (in the metadata; automatically by GPS or with your photo editing tool) or manually added with the Maps tool on Flickr.
2. Explicit machine tags for geo location.

Ad 2: for geo location there are a few standard tags: that define all your geological properties. The following are quite standard:
- geo:lon=* (for longitude, e.g. geo:lon=-122.257704)
- geo:lat=* (for latitude, e.g. geo:lat=37.8721)
- geo:alt=* (for altitude in meters, e.g. geo:alt=1432.56)
- geo:country=* (e.g. geo:country=DE for Germany; always use the 2-letter ISO standard, see en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ISO_3166-1_alpha-2 )
- geo:city=* (e.g. "geo:city=New York")
- geo:river=*
- geo:lake=*
- geo:state=*
- geo:county=*
- geo:bay=*
- geo:ocean=*
And there are many more you can think of. All a bit less standard and useful to me. I only use the 2 letter ISO standard for the country, to avoid any confusion in spelling. E.g. The Netherlands can be: geo:country=Netherlands, geo:country=Holland geo:country=Nederland, "geo:country=The Netherlands". So geo:country=NL avoids confusion.

Machine tags: collected / found in the wild?
Other machine tags I use is a (semi) standard for whether the species in the photo is captive or wild. Useful information, especially if you use geodata in photos to determine range.

Related to manner of collection:
- collectingevent:CollectingMethod="UV light trap"
- collectingevent:ValidDistributionFlag=true (false for specimens in zoos, aquaria, botanical gardens)
That last bears comment. Flagging whether the location of the photo indicates a valid part of the species range is important. There will, of course, be many photos from zoos and botanical gardens, and while it is useful to include the locality (probably), it is also useful to indicate whether that locality is representative of the species range. See also this Encyclopedia Of Life discussion on Flickr

Machine tags: biology
Related to biology of organism. Can be useful, but I use it as additional tags in some cases.
- biological:sex=female (other values: male, hermaphrodite)
- biological:lifestage=adult (other values: juvenile, nymph, ...)
- biological:length="11mm"

Machine tags: IUCN Red List category
Find the Red List status of a species. This list is used by ARKive in this way.
- status:IUCN=Extinct or status:IUCN=EX
- status:IUCN="Extinct in the wild" or status:IUCN=EW
- status:IUCN="Critically endangered" or status:IUCN=CR
- status:IUCN=Endangered or status:IUCN=EN
- status:IUCN=Vulnerable or status:IUCN=VU
- status:IUCN="Near threatened" or status:IUCN=NT
- status:IUCN="Least concern" or status:IUCN=LC
- status:IUCN="Data deficient" or status:IUCN=DD
- status:IUCN="Not evaluated" or status:IUCN=NE

Wildscreen Exchange - The new conservation initiative with photos

Attention all Flickr users! Wildscreen - formerly known as ARKive where Schaapmans contributes his photos - is developing an exciting new initiative, the Wildscreen Exchange, and we are looking for contributions. Are you interested in donating images to empower conservation organisations and support their campaigns, education and storytelling? Head on over to the new Wildscreen Exchange Flickr group to find out more.

And what is this Wildscreen Exchange?
Launching Autumn 2014, Wildscreen Exchange will be a unique global hub for all conservation communications. It will empower conservation organisations with free and affordable premium digital media to enable the most inspiring and impactful campaigning, educating and storytelling.
Powered by over 30 years worth of industry relationships, Exchange will position Wildscreen as an honest broker between content creators and conservation organisations, unlocking an unparalleled collection of digital media, providing a toolkit to empower and drive conservation communications with their audiences and amplifying the impact that powerful and emotive imagery can have on raising environmental awareness amongst the mass population.
Of course Schaapmans was one of the early adopters ;-) The 4th member in the group and contributed over 400 photos already (about 95% of all photos). Basically I dumped all photos that are already shared with Encyclopedia Of Life and Wildscreen ARKive to this group. A good initiative: spreading images further than just an organisation or 2. All non-profit organisations that have an interest in biodiversity and nature conservation can now take advantage of this soon huge photo archive.

Spread the news. Spread the photos. Spread the awareness. Spread the knowledge.