Wednesday, December 15, 2010

NZBRN unplugged

Jon Sullivan describes how to enter NZBRN in the back of beyond far from internet connections.

You're lazing at the family bach or at a campground and you're keen to count some birds and butterflies. Good on you! How will you share these observations with the world through NZBRN? You will of course have already joined NZBRN (for free). Now what? Well, you could jot things down in a notebook and enter them in when you get back home.

That works but it's also work when you get back from holiday and work is no fun. If your mobile phone or iPod has database or spreadsheet capabilities or if you've got your laptop in tow, you can also enter your data directly using the NZBRN Excel templates. That way all you need to do is upload your observations to NZBRN when you get home. Which is much quicker.

To do this, you’ll need to take with you the Excel spreadsheet template for the group(s) of your choice (Birds, Plants, Fungi, Frogs and lizards, Mammals, Invertebrates). Before you go, download these from the relevant portals of the NZBRN website. The template is found by pushing the "Excel upload" button, which you'll find after pushing the "Create Records" button on the entry page of each portal. Or, you can just grab them here (we aim to please).

Once you've got the spreadsheets, you can enter in as many observations as you like. It's got all the instructions you need and full species lists and standard place lists and all sorts of other spreadsheet goodness. If you don't have Microsoft Excel, it works just fine on the free OpenOffice or the mobile Documents2Go, among others. You can also put it on an iPod Touch or iPhone or other hand-held gadget (I particularly like the simple, elegant TapForms app for iPod Touch and iPhone, which is shown in the screenshot above). If you like to get fancy with computers, you can convert it into a database which displays just the data entry options you need.

When you're working on the spreadsheet, you won't have access to the NZBRN website's nice Google maps for assigning new places. If the place you're at is not on the >50,000 place names listed in the spreadsheet, or if you want to get more precise, then the spreadsheet allows you to enter a GPS coordinate as an Easting and Northing, in either NZMG (New Zealand Map Grid), used by all the old NZMS260 contour maps, or the new NZTM coordinate system. Remember to also specify the accuracy of your point, from 5 m to 5 km. Note that if your GPS was set for lat-long, or you don't have a GPS or topomaps, you can also get lat-long coordinates later from GoogleEarth. You can convert them all to NZMG or NZTM at

Once you're back and wired up to the internet, you can paste your rows, 200 at a time, into the same NZBRN page of the website where you downloaded your template. At each upload, NZBRN will check your records and ask for clarification if there is anything that is not quite as expected. It will then let you know if everything has been uploaded. It’s that easy.

Really big spreadsheets can be emailed to us for uploading. Our planned next iteration of NZBRN should allow direct uploading of spreadsheets and remove this 200 row per upload limit.


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