A locality is a specific place associated with one or more Collecting Events.  Ultimately, each locality should be a unique polygon in geographic space.  Often, the polygon is a circular estimate with the center as a point defined by latitude and longitude, and the radius as a linear estimate of error.  For electronic mapping, we convert such data to decimal degrees with estimates of error in meters.  Interfaces to the data are more flexible.

A locality includes three types of data

Some caveats:

Locality Name

Locality Name is a globally-unique human-readable “locality ID” commonly used to unambiguously associate one or more catalog records to a locality. Named Localities:

Pro Tip

If you have absolutely no locality data, use the Locality Name NULL Locality Data and skip entering anything else related to locality.

Specific Locality

Locality . Spec_Locality VARCHAR2 (255) null

Will appear as the column header locality_specific in bulkloading tools.

Specific Locality is a standardization of verbatim_locality.

When writing Specific Localities, the highest priority should be to maximize clarity and minimize confusion for a global audience, and for machine understanding (such as automated georeferencing). Geolocate is sometimes really picky on spelling. For example: a locality of “Lodge Pole Creek” was coming back with basically a random point - near a lodge or something a state away. “Lodgepole Creek” (which is also the label on Google Maps) returned accurate data.

Pro Tips

Tip 1: Leave Out Higher Geography

Do not include higher geography (continent, ocean, sea, island group, island, country, state, province, county, feature) in the Specific Locality unless it references a place-name in another geopolitical subdivision, in which case include that subdivision in parentheses. The following is located in California, but the distance is given from a location in Arizona.

Do Don’t
10 mi below Ehrenberg (Arizona), Colorado River 10 mi below Ehrenberg, Arizona, Colorado River

Tip 2: Use ‘No specific locality recorded.’

There are some situations in which no Specific Locality is given. For example, collecting events on the high seas which are specified by geographic latitude and longitude. There are some situations in which no Specific Locality would be appropriate. For example, a collecting event with a locality that is specified in the Higher Geography with no further details. In these examples, as well as in records for which appropriate data are missing, the correct value for Specific Locality is, “No specific locality recorded.” (In contrast to a normal locality, this is a sentence and therefore begins with a capital letter and ends with a period.)

Do Don’t
No specific locality recorded. North Pacific Ocean, 45 52′ 24″ N, 165 21′ 48″ W
No specific locality recorded. USA, Alaska

Tip 3: Use Proper Spelling

Do not anglicize words in Verbatim Locality or Specific Locality. The database supports Unicode, so the limitation is input devices (your keyboard!).

Do Don’t
Las Montañas del Norte Mountains of the North
Las Montañas del Norte Las Montanas del Norte

Tip 4: Use Current Name Conventions

If an obsolete name for a geographic place is given in Verbatim Locality, put the current name in Specific Locality, followed immediately by the obsolete name in parentheses after an “=”. In this example, Whistler has historically been known as Alta Lake and Mons

Do Don’t
Whistler (=Alta Lake=Mons), N of Vancouver Alta Lake, N of Vancouver
Whistler (=Alta Lake=Mons), N of Vancouver Mons, N of Vancouver

Tip 5: Specific to General

Specific Locality should start with the most specific part of the locality and end with the most general.

Do Don’t
0.25 mi S and 1.5 mi W Mt. Edith, Big Belt Mts. Big Belt Mts., 0.25 mi S and 1.5 mi W Mt. Edith

Tip 6: Spell ‘and’ Out

Use ‘and’ rather than ‘&’ when describing multiple directions in localities. Do not omit the ‘and’ in favor of a comma or any other separator.

Do  Don’t
Lauterwasser Creek, 1 mi N and 6 mi E Berkeley Lauterwasser Creek, 1 mi N, 6 mi E Berkeley
between Davis and Sacramento between Davis & Sacramento

Tip 7: Spell out Place Name Directions

Do not abbreviate directions when they are part of a place name.

Do  Don’t
S of West Lansing S of W Lansing

Tip 8: Use ‘of’

Use ‘of‘ to clarify the intention of a locality description.

Do  Don’t
S of West Lansing S West Lansing

Tip 9: Use Decimals

Enter distances in decimals, not as fractions.

Do Don’t
0.5 1/2
0.25 1/4
0.125 1/8
0.33 1/3
0.67 2/3

Tip 10: Use Leading Zeros for Decimal Fractions

Put a “0” before the decimal in distances between 0 and 1 units (e.g., 0.5 mi, 0.75 km).

Tip 11: Use Periods After Abbreviations

Put a period after an abbreviation unless it is a direction or a unit of measure (e.g., mi, N, yds, etc.).

Do Don’t
1 mi N junction of Hwy. 580 and Hwy. 80 1 mi. N. jct. Hwys 580 & 80

Tip 12: Do Not End Localities with a Period

Do not put a period at the end of the specific locality except as part of an abbreviation.

Tip 13: Use Parenthesis For Method of Travel

Include parentheses when giving a description such as “by road” or “by air,” and place the parenthetical between the direction and the named place that it modifies.

Do  Don’t
1 mi N Berkeley (by road) 1 mi by road N Berkeley

Tip 14: Only Capitalize Proper Nouns

Capitalize “Junction” only for proper names. When not a proper noun, “junction” should be spelled out and followed by “with” or “of.”

Do  Don’t
10 km S junction of Hwy. 1 and Hwy. 5 10 km S Junction of Hwy. 1 and Hwy. 5
Strawberry Creek Junction Strawberry Creek junction

Tip 15: Leave out Data that Belongs Elsewhere

Do not include any information which is not locality-related. This includes but is not limited to comments regarding the health of an individual (put them in attributes); past or present weather (Put present weather in collecting event), terrain (put this in catalog record event), or vegetation observations (put in associated species); or local identifiers (add appropriate other identifiers or locality attribute).

Do  Don’t
12.6 mi E of Gladstone, on US 56 12.6 mi E Gladstone, DOR on US 56 additional data collected April 1988 dead on road 11.5 grams little fat LE 11cm, WS 16cm skull ossified testes N2mm 4mm no molt
Approx 5 mi E of Alamos Approx 5 mi E Alamos (on steep rocky hillside w/ heavy brush cover) found below lighthouse after foggy E. wind night
Zuni Webs Zuni Webs Web 2 trap 100 ear tag #8589

Tip 16: Use Standard Abbreviations

Use only the following abbreviations:

Word or phrase Abbreviation Comment
yards yds If space permits, spell out non-metric units. E.g.,“yards”
feet ft If space permits, spell out non-metric units. E.g.,“feet”
meters m  
miles mi If space permits, spell out non-metric units. E.g.,“miles”
kilometers km  
east (of) E  
west (of) W  
north (of) N  
south (of) S  
northeast (of) NE  
northwest (of) NW  
southeast (of) SE  
southwest (of) SW  
approximately, about, near, circa ca.  
Highway Hwy. Only as part of a proper noun (e.g., “Hwy. 1”, but not “on the highway”).
Route Rte. Only as part of a proper noun (e.g., “Rte. 66”).
Provincia, Province Prov.  
Departmento Depto.  
Road Rd. Only as part of a proper noun (e.g., “Sunset Rd.”, but not “on the road” or “by road”).
Mount Mt. Only as part of proper noun in which it is spelled out (e.g., “Mount Holyoke”).
Mountains Mts. Only as part of a proper noun (e.g., Rocky Mts., but not “in the mountains N Lake Tahoe”).
Number, NÀômero No.  
Avenue Ave.  
Boulevard Blvd.  
United States U.S. e.g., U. S. Forest Service
University of California U.C. Should be followed by a modifier, e.g., U.C. Berkeley
Doctor Dr. e.g., Dr. Pearson’s house. Do not use for “Drive” (e.g., “Sunset Drive”).


Locality . Maximum_Elevation NUMBER null Locality . Orig_Elev_Units VARCHAR2 (2) null

Locality . Minimum_Elevation NUMBER null Locality . Orig_Elev_Units VARCHAR2 (2) null


Elevations are a height above mean sea level.  If elevation data are part of the verbatim locality, they should be entered into Minimum Elevation, Maximum Elevation, and Elevation Units (ft, m).  If the Verbatim Locality contains a range for an elevation, e.g., 500-600 ft, these values should be entered into the minimum and maximum elevation fields, respectively.  If a single elevation is given in Verbatim Locality, put that value in both the minimum and maximum elevation fields.


Locality . Max_Depth NUMBER null Locality . Depth_Units VARCHAR2 (2) null

Locality . Min_Depth NUMBER null Locality . Depth_Units VARCHAR2 (2) null


Depths are a distance below the local surface (such as a body of water or soil surface).  The surface may or may not be at sea level, e.g., a mountain lake.  If depth data are part of the verbatim locality, they should be entered as three fields: Minimum Depth, Maximum Depth, and Depth Units (ft, m).  If the verbatim locality contains a depth range, e.g., 500-600 ft, these values should be entered into the minimum and maximum depth fields, respectively.  If a single depth is given in the verbatim locality, put that value in both the minimum and maximum elevation fields. [//]: # Github issue:https://github.com/ArctosDB/documentation-wiki/issues/117


“Verbatim” Township, Range, and Section (TRS) information should, like all verbatim locality data, be entered in verbatim locality. Non-verbatim legacy TRS data may be entered in locality remarks. A thorough description of TRS data, along with a tool to translate them to latitude and longitude can be found in How To Convert Township/Range/Section data to Latitude/Longitude Coordinates Using GeoLocate.


“Verbatim” Universal Transverse Mercator (UTM) information should, like all verbatim locality data, be entered in verbatim locality. Non-verbatim legacy UTM data may be entered (where? what does it do?. See https://github.com/ArctosDB/arctos/issues/6544.


The assigning of latitudes and longitudes to verbal locality data is called georeferencing. Latitude describes a position in degrees north or south of the equator. Longitude describes a position in degrees east or west of the Greenwich meridian. However, coordinates alone are of limited use without information on uncertainty and the coordinate frame of reference (datum).

Protocols for georeferencing natural history collections are described in the MaNIS Georeferencing Guidelines.  Tools that automate these protocols include the Georeferencing Calculator, BioGeomancer, and GeoLocate.  GeoLocate is called as a web service by applications within Arctos.

Coordinates are stored with collecting events and with locality, both optional. Collecting event coordinates are “verbatim” and should reflect some data associated with specimen events. Locality coordinates are part of georeferences, and may be standardizations or corrections of, or additions to verbatim coordinates.

Any locality has zero or one coordinate assertions. “Unaccepted coordinates” are handled by having multiple specimen events referencing multiple localities.

Data Entry has (for brevity) one place for coordinate information, and these data are stored as both verbatim and locality coordinates. Events and localities may be pre-made and selected when these limitations prevent accurately representing the data.

Original Units

collecting_event . Orig_Lat_long_Units VARCHAR(20) null



for geographic coordinates vary with the source of the data.  Classically, latitude and longitude have been recorded in degrees, minute and seconds.  Now, modern GIS applications generally use degrees only, including decimal fractions for all levels of precision.  In Arctos, coordinates are stored and displayed in their original format.  Except for UTMs, coordinates are also translated to, and stored as, decimal degrees for standardization and mapping.  There is not yet programming to convert UTMs to decimal degrees. Include as many digits of precision as are provided in the original data.  Forms in Arctos are customized according to which format is chosen, and the vocabulary and formats are defined and described by a code table.

In all formats, include as many digits of precision as are provided in the original data.

(Geodetic) Datum

Collecting_Event . Datum VARCHAR(40) null



The geodetic datum to which the latitude and longitude refer. A geodetic datum describes the size, shape, origin, and orientation of a coordinate system for mapping the earth. Latitude and longitude data referenced to the wrong datum can result in positional errors of hundreds of meters. Therefore, when providing latitude and longitude data, it is important to know from which datum those data are derived. Most GPS units allow you to select the geodetic data from which its coordinates will be determined (default usually set to WGS84, but this should be checked in the field). Maps and gazetteers generally provide this information as well.

Georeference Source

Locality . GEOREFERENCE_SOURCE VARCHAR(255) not null



refers to the source(s) of the coordinates and not to the source of the error. Coordinates may be original data collected with the cataloged item, or they may be provided by after-the-fact georeferencing efforts. In the latter situation, data in Source(s) should be specific enough to allow anyone in the future to use the same resources to validate the coordinates, or to georeference the same locality. These data might be a list of maps, gazetteers or other resources used to georeference the locality. Examples:

In cases where the coordinates are original data, a description of the original source should be provided. Again, these data should make the coordinates as verifiable as possible by referring to records associated with the cataloged item. Examples:

Georeference Method



is the protocol used to obtain the values for the coordinates and the measure of precision. Different methods and tools have been produced, and are sometimes revised, and these differences can produce different results.  The vocabulary for this field is controlled.

Maximum Uncertainty Distance

Lat_Long . Max_Error_Distance NUMBER null


Lat_Long . Max_Error_Units VARCHAR2(2) null


is the upper limit of the horizontal (as opposed to elevational) distance from the reported latitude and longitude. It describes a circle within which the whole of the described locality lies. Leave the value empty if the uncertainty is unknown, cannot be estimated, or is not applicable (because there are no coordinates). Zero is not a valid value. Maximum Uncertainty is the sum of GPSAccuracy, Extent, and all other sources of error or imprecision.

This is a simple concept, but there are several sources of error which, when correctly combined, often demonstrate a value larger than intuition might suggest. These sources of error are enumerated in the MaNIS Guidelines, and are combined into estimates of total error by the Georeferencing Calculator.

In some circumstances the greatest source of error is the behavior of the collector and/or any intermediary sources of the data. For example, if a locality names a village, the collector may have obtained cataloged items from a resident who forages over a large area near the village. The collector may even have provided coordinates for the village, often from some standard source, implying specificity equal to the extent of the village. Estimating error can therefore be subjective, and conservative interpretation demands large values for Maximum Uncertainty. To avoid ambiguous or misleading locality descriptions, see MVZ’s guidelines.

Note that there is no error inherent to coordinates. {Dec_Lat=12,Dec_Long=34} is precisely the same point as {Dec_Lat=12.000000000000000000000000000000,Dec_Long=34.000000000000000000000000000000}. Make no assumptions of coordinate error or “size” (all coordinates describe a point) based on anything other than asserted maximum error.

For most usage, including exportation to federated portals, the value for Maximum Uncertainty is converted from the original units (recorded here) to the value in meters.


Lat_Long . Lat_Long_Remarks VARCHAR2(4000) null


about the spatial description determination, explaining assumptions made in addition or opposition to the those formalized in the method referred to in Georeference Method.

WKT Polygon

provides for a well-known text shape associated with locality data.

Service-Derived Data

Locality data are pulled from various sources and used in various ways. The most visible of these are “place terms” which may be searched in the catalog record Locality pane, and a summary of which is displayed as “Standardized Place Name” on Catalog Record Detail (GUID) pages. These data provide a mechanism by which all records at or near a point may be discovered by a single search term, regardless of often-inconsistent Curatorial assertions.

Edit Locality Form

Localities used by “verified by….” verificationstatus values may not be edited. If you don’t understand the giant bright red box, please use a contact link.

Many things are paired or dependant. Min, max, and units must be given together for elevation and depth. Coordinates must have datum, source, and protocol. Error cannot exist without coordinates. Fieldset labels on the form will change as form values change to help inform you of these associations.

All coordinates are stored as DD.ddd format. (Verbatim Coordinates are an attribute of Collecting Events.) The form will make conversions.

The webservice data pane has documentation inline. Read it.


Duplicate localities are automatically merged, and unused localities are automatically deleted. A Locality Name will prevent both of these actions and should be used in pre-created localities. Please remove Name from any localities which you no longer intend to use.

How To

Instructions for doing specifc tasks related to Localities in Arctos (please note that “under construction” icons on pages indicate that the documentation may be incomplete or out-of-date):

Edit this Documentation

If you see something that needs to be edited in this document, you can create an issue using the link under the search widget at the top left side of this page, or you can edit directly here.