For additional reading, see the locality section of “Taking Fieldnotes”

What is a locality?

The locality is the specific place associated where a specimen or media object are taken. Localities refer to, but do not contain, higher geography information. A locality can be uniquely defined by geographic coordinates (latitude, longitude, and datum) with or without a descriptive specific locality.

There are two types of locality fields in the database: Verbatim Locality, which is the locality exactly as written in the original field notes, catalog, and/or specimen tags (see Collecting Events); and Specific Locality, which may or may not be the same as Verbatim Locality. The Specific Locality can differ from the Verbatim Locality in many ways. For example, the Verbatim Locality may include Township/Range/Section or coordinate information (latitude/longitude or UTMs) that should be put in fields separate from Specific Locality in the database. Also, the Verbatim Locality may contain misspellings or unclear/variable word order that should be amended to create a single clear, consistent descriptive Specific Locality during data entry. Specific Locality, but not necessarily Verbatim Locality, should satisfy the “rules” of data entry enumerated below.

Read more information about recording localities in the field, including what makes a good versus bad locality.

Data Entry Protocol

Locality Nickname: A Locality Nickname is a simple, convenient way of referencing localities (e.g., survey transects). It is also useful if localities are created prior to data entry, especially if there is a delay before records are loaded into the database. Localities with nicknames will persist in the database while localities without nicknames or associated specimens will be purged periodically as a scheduled task in Arctos.

Specific Locality: The Specific Locality is meant to refer to the locality from which the specimen was collected from the wild, regardless of whether the animal was brought into captivity and killed at a different time and place. If the wild caught locality is not known, put the location where the animal died, was killed, or was purchased (e.g., the zoo, aviary, pet store, lab, or market) in the Specific Locality field (see Collecting Events, for more details on how to deal with captive animals).

  1. When entering Specific Localities, the highest priority should be to maximize clarity and minimize the possibility of confusion for a global audience.
  2. 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 example is located in California:
    Example: 10 mi below Ehrenberg (Arizona), Colorado River
  3. In some cases, Specific Locality is either not given or inappropriate. For example, collecting events on the high seas which are specified by geographic latitude and longitude (Example 1), or a collecting event on an island that is specified in the Higher Geography (Example 2). In these examples, as well as in records where the locality is unknown, enter “no specific locality recorded” in the Specific Locality field.
    Example 1: North Pacific Ocean, 45 52′ 24″ N, 165 21′ 48″ W
    Example 2: USA, Alaska, Petersburg quad, Thorne Island
  4. Do not anglicize words. The database supports diacritics from Unicode Latin-1, which includes the following characters:
    Àà Áá Ââ Ãã Ää Åå Ææ Çç Èè Éé Êê Ëë Ìì Íí Îî Ïï Ðð Ññ Òò Óó Ôô Õõ Öö Øø Ùù Úú Ûû Üü Ýý Þþ ßÿ
    Example: Matas do, Departamento, Isla, Río, Montaña, Monte, Carretera, Avenida
  5. Enter Township, Range, Section (TRS), Latitude/Longitude, and elevation data in the separate fields provided for them (see TRS Data below). Do not enter TRS data in the Specific Locality field.
  6. If the locality provided is obsolete, enter the current name in Specific Locality followed immediately by the obsolete name in parentheses after an “=”. In the example below, Whistler has historically been known as Alta Lake and Mons.
    Example: Whistler (=Alta Lake=Mons), N of Vancouver, British Columbia
  7. Specific Locality should start with the most specific part of the locality and end with the most general.
    Example 1 (correct): 0.25 mi S and 1.5 mi W Mt. Edith, Big Belt Mts.
    Example 2 (incorrect): Big Belt Mts., 0.25 mi S and 1.5 mi W Mt. Edith
  8. Use ‘and’ rather than ‘&’ when describing multiple directions in localities. Do not omit the ‘and’ in favor of a comma or any other separator.
    Example 1 (correct): Lauterwasser Creek, 1 mi N and 6 mi E Berkeley
    Example 2 (incorrect): Lauterwasser Creek, 1 mi N, 6 mi E Berkeley
    Example 3 (correct): between Davis and Sacramento
    Example 4 (incorrect): between Davis & Sacramento
  9. Do not abbreviate directions when they are part of a place name.
    Example 1 (correct): S of West Lansing
    Example 2 (incorrect): S of W Lansing
  10. Use ‘of’ to clarify the intention of a locality description.
    Example: S of West Lansing
  11. Enter distances in decimals, not as fractions (e.g., 1/2 = 0.5; 1/4 = 0.25; 1/8 = 0.125; 1/3 = 0.33; 2/3 = 0.67).
  12. Put a “0” before the decimal in distances between 0 and 1 units (e.g., 0.5 mi, 0.75 km).
  13. Put a period after an abbreviation unless it is a direction or a unit of measure (e.g., mi, N, yds, etc.).
    Example 1 (correct): 1 mi N junction of Hwy. 580 and Hwy. 80
    Example 2 (incorrect): 1 mi. N. jct. Hwys 580 & 80
  14. Do not put a period at the end of the Specific Locality except as part of an abbreviation.
  15. 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.
    Example: 1 mi N (by road) Berkeley
  16. Capitalize “Junction” only for proper names (e.g., Junction City which is in Trinity County, California). When not a proper noun, “junction” should be spelled out and followed by “with” or “of.”
    Example 1: 10 km S junction of Hwy. 1 and Hwy. 5.
    Example 2: junction of Strawberry Creek with Oxford Ave.

Accepted Abbreviations:




north (of)N
south (of)S
east (of)E
west (of)W
northeast (of)NE
northwest (of)NW
southeast (of)SE
southwest (of)SW
approximately, about, near, circaca.
Number, NúmeroNo.
RoadRd.Only as part of a proper noun (e.g., “Sunset Rd.”, but not “on the road” or “by road”).
RouteRte.Only as part of a proper noun (e.g., “Rte. 66”).
HighwayHwy.Only as part of a proper noun (e.g., “Hwy. 1”, but not “on the highway”).
SaintSt.Only as part of a proper noun (e.g., “St. Sebastian Church.”).
MountMt.Only as part of proper noun in which it is spelled out (e.g., “Mount Holyoke”).
MountainsMts.Only as part of a proper noun (e.g., Rocky Mts., but not “in the mountains N Lake Tahoe”).
Provincia, ProvinceProv.
United StatesU.S.e.g., U. S. Forest Service
University of CaliforniaU.C.Should be followed by a modifier (e.g., U.C. Berkeley).
DoctorDr.e.g., Dr. Pearson’s house. Do not use for Not for “Drive” (e.g., “Sunset Drive”).

Elevation: If elevation data are part of the Verbatim Locality, they should be entered into separate elevation fields associated with Specific Locality. The database has three fields for elevation: Minimum Elevation, Maximum Elevation, and Elevation Units (ft, m). If the Verbatim Locality contains an elevational range, 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. Do not forget to provide the units.

Coordinates: Latitude and longitude coordinates are commonly given with locality data. Coordinates have their own set of metadata that are important to record in order to maximize their usefulness. See the Coordinates page for details on how to record coordinate data.

TRS Data: Township, Range, Section (TRS) information is sometimes given for collecting localities. TRS descriptions to 1 mile square sections have 4 parts: the Meridian, Range, Township and Section. Note that an official legal description is always written from the smallest scale to the largest. For example, the NW1/4 SE1/4, sec. 12, T11N, R15E, San Bernardino Meridian is the northwest quarter of the southeast quarter of section 12, Township 11 North, Range 15 East, San Bernardino Meridian. This example describes a square 1/16th of a mile on each side. Collectors most commonly provide township, range, and section data without the details of the part of the section, and often neglect the Meridian. If TRS data are provided, they should be entered as part of the Verbatim Locality and as a locality attribute. In addition, TRS data should be converted to latitude/longitude coordinates for data entry into those fields. Conversions can be done using either GIS or with Earth Point tools for Google Earth. Contact the Staff Curator of Biodiversity Informatics for assistance if necessary.