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The Env-DATA Track Annotation Service

The Track Annotation Service in Movebank, part of the Env-DATA System, allows users to add environmental information to animal tracking data and related time-location records. This information includes hundreds of variables that are part of global environmental datasets provided by the European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts, the European Space Agency, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), and others. You can browse information about available datasets here. The Env-DATA Track Annotation Service allows you to select what data to annotate, browse and select environmental variables, choose data interpolation methods, and submit an annotation request.

You must have permission to download data from a study in Movebank in order to access the service (read about data access and permissions here). Anyone who owns animal tracking data can add data to Movebank—all data owners maintain ownership of their data and have full control over who can view their study and view or download data. To get started, see Creating a study and adding data.

To request annotation through Env-DATA,

  • Log in to Movebank and go to Tracking Data Map > Studies.
  • Type in the name of your study and select the name from the list on the left to view the study details.
  • Select Env-DATAStart annotation request from the Studies menu. You'll be asked to choose from three options:
  1. Annotate animal tracking data from this study (most common)
  2. Annotate generic time-location records (for advanced users)
  3. Annotate over a gridded area (for advanced users)

Annotate animal tracking data

  • Choose what animal tracking data you want to annotate. You can select from any of the Tags, Animals, or Deployments in the study, and can choose to include outliers. If the study contains data from multiple types of location sensors, you can also limit the annotation to one sensor type. When you are done select Continue.

  • Next, browse and select the environmental variables you want to annotate. You can browse for variables by data source—such as MODIS satellite products or the ECMWF global weather model—or by variable type—such as elevation or weather. To learn more about individual data sources or variables, click on  and a popup will appear with more information and links. To add a variable, check the box next to it. Selected variables will be listed on the right. You can remove a variable by unchecking the box next to it, or during the next step of the submission. When you are done select Continue.

  • Now, choose an interpolation method for each selected variable. This determines how Movebank will estimate values at each time-location record in the request. Depending on the source dataset, some methods might be unavailable. For a discussion of these interpolation methods, see here. When you are done select Continue.

  • Finally, review a summary of your request. If you need to make changes, select Back to return to the previous steps.
  • When you have confirmed that your request is complete, enter your email address, provide a name for your request, and select Send annotation request. A link will be sent to this address when your annotated dataset is ready for download.

  • A confirmation that your request has been submitted will appear. Select Close.

The time it takes to process your request will depend on the size of your dataset, number of environmental attributes you are annotating, number of other requests being processed, and whether others have recently requested the same environmental data. In general if you want to request a large number of variables from many services, we recommend submitting several smaller requests. You can check on the status of your requests by going to Env-DATA > Show my requests from the Studies menu from any study—the My requests table will list requests you have made from all studies. If you have not gotten your results within a few weeks, please contact with the access key for your request so we can view the status and investigate possible delays. You can find the access key under Overview or Details (third paragraph) in Show my requests.

Access annotated data

When your annotated data file is ready, it will be shown as available in the My requests table (under Env-DATA > Show my requests in the Studies menu). A download link will appear on the right side of the table. Click on this to download your annotated data file. All downloads come as a .zip file containing the annotated data along with a readme file with additional details about the annotated variables—such as units and resolution of the source datasets—and about the data providers—including a link to the source and the provider's terms of use. Delivered requests will remain available for two weeks and then will be removed, so please store your downloaded results in a safe place.

Annotate generic time-location records

To analyze animal movements and space use, it is often helpful to get environmental information for times and locations related to but not the same as the animal location themselves, for example similated movement trajectories or randomly sampled locations within an animal's home range.

screenshot of uploader for generic time-location data

The file must follow the exact format described in the screenshot above. A simple file to annotate looks like this:

2007-04-20 00:00:00.000,-90.12345,25.12345,
2007-04-20 03:00:00.000,-90.12345,25.12345,200
2007-04-20 06:00:00.000,-90.12345,25.12345,

Click Browse to select the file to annotate. If you have submitted previous requests, use Select file to choose from files you have recently uploaded. Then select Continue to choose environmental variables.

Annotate over a gridded area

This option provides raster output for analysis and visualization over a bounding box that covers a study area.

screenshot of form to request annotation over a gridded area

First, provide the NW and SE corners of the bounding box of your grid. You can type in coordinates directly, or select Choose on Map to select the area from a map.
Number of pixels: Next, define the resolution of the output. Typically choose this to be in the same range as the resolution of the original product you will request (contact for help figuring this out). Data are always reprojected.
Number of tiles: This option is to split the output into multiple tiles if you have more than around 2000*2000 pixels. If not, leave the default (1) to get your results in a single raster per timestamp.
Timestamps: Provide one or more times for which to calculate results. You will receive a separate raster for each timestamp.
Output format: Choose from png (image file), png/kmz (georeferenced png image) or geotiff (a raster containing calculated values).
Color scheme: If requesting png or png/kmz, choose a color scheme for creating the images. The names indicate types of variables that the scheme was designed to display. Select RGB Mappings to download a zip file that contains the R, G, B and output values for each scheme, which can be used to better understand the results and create a map legend.
Rescale values to match color map range: This option could be helpful if the results are difficult to see with the available color schemes. Note the RGB mapping values will no longer apply.
After filling out the form, you may want to take a screenshot to more easily repeat or adjust parameters for future requests. You will also see a summary of your chosen parameters before completing the request and in the readme file with your results. Select Continue to choose environmental variables.