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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. 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.

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.

See below for instructions on how to submit a request for annotated data and tips for how to access and interpret results.

Annotate animal tracking data

The Env-DATA Track Annotation Service allows you to select tracks to annotate, browse and select environmental variables, choose data interpolation methods, and submit a data request. To use the service,

  • 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.
  • 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 you have data from multiple sensor types in your study, you can also limit the annotation to one sensor type. When you are done select Continue.

  • Now you will browse and select the environmental variables you want to annotate to your tracking data. You can browse for variables either by data source—such as MODIS satellite datasets or the ECMWF global weather model—or by variable type—such as elevation or weather. To get additional details 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.

  • Next you will choose an interpolation method for each selected variable. This determines how Movebank will estimate values at the specific locations and times where your animals were observed. 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 data annotation request. Check that the correct tracking data, environmental variables, and interpolation methods are listed. 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 a .csv with the annotated data along with a readme.txt file with additional information. Delivered requests will remain available for two weeks and then will be removed, so please store your downloaded results in a safe place.

All data files contain the following attributes:

  • Event ID: unique identifier from your study in Movebank)
  • Location lat: latitude in decimal degrees, WGS84 reference system
  • Location long: longitude in decimal degrees, WGS84 reference system
  • Timestamp: the time of the location estimates from your study in Movebank, in UTC
  • Individual/Tag local identifier: animal and/or tag IDs from your study in Movebank
Additional columns will contain the annotated environmental data. Details about these 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—are available in the readme.txt file.