Frequently Asked Questions - Data Entry


Q: I already have data entered into a digital database, do I have to re-enter it all into HerpMapper to participate?

A: Absolutely not. Checkout our page on importing data into HerpMapper.

Q: My cell phone and my camera both have built-in GPS. If I add multiple shots to a record, which image does HerpMapper use to extract coordinates?

A: HerpMapper composites an 'average' GPS location from all submitted voucher images.

Q: Can I submit an image or audio voucher?

A: On the mobile app users can select images (.jpg) on both Android and Apple devices. Audio voucher recording is supported within the app on Android, Apple, and Windows devices. Image and audio vouchers may both be submitted via the website.

Q: Does HerpMapper accept video files?

A: No, but users can extract audio (.mp3) files from videos. Many different free software programs online.

Q: How many pictures are required for a record?

A: As many as are needed to help confirm the ID of an animal. Some species may require many photos to show the important diagnostic characteristics such as anal plates, costal grooves, or labial scales. In some cases a photo might not be enough but an audio recording of a call might help (e.g., Hyla chrysoscelis vs. Hyla versicolor).

Q: Should I catch a state or federally listed amphibian or reptile to get a voucher photo?

A: No. Capturing state or federally-listed wildlife requires a permit. If at all possible, try to get a voucher without disturbing the individual animal. If you are unable to get a voucher, it is still a good idea to report the observation to your state or federal wildlife agency.

Q: Should I record observations found on private property?

A: Yes, provided all applicable rules and regulations are followed. Do not trespass on private property.

Q. Are there ethical herping guidelines?

A. HerpMapper is in the process of developing Herping Ethics, in the meantime we encourage herpers to review and follow MW PARC's Field Herpetology Etiquette.

Q. What if I am unsure which species my record is?

A. Herpmapper will allow you to enter just a genus name for the taxon. That way other Herpmapper users may be able to suggest the correct species for you or at least users will be able to access that record knowing there was some question to its identity. It is helpful in these cases to add some comments in the Notes box informing other users why the species is left unidentified. A few species groups that are frequently confused can be entered as groups, such as Hyla versicolor/chrysoscelis. This option will be visible as you start to type the name.

Q. My record shows up with the name "Unknown ID" as the common name? Why does this happen? How can I fix it?

A. The Herpmapper database attempts to have the correct Common Name associated with each taxon. But Herpmapper does not restrict you to entering only recognized taxonomic names. This is done to allow the entry of newly described taxa or recently changed taxa that may later be recognized by the database.

When Herpmapper cannot match your taxonomic name to a particular taxon in the database, it records it as you entered it with the common name "Unknown ID". Here are some of the common reasons this can happen and how you can fix it.

  1. The taxonomic name you used is new and hasn't been added to the database. In this situation, when the new taxon is added your record will automatically be recognized and the new common name will replace the "unknown ID" label. If you feel the new name should already be in the database, feel free to contact us and we will investigate it.
  2. There may be a misspelling in the taxonomic name. This is a common cause of error. Double check your spelling of the name against online databases like The Reptile Database or Amphibian Species of the World. If you feel that your spelling is correct and the error is in Herpmapper, please let us know.
  3. Herpmapper will accept identification to genus level, however it won't recognize the text sp. after the genus name. So if you enter Thamnophis it will label your record as belonging to the "Gartersnakes". If you enter Thamnophis sp., it will not recognize it and label it "Unknown ID".
  4. Many subspecies are not currently in the database. If you enter a subspecies for your animal, it may not be recognized and be labeled with "Unknown ID". In this case, you can try removing the subspecies name and see if the species is recognized. If you want to have the subspecies in your record, you may want to just add the subspecies name as a note. Or you can leave it as "unknown ID" in anticipation of the subspecies being entered in the future.

Q. I entered a record as one taxon, but Herpmapper changed my identification to another name. Why did this happen?

A. In an effort to remain taxonomically up to date Herpmapper is constantly being updated. When updates are made, synonyms are recorded for new taxa so that old records can be automatically moved to the new taxon. If you enter data using one of these older names, Herpmapper will recognize the synonymy and change the name to the new taxon name for you.

Q: Should dead amphibians or reptiles be recorded?

A: Yes! Even though an amphibian or reptile may be dead, its presence in an area or timing of observation may be valuable to conservation and research scientists. WARNING: We do not encourage users to put themselves in harms way to document amphibians and reptiles found on public roadways. DO NOT put yourself in harms way.

Q: If I find multiple individuals of a single species in a specific area, should I create a record for each?

A: Yes, if you have the time and ability to do so. Collecting multiple observations for species in a given area has value, whether within a single day, month, or year, or between many years.

Q: Should I put in a record for each of the common species I see? What's the point of making so many records of common stuff?

A: "Keeping Common Species Common" is an important goal in wildife conservation. All of those repetitious records are valuable because they help to establish a baseline of commonality - "In 2015, Lizard Species X was very common in Area Y" - and this can be monitored across time. (Google "keeping common species common" for much more info on this subject).

Q: I have observation data for a sensitive species, but I am not sure I should create a record for it. What if someone figures out the location? Should I alter the point location data to protect the actual location?

A: HerpMapper is designed to protect locality data. Public view of records is restricted to the county level, and for some areas where counties may be very small and/or highly urbanized, access is restricted to larger spatial areas. You can also choose to check the "Hide this record from the public" checkbox when creating a record. Under no circumstances should you enter records with altered locality data. Such records are useless and in some cases may negatively impact species conservation efforts. If you are uncomfortable about entering a record, then please do not.

Q: Can I enter historical observations, or observations from the recent past?

A: Yes, as long as you know the location and date of the observation. In order to report past observations, you will need to login to the HerpMapper website and enter data using the web-interface.