Practical guidance for integrating data management into long-term ecological monitoring projects
Long-term monitoring and research projects are essential to understand ecological change and the effectiveness of management activities. An inherent characteristic of long-term projects is the need for consistent data collection over time, requiring rigorous attention to data management and quality assurance. Recent papers have provided broad recommendations for data management; however, practitioners need more detailed guidance and examples. We present general yet detailed guidance for the development of comprehensive, concise, and effective data management for monitoring projects. The guidance is presented as a graded approach, matching the scale of data management to the needs of the organization and the complexity of the project. We address the following topics: roles and responsibilities; consistent and precise data collection; calibration of field crews and instrumentation; management of tabular, photographic, video, and sound data; data completeness and quality; development of metadata; archiving data; and evaluation of existing data from other sources. This guidance will help practitioners execute effective data management, thereby, improving the quality and usability of data for meeting project objectives as well as broader meta- analysis and macrosystem ecology research.