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Published December 19, 2022 | Version v1
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Mobilizing animal GPS tracking data to Movebank and GBIF - Project report for the NLBIF project "MOVE2GBIF"

  • 1. Dutch Bryological and Lichenological Society
  • 2. Research Institute for Nature and Forest (INBO)
  • 3. Movebank, Max Planck Institute of Animal Behavior
  • 4. Sovon Dutch Centre for Field Ornithology
  • 5. Radboud University & NIOO


Movebank is a leading global platform for animal tracking and other animal-borne (a.k.a. bio-logging) sensor data (Kays et al., 2022). It is used by over 3,500 data owners to collect, manage, share, and archive >4 billion location records describing movements of 1,252 taxa in over 7,500 user-managed studies. While Movebank is well known within movement ecology and wildlife management circles, it remains less recognized as a source of general purpose occurrence data. Like most other remotely-sensed animal occurrence data, data from Movebank are not discoverable or accessible through the Global Biodiversity Information Facility (GBIF). This lack of integration across platforms limits the potential for interdisciplinary collaboration, and for the use of remotely-sensed species occurrence data in conservation assessments and other products that rely on GBIF.

The goal of this project was to develop an open-source workflow to make animal GPS tracking data on Movebank accessible to the GBIF community. This workflow consists of best practices and software to allow semi-automated publication of Movebank data to GBIF. We developed, refined and demonstrated this workflow by publishing a set of datasets from the Netherlands Institute of Ecology (NIOO-KNAW) and the Research Institute for Nature and Forest (INBO) that represent similar and relatively straightforward methodology and quality (avian GPS tracking). In this project, we aimed to complete three work packages:

  1. Publish five NIOO-KNAW bird GPS tracking studies as open data on Movebank.
  2. Create best practices and software to publish Movebank animal GPS tracking data to GBIF.
  3. Publish 11 bird GPS tracking datasets from Movebank to GBIF.

We published data from five Oystercatcher GPS studies in the Netherlands as open data on Movebank and Zenodo. These datasets collectively contain 6 million GPS positions and 164 million acceleration measurements and are formatted as Frictionless Data Packages (Walsch and Pollock, 2017) to facilitate understanding and access. The datasets are described in an open-access data paper published in ZooKeys (van der Kolk et al., 2022).

We developed a new open-source R package "movepub" (Desmet, 2022), that automates the transformation of Movebank data to Darwin Core and metadata to Ecological Metadata Language (EML). Members of the Darwin Core Maintenance Group and Machine Observation Interest Group at TDWG reviewed the suggested transformation to Darwin Core. We created and published best practices to aid Movebank users in publishing their animal GPS tracking data to GBIF and published these on the Movebank website.

We then used the R package to transform 15 datasets to Darwin Core Archives and published these via an Integrated Publishing Toolkit (IPT) to GBIF. We also registered the marine datasets with the Ocean Biodiversity Information Facility (OBIS).

Overall, we reached or surpassed the goals of this project. The developed workflow proved successful and is already used to support other mobilization efforts. The resulting datasets, software and data paper all acknowledge NLBIF for its support and are publicly accessible.


This project was realized with a financial contribution from Stichting NLBIF - Netherlands Biodiversity Information Facility. NLBIF supports Dutch organizations and researchers in putting biodiversity data online via in an open and internationally standardized manner.


MOVE2GBIF - Project report.pdf

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