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Types of data  

The ALA hosts a wealth of biodiversity data including specimen and observation data. 

Specimen data

Specimen data is often an organism, photograph, sound, or other multimedia file of a species that has been scientifically collected by, and managed in, a natural history collection, a museum or herbarium.

Observation data 

Observation data is a record of the sighting of an organism by an individual or member of an organisation such as a community environment group. Observations may be supported by a photograph, sound, or other multimedia file. 


cartoon graphic showing the different types of records in ALA. These include living specimen, fossil specimen, human observation, environmental DNA, image, sound 

Specimen and observation data are supplemented by: 

  • images—often drawn from Morphbank
  • literature describing the species—usually taken from the Biodiversity Heritage Library
  • molecular DNA data—drawn from BOLD
  • identification keys
  • species profile (descriptive) data drawn from a wide range of sources
  • nomenclatural data taken from National Species Lists
  • information on the data provider
  • indicators of the conservation or other sensitivity status, e.g., conservation sensitive species
  • geospatial, geopolitical, and environmental layers used in the Spatial Portal as an overlay on maps of species occurrence data

Summary of data  

Currently, the ALA has over 100 million occurrence records! 

A substantial portion of our dataset is made up of bird records (~50 million records) followed by: 

  • Plant records (~15 million) 
  • Invertebrates (~5 million) 
  • Fish (~3 million) 
  • Mammals (~ 3 million) 
  • Reptiles (~ 1 million)  
  • Amphibians (~700,000) 
  • Fungi (~15,000) 

colourful data visualisation showing the different types of taxa in the ALA with different sized circles. Birds are the largest group, represented by a large orange circle. Other groups are descending in size based on the number of records. Fungi is the smallest group, shown with a small purple circle

Data sources  

The ALA is a data aggregator, which means we rely on data custodians to share their data. Data on the ALA comes from many different sources including: 

  • Museum and natural history collections 
  • Universities 
  • Indigenous ecological knowledge holders 
  • Science agencies 
  • Individuals 
  • Community and conservation groups 
  • Government  
  • Industry 


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