data access

Dennis Paulson dpaulson at UPS.EDU
Mon May 23 10:58:31 CDT 1994

It's good that we are having frank discussions of the problems with
unlimited access to data. For spotted owl specimens they have given us, we
have been asked by the Washington Department of Wildlife not to list
locations in the computer or on the specimen tags to anything more specific
than county, as they think someone (logging-company executive? out-of-work
logger?) will either check the specimen or query the database so they can
track down individual spotted owls to exterminate them (or for pre-emptive
logging?). Although nothing is mandatory, they have requested we keep the
exact data in a separate file. Is this paranoia or a very real possibility?

As others have written, in our bird database we allow electronic inquiry
only to the level of county, but it appears that now we must carefully
screen even visitors to our collection, which has been relatively open to
browsers (local artists, naturalists, birdwatchers, etc.), who we have
allowed "look but don't touch" privilege in our specimen cases. We
routinely let people look through specimen card files in the mammal
collection to search for records from particular regions (it's not
completely computerized). We presume people are bona fide researchers but
haven't asked for letters of recommendation for those we don't know
personally or by reputation.

Has anyone else felt the need (or the pressure) to withhold locality data
from bird and mammal specimen labels? Herbarium sheets? Does anyone file
rare cacti and orchids in "restricted access" folders or obscure the
locality data on specimen tags of rare species?

It's a shame that we have to be concerned with such matters just as we're
all getting GPS receivers that allow us to pinpoint specimen localities
within 50 meters!

Dennis Paulson, Director
Slater Museum of Natural History
University of Puget Sound
Tacoma, WA 98416
dpaulson at

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