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State Fish and Wildlife Explores System Update

In a request for information, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife wants to learn more about “commercial, off-the-shelf observation database” systems.

The logo for the California Department of Fish and Wildlife on the side of a vehicle.
Rocklin, CA - October 10, 2019: State of California Wildlife Officer, Law Enforcement Warden logo on a patrol car.
The department responsible for managing the state’s flora and fauna wants to hear from vendors about potentially updating an online system.

In a request for information (RFI) released Thursday, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) is seeking to learn more about “what is currently available in the marketplace to provide a commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) observation database system.” The RFI, the department said, is a “critical part” of its market research; it seeks “basic information” about organizations, their software capabilities and “information on ... adjacent hosting, support and maintenance services” and how companies will meet the department’s objectives. Among the takeaways:

  • CDFW, which manages the state’s fish, wildlife and plants, and their habitats, is “looking to replace” the California Natural Diversity Database (CNDDB), according to the RFI. The CNDDB is “among the largest, most comprehensive databases of its kind in the world,” compiled over 40 years and with “thousands of records on California’s rarest plants, animals, and natural communities.” Its goal is “to provide the most current information available on the state’s most imperiled elements of natural diversity and to provide tools to analyze these data,” thereby helping shape “informed conservation and management decisions,” help in environmental reviews and the like.
  • CNDDB Program staff work with many “internal and external partners” on lists of special status species and an “ever-growing database of spatially mapped Element Occurrences” (EO) for them. It includes “site characteristics, habitat, number of occurrences, threats,” but not point observation data. Annually, thousands of people collect species data statewide, yielding “thousands more data submissions to the CNDDB” in a variety of formats through differing channels. The preferred data submission method is the Online Field Survey Form (OFSF) web application — but it doesn’t accept bulk data upload and users must enter one observation at a time. Other data forms CNDDB receives include paper/scanned forms, PDF field forms, digital data within a spreadsheet, reports and GIS shapefiles. These may come via email or mail and some are transcribed in OFSF by staff — but others may require “in-depth lengthy review” before being added to the CNDDB. Time-consuming quality control is vital but that process is prolonged because spatial data points and “much of the qualitative data evaluated to create records” aren’t stored. Additionally, complex CNDDB methodology necessitates lengthy staff training of several months to a year.
  • The department’s business problems include having an outdated database and applications that are in some instances more than 40 years old — with code created by contractors long gone. “Establishing a single observation database is considered essential to the ongoing viability of the CNDDB program,” per the RFI. Additionally, there’s a backlog of roughly 100,000 submitted observations. The Biogeographic Data Branch’s “main consumer data product” is a set of EOs delivered to stakeholders via the CNDDB system — but the amount of raw data being received exceeds staff capacity. Current systems also have a “lack of standardized observation data format”; data entry now takes too much time; and the “training proficiency ramp-up” of six to nine months makes hiring temporary staff to handle peak volumes impractical. Current EO summaries “lose detail”; spatial location coordinate “points” created by biologists aren’t stored and have to be re-created later in the process; and source information must be manually retrieved from “disparate” areas. The department also needs the capability to be able to save observations on everything from species information to flowering and fruiting detail to animal behavior. Business objectives include increasing efficiency in data processing and workflows; creating a system to store and preserve species information, “e.g., creation of an observation data system, species taxonomy, element database history”; and expanding and improving the data submission interface.
  • Respondents are asked to provide two or three capabilities that set them apart from other companies; describe their value-added services; and discuss the size of their “software development staff and customer support staff for [their] manufacturing operations software products and/or services.” Respondents are also asked what software they provide that “most closely matches the project and/or process, and environmental review challenges,” in the RFI; the functionalities it serves; and how it supports the required capabilities. Also required: a description of the “integration strategy and/or tools provided for enterprise software system integration,” and any project management and tracking systems or tools that the company uses.
  • Intents to respond and questions on the RFI are due by 5 p.m. Tuesday. Responses to the RFI are due by 3 p.m. May 9. State invitations to “selected vendors” are expected May 16, and vendor demonstration day presentations are expected May 26-31.
Theo Douglas is Assistant Managing Editor of Industry Insider — California.