Information Management: Site Standards

IM Guide » Data Submission » Site Standards and Definitions

This page contains lists of site standards for reporting commonly-measured research parameters, as well as definitions of various acronyms used in the  CWT IMS.  

Site Standards

Geographic Measurements

Parameter Site Standard Units Measurement
Geographic coordinates Latitude decimal degrees
(-90 to 90)
Differential GPS
Longitude decimal degrees
(-180 to 180)
Differential GPS
Universal Transverse Mercator,
using WGS84 ellipsoid datum**
zone (number)
easting (m)
northing (m)
Differential GPS

* Coordinates can be read from 1:24,000 scale USGS Digital Raster Graphic maps using software provided by the Information Manager or using ArcGIS

** UTM coordinates will be converted to projection-free latitude and longitude, either by the Data Manager or by data contributors using approved geographic software, and added as new columns in the data set.  Conversion from Lat/Lon to UTM/WGS84 will be provided as an option when requesting data sets online or using offline GCE-IS tools.

Sample Labeling

Sample labeling standards are generally expected to be investigator- or lab-specific, to meet the unique requirements of each investigator's research program.  When designing labels to identify GCE samples, particularly for monitoring efforts, investigators should include the following information on each label:

  • distinct site or location identifier (e.g. CWT site, coordinates)
  • date and time of collection
  • group or treatment identifier (e.g. plot #, transect #, experiment group)
  • unique sample identifier (e.g. sequential number)

When location information other than geographic coordinates or CWT sites are used, the investigator will be asked to provide geographic information for each location at the time of data submission.  If physical samples are retained and stored after analysis, the storage location should be included in the data documentation.

Variable Names

Investigators are strongly encouraged to use the variable name and unit recommendations listed in the table below whenever possible.  This practice will enhance the consistency and readability of all data sets, dramatically easing analysis and comparisons.

When naming variables not listed below, choose descriptive names and capitalize the first letter of each word when concatenating multiple terms (note: spaces and commas are not allowed within variable name or unit strings).  Avoid using names of generic properties, such as 'Mass' or 'Length', without including the name of the property measured as well (e.g. 'Leaf_Length').

Category Parameter Recommended Name Recommend Units
Location geographic
Latitude decimal degrees (-90 to 90)
Longitude decimal degrees (-180 to 180)
UTM_Zone number
UTM_Northing m
UTM_Easting m
permanent plot Plot number
CWT site Site number
CWT station Station text code (e.g. AL+02)
date Date dd-mmm-yyyy (e.g. 05-Feb-2001)
MATLAB serial date
time of day Time hh:mm (e.g. 23:30)
hh:mm:ss (e.g. 22:30:30)
year Year yyyy
(e.g. 2001)
month Month mm
(e.g. 12)
day Day dd
(e.g. 28)
Year day* YearDay day (e.g. 200)
elapsed time Hours h (e.g. 0.55)
General length [Property]_Length
(e.g. Stem_Length)
height [Property]_Height
(e.g. Shoot_Height)
distance Distance m
mass [Property]_Mass
(e.g. Soil_Mass)
percentage [Property]_Percent
(e.g. Organic_Percent)
Hydrology temperature Temperature °C
conductivity Conductivity µS/cm
depth Depth cm

* Year date, or Julian Date, is the number of days elapsed since January 1 of the same year

** Julian day or Julian day number is the number of days elapsed since a starting reference date, such as January 1, 0000 or January 1, 1900.  When Julian days are used, be sure to include the starting year as part of your variable definition in the data documentation (Category IV: Data_Descriptions) or as part of the units string.

Acronym Definitions

Research Themes and Codes 

  • Location Codes
    • CWT - Coweeta Basin
    • LTR - Upper Little Tennessee River Watershed
    • FBR - French Broad River Watershed
    • SAR - Southern Appalachian Region
  • Theme  Codes
    • REG - Regional Characterization
    • WAT - Water Quality and Water Quantity
    • LAN - Land Use and Decision Making
    • CLI - Climate and Climate Change
    • POP - Population and Community Ecology
    • SSI - Synthesis and Scales Integration
  • Project Codes
    • SYN - Synoptic Sampling
    • HAZ - Hazard Sites
    • TER - Terrestrial Gradient
    • IWS - Intensive Watershed Study
    • HHS - Hillslope Hydrogeology Study

LTER Core Research Areas

  • Primary Production
  • Population Studies
  • Movement of Organic Matter
  • Movement of Inorganic Matter
  • Disturbance Patterns