Data Management using National Ecological Observatory Network’s (NEON) Small Mammal Data with Accompanying Lesson on Mark Recapture Analysis

Field technicians at NEON small mammal field site (Source: National Ecological Observatory Network – Battelle)


Jim McNeil1 and Megan A. Jones2

1Smithsonian-Mason School of Conservation, George Mason University, Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute, Front Royal, VA, 22630

2National Ecological Observatory Network – Battelle, Boulder, CO 80301

Corresponding author: Megan A. Jones (


How are ecological data collected? How can good data management practices be incorporated into scientific practice (including field collection, data sheets, spreadsheets, and metadata)? How can the number of organisms in an area be estimated?


Ecological Data Management, Species Abundance Estimates


Students learn fundamentals of data organizing, create and evaluation their own data sheets, evaluate NEON’s approach to data, manipulate data in a spreadsheet, and estimate abundance of small mammals using the Lincoln-Peterson model.


In this lesson, students gain skills in identifying and organizing ecological data, using spreadsheets to prepare data for analysis, and in interpreting preliminary results. identifying and organizing


Pairs/Share, Informal Groupwork, Turn-to-Your-Neighbor


In this lesson, students can be assessed on the learning objectives through several artifacts. The lesson includes several discussion questions. Faculty can opt to assess student knowledge based on participation in the discussion or have these be a written assessment. Upon completing this activity, students will be able to:

  • explain the importance of data management in the scientific process. Assessment through oral/written responses to Discussion Questions.
  • identify elements of a useful, organized data sheet. Assessment through data sheet artifact produced in Field Collection & Data Sheets section.
  • create a spreadsheet data table for transcription of field collected data. Assessment by artifact created during the Data Sheets and Data Files section and response to Discussion Question 4 in Data Analysis.
  • explain how NEON small mammal data are collected and understand the format that the data are provided. Assessed through Discussion Questions in Public Data and Data Analysis questions.
  • manipulate data in a spreadsheet program. Assessment by Excel worksheet produced in the Data Analysis section.
  • calculate plot-level species population abundance using the Lincoln-Peterson Mark-Recapture model. Assessment by Excel worksheet produced in the Data Analysis section.
  • interpret results. Assessment through Discussion Questions in the Data Analysis section.


National Ecological Observatory Network. 2016. Data Product DP1.10072.00.
Available online from Battelle, Boulder, CO, USA.


Description of Resource Files:

  • Instructor powerpoint
  • Abbreviated NEON Small Mammal Trapping Protocols
  • NEON Small Mammal Data Abundance Workbook - This workbook contains only the September and October data from the NEON.D02.SCBI.DP1.10072.001.mam_pertrapnight.072014to052015.csv file. Each worksheet lays out one step needed to conduct that Lincoln-Peterson species population abundance analysis.
  • Example XML file for the September 2014 data that is provided with this activity.
  • Small mammal trapping data from NEON’s Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute (SCBI) field site for July 2014 to May 2015 (seven months total as no trapping was conducted November to March). This .csv contains combined months from the combined small mammal trapping data from September and October 2014. This data are a combined table based on the individual site-month tables available from the NEON Data Portal. This file should be used with a group of student to implement their skills and allow different partners to estimate abundance for different plots and seasons to allow for larger patterns to be examined in the classroom.
  • Metadata file for NEON small mammal data (DP1.10072.001) describing the variable names.
  • Metadata file for the NEON small mammal data (DP1.1072.001) providing more information on the data product.
  • NEON Small Mammal Blank Data Sheet


The authors would like to thank Leah Card, Field Technician II - Mammologist, Domain 2 Field Operations, for providing the original data to Jim McNeil used to create this activity (this activity now uses data downloaded in September 2017). We also want to thank two anonymous reviewers and all members of the 2017 Spring Faculty Mentoring Network Dig Into Data for providing feedback on the concept and scope of the activity for publication.


Jim McNeil and Megan A. Jones. April 2018, posting date. Data Management using National Ecological Observatory Network’s (NEON) Small Mammal Data with Accompanying Lesson on Mark Recapture Analysis. Teaching Issues and Experiments in Ecology, Vol. 13: Practice #9 [online].