Data Management at RINHS

Comprehensive collection and management of data related to Rhode Island’s animals, plants, and natural communities has been central to the mission of the Rhode Island Natural History Survey, an independent non-profit organization, since its founding in 1994. In that time, RINHS has created and maintained the most accurate and reliable biodiversity databases in the State.

Between 2002 and 2005, RINHS incorporated all data from the Rhode Island Natural Heritage Program on rare and endangered animals, plants, and communities into its data management system, making substantial improvements in the structure, accessibility, and quality control of these Heritage data. RINHS converted a substantial backlog of Heritage Program data into electronic form and continues to update records.

Information of value for environmental planning and management comes from many sources and in many forms. Using formal and informal outreach activities including conferences, trainings, publications, web services, and educational programs, RINHS invests in relationships with environmentally active and knowledgeable organizations, agencies, businesses, and individuals. RINHS collaborates with museums and other collections-holding institutions to preserve Rhode Island’s natural history collections. RINHS performs ecological science services tailored to the needs of land conservation organizations and integrated with statewide biodiversity monitoring and data management.

RINHS commands the most thorough, accurate, and up-to-date information available on the spatial distribution and abundance of animals, plants, invasive species, and natural communities in Rhode Island, as well as a statewide, landscape level picture of the status and trends of Rhode Island’s valuable environmental resources.

The Rhode Island Natural History Survey is member of NatureServe, an international network of natural heritage programs and conservation data centers, the RINHS contributes important data on rare species and communities which help to solve local, national, and global conservation needs.

RINHS compiles FGDC-compliant metadata (or data about data) for the Natural Heritage Database (view as HTML or XML). RINHS data is registered with the US Geodata Onestop Portal, a GIS portal that serves as a public gateway for improving access to geospatial information. Ecological Metadata Language (EML) is currently being explored as an additional metadata language because of its flexibility to document heterogeneous datasets. For more information on EML visit the Knowledge Network for Biocomplexity (KNB) project website.

For questions about our databases, contact our data manager.

Biota of Rhode Island Information System

RINHS’s Biota of Rhode Island Information System (BORIIS) contains information about animals, plants, other organisms, and natural communities in Rhode Island. BORIIS came to life in 2003 when RINHS combined data from its own Biota of Rhode Island publication series and numerous specialized sources with data from the Rhode Island Natural Heritage program database to create the largest, most comprehensive source of information on Rhode Island’s biodiversity. BORIIS contains some 150,000 evidentiary records attesting to the status of over 10,500 species of life in Rhode Island.

This information describes their current status and may be used as a reference for interpreting change or to identify data gaps.
Organism groups currently in the database include: vascular flora, fungi, marine algae, fish, amphibians, reptiles, birds, mammals, odonates, nematodes, butterflies, moths, and miscellaneous other invertebrates. BORIIS also includes the Rhode Island Natural Heritage database of rare species and natural communities.

There are many specialized subsets of data within BORIIS, usually having arisen from particular inventories or research projects. The major specialized datasets are:

Natural Heritage Database

Established in 1978, The Rhode Island Natural Heritage Program was created under the RI Department of Environmental Management Division of Planning and Development to track the state’s species and natural communities of conservation concern. The database of rare species and natural communities assembled by the RI Natural Heritage Program and augmented by RINHS and many other contributors contains thousands of observational records for nearly 500 rare species and natural communities.

Information from the Natural Heritage Database is used to prioritize land protection activities throughout the public and private sectors. For example, applications for Open Space grants offered by the Natural Heritage Preservation Commission are assessed for the presence of rare species and other significant natural features. RINHS also provides coordination for agencies requiring information on the potential impacts to endangered species.

Vascular Flora

The Vascular Flora of Rhode Island, also available in print as Volume 1 of the Biota of Rhode Island Series, is a comprehensive resource of RI’s vascular plants. This dataset includes detailed and current information on the state’s flora, comprising over 2,000 plants.

Odonata Atlas

The Rhode Island Odonata Database stems from the RI Odonata Atlas Project, a multi-year volunteer-based inventory of dragonflies and damselflies in Rhode Island coordinated by Virginia Brown. The database contains over 135 species and nearly 14,000 odonate voucher records linked to a specimen collection. The database contains location information (i.e., where the odonates were collected) and is linked to a Geographical Information System (GIS). The Odonata Database will be used extensively for developing the Dragonflies and Damselflies of Rhode Island, expected to be available soon.


The Beetle Fauna of Rhode Island by Derek Sikes is available in print as volume 3 in the Biota of Rhode Island publication series. The information collected by Dr. Sikes was incorporated into the BORIIS system in 2006. The Beetles of Rhode Island contains records of 2,209 beetle species recorded in Rhode Island over the past 150 years.


The data on the moths of Rhode Island were provided by Mark Mello of the Lloyd Center for the Environment. This dataset is the result of inventories from 1995 to the present, and contain records of over 700 species and 12,000 observations. Data on the butterflies of Rhode Island were provided by Harry Pavuulan and other RINHS members and the RI Natural Heritage Program staff. Pavuulan is the author of the Checklist of Rhode Island Butterflies (2007) which is available free (send a self-addressed, stamped envelope to RINHS for a printed copy or download it as a PDF).


The Lichens of Rhode Island dataset is largely the work of Don Flenniken, but also contains information from other lichenologists working in Rhode Island. Don Flenniken’s contribution to the knowledge of lichens, titled: Rhode Island’s Foliose and Fruticose Lichens with Emphasis on the Nature Conservancy Preserves and Related Lands, was published electronically by RINHS and can be found here.


The Fungi of Rhode Island dataset include information gathered primarily by Dr. Roger Goos, professor Emeritus of the Biological Sciences Department at the University of Rhode Island. This collection contains records of over 1,700 species of Fungi, as well as associated vouchers and references. The Fungi of Rhode Island will soon be published in the Biota of Rhode Island series.

Data Services

Data from BORIIS is available for license under terms of RINHS’s data policy. RINHS may be able to provide, for a fee, interpretations of data for specific projects. Click here for more information about our custom data services.

Contribute Data

Rhode Island’s biotic resources are a invaluable asset to the state and everyone’s shared responsibility to safeguard. The RI Natural Heritage Program relies on various sources to keep data current. Observations of rare plants and animals from the public are a welcome addition to our database. Click here to find out more.