National Park Service

Inventory & Monitoring (I&M)

The Natural Resource Database Template

The National Park Service Inventory and Monitoring (I&M) Program's Natural Resource Database Template (NRDT) is a set of Microsoft Access relational database tables that parks and networks can use to develop applications for capturing natural resource inventory and monitoring data.


  1. Provides both a data interchange standard and a standard MS Access database core that allows flexibility in application design.
  2. Serves as a starting point for application development that can be extended as necessary to accommodate any inventory or monitoring field sampling protocol.
  3. Standardizes location and observation data to facilitate the integration of data sets.
  4. Acts as a design platform for developing database applications in MS Access allowing users to enter, edit, display, summarize, and generate reports for inventory or monitoring data sets.
  5. Integrates with other I&M data management systems and data standards including the NR-GIS Metadata Database, Geographic Information System (GIS) tools and data, the NPS GIS Committee Data Layers Standard and the NPS Metadata Profile.

The NRDT is a core database structure that can be modified and built upon by different parks and networks depending on the components of their inventory and monitoring program and the specific sampling protocols they use. Monitoring protocols that include a NRDT-based application will be made available through the web-based Protocol Tracking Search Tool. Users can download a written protocol for some monitoring component (e.g. weather or bird counts) along with database objects in Access such as tables, queries, forms and reports. For example, three different parks may have developed protocols and corresponding database objects for collecting and managing weather data. Other parks could then use or modify any of these protocols and database objects to best meet their needs.

NRDT Front-end Application Builder (FAB) v.1.1 (07/16/2007)

The Front-end Application Builder (FAB) is a Microsoft Access file that is intended to be used by developers of NRDT applications to create a front-end (user-interface) to an NRDT v.3.2 back-end (database). The FAB comes with many built-in features, including:

  • table linking utility
  • data backup
  • compaction
  • lookup table management
  • main menu
  • standardized data entry forms for core NRDT v.3.2 tables
  • standardized data "gateway" form for retrieving records

By using the FAB, NRDT developers have more time for protocol-specific form and report development. Using the FAB also gives NRDT applications a standardized look-and-feel, making it simpler for users to learn new applications if they've used a FAB application before.

To learn more about the FAB, download and unzip the FAB application file and the FAB training file and go through the exercise "Using the NRDT Front-end Application Builder (FAB) to Create an Application". Once you have built an NRDT application using the FAB, you can use the "User Guide Template" as the start of a user guide for your NRDT application.

To see examples of applications that others have developed using the FAB, go to the NRDT Example Applications page.

Download the FAB v.1.1
Download the FAB v.1.1 Training Exercise and Materials (doc. version 1.2)
Download the FAB v.1.1 User Guide Template

(7/16/07) - version 1.1 of FAB posted - works with new NRDT v.3.2 enumeration table and incl. metadata forms
(3/21/07) - version 1.0.2 of FAB posted with lookups to missing tables removed
(3/9/07) - version 1.0.1 of FAB posted with some minor additional error traps

NRDT Version 3.2 (NRDT v3.2) (07/16/2007)

Version 3 of the NRDT makes changes to the NRDT Phase 2 (see below) core table structure. These changes are intended to better facilitate application development while maintaining compatibility with legacy NRDT Phase 2 applications. The NRDT v3 database structure was developed by the NRDT Revision Team which began meeting in August, 2004. After compiling the results of the NRDT user survey and taking into account the latest implementation strategies for inventory and monitoring in individual parks and the 32 monitoring networks, the team developed a revised NRDT data structure that:

  1. Is extensible and suitable as a core database standard for all inventory and monitoring field sampling protocols
  2. Facilitates data sharing and integration
  3. Fits the most common sampling schemes
  4. Facilitates front-end (form, query, report) development, and
  5. Provides backwards compatibility with pre-existing NRDT Phase 2 databases

Modifications to Version 3.0 were incorporated into NRDT Version 3.1 in July, 2006. The primary difference between 3.0 and 3.1 is the handling of primary keys. While binary GUIDs (globally-unique IDs) were the standard in 3.0, this was modified in 3.1 to allow for five possible options for primary key format.

In the event that data sets need to be merged/imported/exported or to be provided for centralized data services, the primary key transfer standard is established as a 50-character string (text) field.

Modifications to version 3.1 were incorporated into NRDT Version 3.2 in July, 2007. The primary difference between 3.1 and 3.2 is the addition of an enumeration table for lookup values that includes lookups for many standard NRDT fields, including: address type, contact role, coordinate system, coordinate units, datum, etc. This enumeration table can also be used for protocol-specific lookup values as needed. The other significant change was the addition of a metadata file name field to hold a local metadata file name.

Download the NRDT v3.2 documentation
Guidance for Using Enumeration Tables in the NRDT
Download the NRDT v3.2 MS Access database files

Example Lookup Tables (NPS only)

(7/16/07) - version 3.2 of NRDT posted - added enumeration table
(7/6/06) - version 3.1 of NRDT posted - primary key options expanded

NRDT v3.x Example Databases (04/20/2007)

Example applications based on the NRDT v3.x can be found on the NRDT Example Applications page. If you would like to contribute an example v3.x database application, please send it to Simon Kingston via e-mail attachment.

NRDT User Board (07/25/2006)

The purpose of the NRDT User Board is to improve the utility of NRDT, provide direction for future developments and applications, advocate its use, and help ensure that NRDT is meeting the needs of I&M network and park users. NRDT users should feel free to contact any board member with questions, concerns, or suggestions.

If you have questions concerning NRDT please contact either Simon Kingston or Margaret Beer.

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