Is it possible for multiple surveys to update the same record on the same feature service?

05-17-2018 02:04 PM
New Contributor III

I am using multiple surveys because I need to monitor endangered turtle nests throughout the entire incubation period from when they are laid until the hatchlings emerge. One survey is used to document the nests when they are first laid, one is used to document events that happen during incubation (e.g. depredation, poaching, washouts), and a final survey is used to document hatch success data. I saw that it is possible to run multiple surveys on the same feature service. I use Workforce to populate the subsequent surveys with a unique ID field, however the subsequent surveys create a new record instead of appending to the existing record. Is there a way make them append based on a unique ID field.  Or, should I have each survey populate its own feature service and then join the tables later?

Thanks for your help.

7 Replies
Esri Contributor

Hi Christopher

Your requirement sound like related tables would work better for you... Is there a reason why you are not using Collector for this solution? Collector would allow you to capture the main turtle nest details such as date laid, location, comment etc... you could then have a related table where you could store incubation events which is "added" to the main record.

Just my 2c worth 🙂

If you want to look at an example of how to set up Related Tables with Collector you can look at my blog: Three Steps to Asset Management with ArcGIS Online and Collector – Esri South Africa Blog 


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New Contributor III

Thanks for your reply Deon Lengton,

Your 2c seems to be worth a lot more than 2c.

There are a few reasons I am not using collector: (1) I wasn't familiar with Collector (2) End users wanted smart forms (3) the survey was not originally intended to be used by so many people for so many nests (4) My agency's GIS  Specialist said Survey123 would be most appropriate.

In hindsight, Collector may have been a better option, especially since I now know I could have integrated it with Survey123 and utilized smart forms. I am considering Collector for next season. I am also looking into using a Survey123 Workforce integration (See my reply below).

Whatever I figure out,I will be sure to share with others. I'm very new to ArcGIS and related ESRI products.

Thank you for your time,

Chris Matechik

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Esri Notable Contributor

Hi Christopher,

 Yes. It is possible for multiple surveys to edit the same feature. This is possible by enabling the Inbox, which allows you to query and download existing features into your Survey123 app for view or edits.

 The Inbox is described in detailed here: Prepare for editing existing survey data—Survey123 for ArcGIS | ArcGIS 

 You can also use related records and a single survey as Deon describes above from within Survey123. I have created a simple example to illustrate how this can be done.

  The first two questions will help you identify the nest with an ID and its  location. Then a repeat block follows. All questions within the repeat block will help you provide details for each of the visits. Information about each visit gets persisted  in the geodatabase as a related record to the Nest.

  Combining the repeat as shown above with the Inbox, you can enable a group of people to download the nest information.even if created by others, and edit it as appropriate. For example, one person may add a new nest, with its ID and location and also complete the 1st visit information. Then another different person can use the Inbox to fetch that nest into her device and add information about a second visit, or simply look at the history of visits.

  One nice feature of the Inbox is that you can configure it with filters, so only certain people can see certain nests. Or to define if information from previous visits (related records) should be hidden, read-only or read and write.

 I am attaching the XLS file for  your  convenience. You can import the XLSFile into Connect and publish it.  Before you publish, remember to  activate the Inbox from Connect.  In the XLS file you will note that I added a expression into the bind::esri:parameters column. query=1=1 means that when you download data for the nest, all visits recorded  for that nest will be downloaded into the device  too.  allowUpdates=true  means that  you can edit data in previous visits. You may want to turn updates to false...

 The pattern I describe above has been used for monitoring bird nests following the form described  in page 15 of this document    The  Breeding section in that form is the repeat.  The summary section can be modeled  using aggregation formulas. In the example I attach, for example, I use the count() function in the calculation column of row 12 to automatically associate the total number of visits with the nest.

  I am assuming that turtles and birds are alike.


New Contributor III

Hi Ismael Chivite‌,

Thank you for your feedback. What you described is actually how our survey is currently setup. It worked great but I think our survey may be getting too large for this workflow. I'll describe what we are doing and see if you can offer any advice.

We use Survey123 to collect data when the nests are encountered the morning after they are laid.  Additionally, after 45 days, we need to start looking for signs of hatching. Once signs of hatching are observed, we return three days later to excavate the nests and collect some more data, If no signs of hatching occur we excavate the nest and collect data 70 days after it was laid. We have hundreds of nests, and this is all done by just a few people. I want them to easily be able to see which nests need to be checked for signs of hatching and then which nests need to be excavated. Originally, I intended to use the filter inbox function. It was easy enough to write a query that met those criteria. The problem arises because you can't toggle the filter off. Very often, I also need to be able to access all of the records in case I need to document events that occur during the incubation period (e.g. poaching, washed away from storm, depredation). If I disable the filter to access these records the inbox becomes very cluttered (because all nests are visible - of which only a small fraction need to be monitored for signs of hatching or excavated) and they only way the crew can determine which nests need to be monitored or excavated is by opening each survey individually (or querying the data the morning of and giving them a paper list, but this defeats the purpose of having a paperless app).

To solve this I started experimenting with Workforce - Survey123 integration. My thoughts were to use Survey123 to document nests when they are first found. Then I can use this a modified version of this script to automatically generate three different assignments in Workforce: (1) Disturbance Events During Incubation (2) Monitor for Signs of Hatching (3) Hatch Success Excavation. This way workers can use Workforce to view all the different assignments so they can plan their day. However, since I am new to Workforce and Survey123 integration, I am curious how to set it up.  (I may need to move this thread into the Workforce Community) Workforce can open my survey but it opens a new Survey, not the existing survey, which is why editing an existing survey doesn't work. With that in mind, I split up the original Survey so now I have three more surveys that correspond to my Workforce Assignments. I configured them all to edit the same feature service but I''m wondering if this is the best way to do it. When I open subsequent surveys, it starts a new record instead of adding on to the data that has already been collected for a nest. My questions are:

(1) Is this even a reasonable workflow, or should I switch to collector as Deon Lengton suggested?

(2) If this workflow is reasonable, is there a way to configure Survey123 (or workforce) so that the subsequent surveys update existing records?


(3) Is it more appropriate to have each survey work on it's on feature service and then join them together later(a unique nest ID is included in each survey and could be used to join them)?

Thank you so much for your time. I have been learning a lot while configuring this, and when I figure it out I will be happy to share the results.


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Esri Notable Contributor

Hi Christopher.  From what you describe, field  users are going to benefit a lot from having  a map on which they can see all nests and their  status as well as important notes. I think that Collector  will play a role  as  Deon highlighted for this reason. In collector you can turn layers on and  off and look at all nests in a map using different colors depending on status etc. This will give people a good understanding  of what there  is around them.  The map in Survey123 will not cut it for the reasons you describe.  So yes, I think Collector is a go.

The next aspect is to determine if you can use Collector alone, or if you will  benefit from having Survey123. It really depends on how comfortable people  are with the actual  form.  Collector will help you navigate to the right nest  and be aware of important  things around it, but what about completing  the visit form? Collector has  some basic form capabilities which may be plenty for  your use case.   If people in the field feel more comfortable  with a Survey123 form, then you can simply combine both applications. The trick here will be to ensure that the visit information is  stored in the visits related  table. This is  perfectly doable.  That is: you can handle  the nests layer  in Collector, and the Visits layer in Survey123. Combining Survey123 and Collector you can configure things so each app helps you on what is best.  But do not over-complicate things: if the Collector form does reasonably, go with Collector.

As for  Workforce, it feels like  overkill at first sight.

New Contributor III

Hi Ismael,

I realize it has been a while since you posted, but I wanted to let you know that I was able to implement a pretty good solution by integrating multiple surveys on Survey123 (initial documentation, depredation events, disturbance events, signs of hatching, and post hatch evaluations), Collector, and ArcGIS pro.

Without getting too detailed, other users should be aware that this setup allows one to manage fairly complex workflows in which the timing of scheduled return visits are dependent on multiple factors while still allowing them to document non-scheduled events that can occur at anytime.  Using the data collected in the Surveys the symbology can be updated daily to guide field crews to features that need to be checked (this was a huge time saver for us because there were seven possible nest statuses occurring simultaneously and each one had to be checked at different intervals).

I hope to write more detailed explanation soon, but right now we are still in the middle of our field season, so I have not been able to get it it. Overall, configuring an integration such as this was not too difficult. I started this project with some coding experience but very little GIS experience. Some things seemed a little more difficult than they ought have been, but the ESRI community guided me through. We are currently using our system in the field and the only work I have left to dois to automate some of the tasks that I currently do in ArcGIS Pro.

Thanks for your recommendation.

New Contributor III

Hey Christopher, 

I realize this thread is a few years old, but I seem to be experiencing the same difficulty you were and it sounds like you may have figured out a solution.

In short, I am trying to do what may be an identical workflow using Workforce and integrating Survey123. I have multiple surveys which all feed into the same feature service, but I am having a hard time figuring out how to get each survey to update the same record within said feature service instead of creating a new record for each survey submission. Any chance you might be able to enlighten me in your workaround or setup there? Would be immensely grateful!!


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