How do I prepare metadata?

Analyses are vastly more interesting if the sequences or samples analyzed have rich ‘meta data’ wherever possible. This metadata could typically include collection dates, geographic location, symptoms of patients, host characteristics, etc.

To make the most of augur’s features, we recommend including sampling date and at least one type of geographic information if at all possible. However, you can also include things like symptoms, host, clinical outcome - and more!

For augur to be able to parse this data, it needs to be formated consistently. Your data may have meta information coded into the sequence name (see example below). If not, a very transparent way is to provide the meta data as a separate table in a tab- or comma-separated file.

An example meta data file is shown here:

strain      accession   date        region          host
1_0087_PF   KX447509    2013-12-XX  Oceania         Human
1_0181_PF   KX447512    2013-12-XX  Oceania         Bat
1_0199_PF   KX447519    2013-11-XX  Oceania         Human
BRA/2016    KY785433    2016-04-08  South America   Cow
BRA/2015    KY558989    2015-02-23  South America   Bat

A note on Excel

Because Excel will automatically change the date formatting, we recommend not opening or preparing your meta data file in Excel. If the metadata is already in Excel, or you decide to prepare it in Excel, we recommend using another program to correct the dates afterwards (and don’t open it in Excel again!).


Strain names

You must have one column named strain or name. It contains your sequence names, and needs to match the identifiers of your sequences (in the Fasta or VCF file) exactly and must not contain characters such as spaces, or ()[]{}|#><.


Dates should be formated according as YYYY-MM-DD. You can specify unknown dates or month by replacing the respected values by XX (ex: 2013-01-XX or 2011-XX-XX) and completely unknown dates can be shown with 20XX-XX-XX (which does not restrict the sequence to being in the 21st century - they could be earlier).


Geographic locations can be broken down, for example, into region, country, division or city. You can have as many levels of geographic information as you wish. For region, country, and some divisions augur already knows many lat-long coordinates (see which ones it already knows by checking the list here).

It is important that these are spelled consistently.

If you want to include locations where augur doesn’t know the lat-long values, you can include them - see how here.

Consistancy and Style

Check that your metadata is free from spelling mistakes and that values are consistant. Augur doesn’t know that ‘UK’ and ‘United Kingdom’ or ‘cat’ and ‘feline’ are the same!

Previously, auspice ‘prettified’ traits by capitalizing them automatically, and removing the underscores that separated two-word locations (‘new_zealand’ became ‘New Zealand’).

Auspice will still do this if you are exporting ‘V1’ type JSON files (from augur v5 or augur v6 using export v1), but will not do this if you are using export v2 (read more). Instead, you should update your metadata files so that traits look the same as you’d like them to display in Auspice (change ‘new_zealand’ to ‘New Zealand’ in your metadata, and in any additional latitude-longitude or coloring files you use).

Parsing from the header

Sometimes, metadata can be coded into the Fasta header, like so:

>1_0087_PF | KX447509 | 2013-12-XX | oceania

Augur can parse meta data from Fasta headers using the parse function (see here), but you have to make sure that every sequence has the exact same meta data fields (even if empty), and that they are consistently delimited with |. Furthermore, none of the metadata fields can contain the character |.