geographic data

John (Jack) Longino longinoj at ELWHA.EVERGREEN.EDU
Wed Aug 3 11:10:00 CDT 1994

As part of an arthropod survey project in Costa Rica, I have been
involved in the design of a relational database for specimen management.
Rob Colwell is the main developer of the database and interface (using 4D
on a Mac system), but I keep pestering him with design suggestions. At
the same time I am trying to do taxonomic work based on museum specimens
from throughout the neotropics. The database has hierarchically linked
specimen, collection, and locality files. (the collection file lets you
have a record for a batch of specimens, like the catch of a malaise trap,
which may have thousands of individual specimen records attached). The
locality file has fields such as country, state/prov., local name,
latitude, longitude, elevation. The problem I see down the road is that
with ever more precise locality data, the number of locality records can
become infinite. It occurred to me that latitude, longitude, and
elevation should perhaps be attributes of a collection record, while
locality records are always larger pre-defined geographic units (e.g.
Heredia Prov., Costa Rica).

What I have been able to find browsing through a few biodiversity
gophers, looking for data standards, is that museum people are
concentrating on establishing standards for those larger geographic
units. Has there been a discussion somewhere (or could one start here)
about the database aspects of 1) precise coordinate-based locality data,
vs 2) geopolitical boundary-based locality data?

Related question: is there available somewhere on the internet an index
to geographic place names, with their latitudes and longitudes? I
remember books in the library (when I was at a place with a good map
department), put out by DOD or some such, that were simply indexes of the
place names one would find on topo maps, with their coordinates. I found
the index of US place names on the muse gopher, but I remember these
books for interesting places like Bolivia and Guyana.

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