BIOTA Project

Museum Informatics Project mip-arch at GARNET.BERKELEY.EDU
Tue May 17 23:20:37 CDT 1994

FYI, an article in:
ESA Newsletter v17(5):1, May 1994 (Entomological Society of America)

Worldwide Insect Database On The Horizon

The Systematic Entomology Laboratory (SEL) of the U.S. Department of
Agriculture has developed a project to create a nomenclatorial database
to catalog all known insects of the world. Under a broad array of SEL
computer-related information tools, BIOTA (Biosystematic Information on
Terrestrial Arthropods) is an exciting new resource under the
supervision of Ronald Hodges (chair), Robert W. Poole, and F. Christian
Thompson. According to Hodges, "We envision the day when a global
network of information databases and other tools developed by a union
of individuals (including SEL) will exist and when anyone, anywhere
will be able to access all available information on a terrestrial
arthropod species from his/her computer."

The BIOTA nomenclatorial database is divided into four data tables:
species, genera, families, and ranges (biogeographic regions). A
current nomenclatorial database of all scientific names (including
synonyms, homonyms, misspellings, and misidentifications) applied to
insects and other terrestrial arthropods has the highest priority
because it is the backbone of all information services.

The database has many important uses including:

- provides the ability to investigate fundamental questions of
biodiversity, i.e., how species are distributed among the
biogeographical provinces.

- provides stability for names and serves as an authority list for
users of biosystematic names.

- has vital information for anyone doing biosystematic work on a group
of organisms, be it revisionary, curatorial, or biodiversity.

- provides access to the literature by giving the source of the name
(revision, catalog, check list, unpublished data) and an authority who
may be contacted to provide further information.

A data entry program has been developed for the use of specialists and
other contributors. A manual, which provides full documentation on the
nomenclatorial database, accompanies the program. Contributors to the
database and their institutions will be fully acknowledged, First,
there will be an introductory acknowledgement screen in the finished
product. Second, each record of each database contains a memo field,
and, if data are based on the unpublished resources of a contributor,
this fact will be noted.

Other information tools underway in the SEL are catalog (Biosystematic
Database of World Diptera, systematic catalog of worldwide cutworm
moth), specimen label databases, the Fruit Fly Expert System (automated
identification tool for extension specialists and quarantine
inspectors), and other automated identification systems.

The first two years of the project will be spent assembling names for
the North American fauna. Although data entry will be global, initial
emphasis will be on North American species. A date for completion of
the database on a worldwide level cannot be estimated accurately
because it depends on the collaboration and cooperation of colleagues
throughout the world.  Similarly, no accurate estimates of the final
size of the project are available; however, more than two million names
are probable. The database will be available on Internet and CD-ROM.

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