latitude and longitude designation and collection data

Doug Yanega dyanega at DENR1.IGIS.UIUC.EDU
Mon Oct 2 21:08:54 CDT 1995

Konstantin Savov <kps at>
made many good points, but when he says:

>1.  You always should find a proper sources to get coordinates of
>localities (gazeteers, maps, etc.).  For example, ten years ago I had a
>lot of problems with collections even from central part of Russia
>(proper maps was not available here, anybody had to get special
>permission to work with true maps).  When I received good maps, it
>became much easier to make labels for my own collections and find
>coordinates for old herbarium.
>It's very useful to get a digital map with settlements, rivers, etc.
>But it is more important to have good maps and gazeteers in any form,
>from my point of view.  In any case, you should spent a lot of time
>searching for a point needed on a map or checking gazeteers - it is very
>hard to automate the process.

this assumes the luxury of a manageable amount of material. For a
collection like ours, with over 6 million insects, using maps is
impractical - it would almost be better, faced with this, to wait a decade
or two for fast, "smart" software and terabyte memory CD-ROM maps than to
spend that time finding data manually and be less than 1/5th finished (if
we assume 1 technician working 40 hours a week, able to look up 20
localities per hour - which is generous - it would take 144 years to finish
the job). Until the operation can be performed in a matter of seconds per
locality, we're probably better off not bothering looking up lat/long data
on old material as a general practice, but rather leave it (as we tend to
now) to the specialist who is doing a biogeographic study with a given
        As for new material, we've obtained a GPS unit here, and folks
occasionally remember to bring it with them in the field, but it's going to
take some time before it becomes routine. At least we can print labels
small enough now that adding lat/long data won't make the labels too
cumbersome (there's just so much you can squeeze in 10 X 15 mm)...all sorts
of practical difficulties arise with insects that don't quite plague other
taxonomists, at least not to the same extent.

Doug Yanega       Illinois Natural History Survey, 607 E. Peabody Dr.
Champaign, IL 61820 USA      phone (217) 244-6817, fax (217) 333-4949
 affiliate, Univ. of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, Dept. of Entomology
  "There are some enterprises in which a careful disorderliness
        is the true method" - Herman Melville, Moby Dick, Chap. 82

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