to bar code or not to bar code

Barry M. OConnor bmoc at UMICH.EDU
Mon Dec 16 17:37:39 CST 1996

At 1:59 PM 12/16/96, Felix Sperling wrote:

>        The following rumination is a request for advice on bar code
>labels for insects. I hope it also generates some discussion.
I recently spent a week at the La Selva field station in Costa Rica, where
I worked with the parataxonomists working for the ALAS project (Arthropods
of La Selva).  They have their entire collection of pinned and slide
mounted specimens bar-coded and databased (using Rob Colwell's Biota
database) as part of the InBio collection.  I found the system very easy to
use.  When I wanted to get more information on a specimen than what was on
the printed label (e.g. host plant for insects, host insect for mites), I
just zapped the specimen under the reader and up came the data!  This was
far easier than searching through the ledgers of field notes by hand (as we
had to do for un-coded residue lots).  I also have to say that since, as my
eye-doctor has indicated, I've entered the "bi-focal zone", I found reading
the information off the screen much easier than trying to read the pin
label without a magnifier (which I had lost).  If only a rather long number
rather than a bar code had been printed on a pin label, I probably would
have been very frustrated trying to read and correctly enter it into the
computer for each specimen.  When it came time to tally up the material I
was borrowing (a decidedly mixed lot of mites and mite-bearing insect
specimens), the loan was recorded and forms generated with ease.

Barry M. OConnor                phone: (313) 763-4354
Museum of Zoology               FAX: (313) 763-4080
University of Michigan          e-mail: bmoc at
Ann Arbor, MI 48109-1079  USA

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