Taxonomic and life history "ride board"

Doug Yanega dyanega at DENR1.IGIS.UIUC.EDU
Tue May 14 20:38:06 CDT 1996


Lance Gorham wrote, in response to an earlier posting:

>>This makes me ponder something...Some day, we ought to organize the
>>equivalent of a taxonomic "ride board" - an electronic bulletin board where
>>we can put standing requests for certain taxa from certain geographical
>>areas, and when we take a trip, check out who might be interested. It would
>>certainly help to know that a certain group has an active researcher, to
>>maximize the utility of one's collecting efforts. After all, it's not very
>>efficient (or all that exciting) to take a major collecting trip and then
>>have 90% of the material sit untouched for the next 20 years. Anyone have a
>>Web site that could be used for such purposes?
[snip]
>I suppose entomologists have a tendency to collect incredible amounts of
>"potential" information, yet only "realize" a small profit.  Perhaps an
>"arthropod web" of specialists would reduce repeat collections and untouched
>specimens (saving money, field time, etc..), and thus more information gained.
>Sounds good, but how?

Actually, I've gotten a few leads on this - the closest thing so far is
ETI's database of world taxonomists:
http://145.18.162.199/wtdatabase/taxdbase.html
        This is along the lines of what I had in mind, but I had imagined a
menu-driven directory, essentially, sorted by either taxon or geographic
area; as long as people setting up their entries in the ETI database put
both general and specific data, it might work, but since you have
essentially an unlimited number of possible things a person can enter, you
might *easily* miss someone by putting a term that is either more or less
specific than what they entered for themselves. For example, if some
botanist lists their biogeographic region as "Sonoran Desert" and I do a
search for "Arizona", I won't turn up their name (or if they entered
"Arziona" by mistake). By organizing the data into a hierarchy of linked
Web pages, however, every person in the database will be put into a fixed
hierarchy at whatever points they feel to be appropriate (for example, the
botanist might be an expert in the Asteraceae of the Sonoran Desert, but
also the Annonaceae of central Guatemala) - a lot more flexible than
allowing each person a single entry which is supposed to contain
everything. The problem with this is that someone else would have to put in
all the entries for a given taxonomist, since a remote user can't alter the
html codes on the pages directly. The ASC taxonomist database
(http://www.ascoll.org/) tries to get around this by forcing you to check
off boxes to indicate expertise, geographic regions, etc., but the range of
allowed selections is extremely narrow, so someone with a range of
taxonomic interests from a variety of geographic areas would have
difficulty.
        In essence, if enough people put themselves in these two extant
databases, they can serve reasonably well, but to really do it right would
require a rather significant effort (not the least of which is getting
everyone to put their entries in!) - all we really need is a way to target
a given geographic area and get a complete listing of the folks working in
those areas and what they're after (e.g., "I need wild-caught Mesoamerican
Drosophilid flies in 95% alcohol for molecular analyses" or "I need frozen
tissue samples of epiphytes from Madagascar", etc.), but this is still not
that simple a thing. Any folks from ETI or ASC reading this and interested
in working towards that sort of goal? It'd be preferrable, after all, to
modify an extant database rather than create yet another new one which
repeats much of what's in the others. Or is this yet another pipedream?
Sincerely,




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