Taxonomic index, anyone?

Alan Harvey aharvey at AMNH.ORG
Sat Feb 22 16:18:52 CST 1997


>Compared to the molecular biology community databases available on the
>Internet now, a complete taxonomic index would be inconsequential in
>terms of either size or complexity.  If we could agree on a format for
>submission of data, and someone would provide surplus disk space on an
>Internet host, we'd be in business.
>
>I am not a taxonomist.  Nonetheless, I would be delighted to have a
>place to deposit the taxonomic details that I gather in the course of
>my work, that I must keep track of for my own reference, but that I
>cannot or do not want to "publish".  And I would also be delighted to
>have access to similar valuable information gathered by others.
>
>We all want a complete taxonomic index of the literature for whatever
>group we are *currently working on*.  If we start archiving this data
>as we go, we would eventually have a complete taxonomic index, and in
>the meantime we would all have an increasingly valuable research tool.
>
>        Una Smith
>
>        Department of Biology
>        Yale University
>        New Haven, CT  06520-8104


Although I suspect the first sentence of this posting rather underestimates
the problem, I do think that a taxonomic index, or series of authority
files, is an idea whose time has come. As curator of a rather large and
diverse collection of invertebrates, I am daily frustrated by the daunting
task of simply matching species names, authors and dates, much less
determining whether a particular name is valid, and if not, what the
current name is, much less trying to identify uncertain material.

Consider, for starters, a simple database, perhaps including the following
fields: genus, species, higher taxon link (perhaps only need family in this
record, given a second DB that contains classification information for each
family), author, date (or combine author and date into a single citation
field), event (e.g., new taxon, new combination, etc.), status (e.g., valid
or synonym, or better yet a link to current name), person who provided this
record to the database. There are of course many other pieces of
information we might want to know about each taxon; with the caveat that
every field added will slow the rate at which records can be accumulated,
what else would be deemed critical for this starter database?

Cheers,

Alan

------------------------------------

Alan W. Harvey (aharvey at amnh.org)
Assistant Curator of Invertebrates
American Museum of Natural History
Central Park West at 79th Street
New York, NY 10024
(212) 769-5638; fax (212) 769-5783
http://research.amnh.org/~aharvey




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