Computer Keys

Dave Chesmore E.D.Chesmore at E-ENG.HULL.AC.UK
Fri May 23 17:57:13 CDT 1997

Thanks for the replies so far to my message.

William Pratt noted:

"I wouldn't use the computer to run identification software, however,
for practical reasons. The screen is hard to read at an angle while
working at the dissecting microscope, and most computer-based keys
are presented as single couplets. Answer one, and the next appears.
But that's not how taxonomists work.  After a very little experience
with a fauna, you start to "cheat", examining a few characters, then
turning not to......My ideal of an ideal key would illustrate each key
choice, even if the characters had been illustrated earlier in they key,
to facilitate its. A couple of examples are : Michener et al, The
bee genera of Northg and Central America (Hymenoptera: Apoidea)
Smithsonian Press, Washington, 1994, and Goulet & Huber,
Hymenoptera of the world: an identification guide, Agriculture Canada,
1993. A good on-line example is Scott Stockwell's beautiful key to
American scorpion genera  Such keys
could be handled by any system that could support line art, and
would allow an inerested Biodiversity researcher to make his/her own

Has anyone experience with hypertext key systems such as CABIKey
which don't operate on couplets but interactively ask for descriptions
with on-line help, i.e. in the manner suggested above.  For
example, one might be presented with "bipectinate antenna" as a
choice - if one doesn't know what this is, the system will display a
number of antenna types which are "clickable".

When I mentioned the future use of computers in the field, the sort of
machine I was considering would be hand-held, possibly with
handwriting recognition, rugged and able to withstand extremes of
temperature, high resolution readable screen(!) and a CD-ROM.  Such
a machine is already available, if rather expensive.  I envisage the
main application of a field-based identification aid as just that - an aid
for non-taxonomists in survey work.  Any difficult species or
unidentifiable species at the time would be kept and processed in the
normal way.

Many other features could (and are) be added such as global
positioning system, interfaces to geographical information systems,
automatic report generation and others.

It would be nice to have a "wish list" to present to th working group -
any takers?

Dr David Chesmore, FRES
Environmental Electronics Research Group
Dept. of Electronic Engineering
University of Hull, Hull, HU6 7RX
Tel: +482 465062;  Fax: +482 466664
Email:  E.D.Chesmore at E-Eng.Hull.AC.UK

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