Specimen databases

Roger J. Burkhalter rjb at OU.EDU
Fri Aug 11 11:06:34 CDT 2000

On Fri, 11 Aug 2000 09:25:20 -0500, Andrew K. Rindsberg <
arindsberg at GSA.STATE.AL.US> wrote:

>With so many databases available for taxonomy, my main criterion would have
>to be whether the data can be downloaded into other programs. I don't want
>to be stuck (again!) with the same software until it is no longer available,
>and then have to start over with another program. Which of these databases
>is most convertible?

The least common denominator in databases is comma-delimited ASCII, with .dbf
format files a good second choice. As long as your current software supports
these, choose any new software that supports import/export of these two

For most bilogical/geological/paleontological/whatever specimen based
research collections, all the bells and whistles in commercial databases are
seldom if ever used. I do not need intensly calculated fields, for instance,
because I use a stand alone statistics program. I do need to get the data
from the database to the stats program, however, so exporting data in a
friendly format is a must. Many of the available collectionsa management
databases are built from a database engine (i.e. MS Access Jet, FM Pro, SQL
Server, etc.) and programmed in a third party language (C++, Delphi, etc.).
Importing data from existing databases and exporting data into other programs
(statistics, cladistics, GIS packages) is either not intuitive or can be
downright impossible.

The current trend of integrating a collections management database with GIS/
statistics/classifications I believe can be a real 'can-of-worms' problem.
Because these programs are compiled, switching 'plug-ins' is not an option.
Often, the integration slows the performance of simple day to day tasks (data
entry, simple querys, file management) to a crawl.

Roger J. Burkhalter
Curatorial Specialist
Invertebrate Paleontology
Sam Noble Oklahoma Museum of Natural History
Norman, Oklahoma

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