International Standards for Content Metadata for Biological Images

P. Bryan Heidorn pheidorn at UIUC.EDU
Thu Jul 21 10:23:56 CDT 2005

Stinger pointed out a good example but there are different ways to take
your question.

The information to include in the subject or content description of the
image should be largely driven by the eventual use of the metadata which
is usually searching. What information can potential users of the images
provide to find the image?

Once you get beyond technical information and derivation information,
the descriptive data is frequently about the object in the image and not
the image itself. Unfortunately, there is a nearly infinite number of
things that can be said about any natural object.

Still people have tried. One example is the Canadian Heritage
Information Network (CHIN) Data Dictionaries for the Natural Sciences

This data dictionary says nothing about the communications protocol for
asking the question but I am not certain that is what you were asking.

A related resource in CHIN  is "Metadata Standards for Museum

To go a little further on the idea of eventual use driving the image
description, if the images are images of butterflies that will be used
for identification purposes, then it might be useful to use metadata in
the SDD format from TDWG

An advantage of SDD is that it does not specify any characteristics that
are should be included in the description of an insect for example.
Instead it specifies the form of the description should take so that
descriptions can be easily shared among interactive key and printing
programs such as Lucid and Free Delta. Because of this it can be used to
describe anything.

Unfortunately, this does not address the data dictionary issue such as
"What characteristics should be used to describe butterflies (or carabid
beetles)?" We might not want to make this list into a standard since it
too would change with different purposes but such a list would be useful
for any group of people starting a set of new descriptions of
butterflies (or carabid beetles) could use that list as a staring point.
There should be a way to share the list of descriptors without
necessarily sharing the descriptions of the objects. This was one
objective of the OpenKey project

Of course you may wish to include non-verbal descriptions so I'll point
to a paper of mine on that as well.

-- Bryan Heidorn
   P. Bryan Heidorn    Graduate School of Library and Information Science
   pheidorn at   University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign MC-493
   (V)217/ 244-7792    501 East Daniel St., Champaign, IL  61820-6212
   (F)217/ 244-3302
   Online Calendar:
   Visit the Biobrowser Web site at

P. Bryan Heidorn. Image Retrieval as Linguistic and Nonlinguistic Visual
Model Matching. Library trends, Volume 48, Number 2, Fall 1999 Progress
in Visual Information Access and Retrieval
John D. Oswald wrote:
>    Can anyone point me to any international metadata standards that have
> been developed for querying/exchanging information about content associated
> with biological images (e.g., digital photographs, scans, digitized print
> images, ditigal SEM's, etc.). I am particularly interested in any attempts
> to derive a standard set of data fields to document image "content", as
> differentiated from fields documenting the history or technical parameters
> associated with the capture of an image. Is there any concise international
> standard for this? Something perhaps analogous to the DarwinCore standard
> for exchanging/accessing specimen/observation records? I am especially
> interested in standards that might be appropriate to adopt for the capture
> of content information for entomological images of whole specimens, or
> parts thereof.
> Dr. John D. Oswald
> Associate Professor and Curator
> Department of Entomology
> Texas A&M University
> 2475 TAMU
> College Station, TX   77843-2475
> Office phone: (979) 862-3507
> Fax: (979) 845-6305
> e-mail: j-oswald at
> Bibliography of the Neuropterida
> (
> Index to the Neuropterida Species of the World
> (
> Neuropterists Directory
>    (
> NeuroWeb
>    (

More information about the Taxacom mailing list