[Taxacom] (Fwd) Dichotomous key software

Pedro.R.Lake at sherwin.com Pedro.R.Lake at sherwin.com
Wed Aug 30 15:25:18 CDT 2006


Interactive keys are not a replacement for dichotomous keys.  They are 
another tool for plant identification.  Dichotomous keys are useful and 
actually have a couple of advantages over interactive, multi-entry keys. 
For one, the use of leads which combine several characters.  This is 
generally not done in interactive keys.  Secondly, books can be lugged 
around and used in various settings lacking electricity. 

Interactive keys have many advantages over dichotomous keys.  First, they 
are dynamic.  An error, a new species, whatever, can be changed in a 
matter of minutes.  Updates can be instantly deployed via the internet; no 
need to wait for a new edition to be printed.  Next line drawings, full 
color photos, even movies can be made available within the key.  So your 
"field guide" is a part of the key.  Interactive distribution maps with 
precise locations of populations can be consulted instantly.  Full 
treatments can be included just like a paper-based dichotomous keys but 
with the added functionality of a multi-entry key.  Furthermore 
interactive keys can be deployed on laptops and set right next to your 
microscope.  New computer technologies are being released every day in the 
form of lightweight notebooks, tablet PC's, and more recently, the 
Origami. 

Specialists die and paper versions go out of print, but computers are 
improved daily. 


Pedro OƱativia Lake






Jerry Bricker <jbricker at nebrwesleyan.edu>
Sent by: taxacom-bounces at mailman.nhm.ku.edu
08/30/2006 03:49 PM

 
        To:     farmer at cb.uga.edu
        cc:     taxacom <taxacom at mailman.nhm.ku.edu>
        Subject:        Re: [Taxacom] (Fwd)  Dichotomous key software


This is interesting.  I've gotten several replies strongly 
recommending that I steer away from paper dichotomous keys and 
instead go with interactive keys (Lucid and Delta are most often 
mentioned).  It makes me wonder if I'm starting to get old and set in 
my ways, that I've missed a recent memo suggesting that interactive 
keys are now the standard "industry" format, or that there's a strong 
desire to kill less trees (I hope it's the latter and not the 
former)...  A little background information on why we want 
dichotomous keys might help.

Our campus is officially designated an arboretum and is part of the 
Nebraska State Arboretum system.  All biology majors are required to 
take an introductory course in botany.  One of the lab activities is 
a "tree walk" where students walk about campus and learn how to 
identify plants (i.e., trees) in the field.  Hence, the need for a 
paper version of a dichotomous key (key is a booklet also given to 
visitors to the arboretum).  Next August two other faculty members 
and I will take a group of students to the Boundary Waters in 
Minnesota for a 5-6 day canoe trip.  One requirement for that class 
will be plant identification of plants in the field.

In both cases I cannot imagine how an interactive key would ever be a 
viable option.  Lugging a several pound laptop into the field to 
identify organisms seems like overkill when a paper version weighing 
a few ounces will do just as well.  I guess I need an explanation as 
to why there would ever be an emphasis on interactive key software 
programs over dichotomous keys?  Most of the identification that I do 
is in the field.  Older field guides generally include keys for 
identification but the more recently published guides lack them, the 
emphasis is instead on full color photos.  Nothing beats a field 
guide with line drawings and a good key for identification.

As much as I appreciate technology and the contribution computers 
make I find myself being a bit of Luddite when it comes to the idea 
of chucking out dichotomous keys.  Taking time to produce a pretty 
interactive key seems like a waste of time.  My target audience 
already spends too much time in front of a computer.  They need to 
grab a backpack, head out into the woods, and sit under a tree while 
trying to identify something cool they've just found.  Difficult 
groups of organisms being treated in monographs, etc. should continue 
to use the old fashioned dichotomous key.  Computer servers go down, 
websites change, specialists die, but their paper version keys will 
live on for decades.

I better go, I'm feeling like a grumpy old man.

Cheers!

JB

On Aug 30, 2006, at 12:49 PM, farmer at cb.uga.edu wrote:

> Dear Jerry,
>
> I would strongly recommend that you steer away from dichotomous keys
> and instead look at LUCID or one of the intereactive keys like it.
>
> These tend to be more robust, more flexible, easier to use, and 
> more easily
> expanded as more taxa and characters become available.
>
> You might also wish to partner with Discover Life
> http://www.discoverlife.org/
> which has some excellent ID Nature guides built around the 
> interactive key
> approach.
>
> -Mark Farmer
>
>
>
> ------- Forwarded message follows -------
> To:                            taxacom <taxacom at mailman.nhm.ku.edu>
> From:                          Jerry Bricker <jbricker at nebrwesleyan.edu>
> Date sent:                     Wed, 30 Aug 2006 11:23:21 -0500
> Subject:                       [Taxacom] Dichotomous key software
>
> [ Double-click this line for list subscription options ]
>
> Hello all,
>
> We're looking to redo some keys to campus plants and would like to
> use a software package to do so.  I understand there are some good
> programs out there that will make the task easier.  Can any give me
> suggestions as to which are the best.  Our department primarily is
> set up to use Macs so that platform would be our first choice.
>
> JB
>
>
> __________________________________
>
> Jerry Bricker
> Assistant Professor of Biology
> Department of Biology
> Nebraska Wesleyan University
> 5000 Saint Paul Avenue
> Lincoln, NE 68504-2794
> Phone: 402-465-2446
> FAX: 402-465-2179
> E-mail: jbricker at nebrwesleyan.edu
> Web: http://biology.nebrwesleyan.edu/jbricker
>
> "Every time a shaman dies, it is as if a library burns down."
>
> Mark Plotkin from his book Tales of a Shaman's Apprentice.
>
>
>
> _______________________________________________
> Taxacom mailing list
> Taxacom at mailman.nhm.ku.edu
> http://mailman.nhm.ku.edu/mailman/listinfo/taxacom
> ------- End of forwarded message -------Mark A. Farmer
> Dept. Cellular Biology
> 724 Biological Sciences Bldg.  
> University of Georgia, Athens, GA 30602
> (706)542-3383 Voice   (706)542-4271 FAX
> farmer at cb.uga.edu
>
> (This message is made of 100% recycled electrons)
>



__________________________________

Jerry Bricker
Assistant Professor of Biology
Department of Biology
Nebraska Wesleyan University
5000 Saint Paul Avenue
Lincoln, NE 68504-2794
Phone: 402-465-2446
FAX: 402-465-2179
E-mail: jbricker at nebrwesleyan.edu
Web: http://biology.nebrwesleyan.edu/jbricker

"Every time a shaman dies, it is as if a library burns down."

Mark Plotkin from his book Tales of a Shaman's Apprentice.



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