[Taxacom] Field Biologist Data Gathering Tools

Bob Mesibov mesibov at southcom.com.au
Mon Mar 26 17:25:17 CDT 2007


Let's look at these questions from the museum's point of view.

Many specimens arrive at our museum with label data (i.e., information 
written/printed on labels), and nothing else. Others come with an Excel or 
text document as a supplement. Supplements contain the label data we already 
have, plus other information that would crowd the label if printed there.

All information associated with a specimen, from whatever source, gets 
entered by hand into our collection database. Even in those cases where the 
specimen provider has given us a spreadsheet, there is typically a data 
category mismatch between the provider's fields and our database fields. 
Even when the data categories are matched, the provider's data _format_ (how 
you write a date, how you express lat/long, whether collector's surname 
comes first, etc) is typically different from ours. I suspect this is the 
case around the world.

A specimen typically finishes up with two labels. One is the provider's, and 
may have nothing on it but a field code. The second is ours, and is produced 
from the collection database following a fixed format, with label lines 
linked to particular database fields

A related question is: how much of the data associated with a specimen do 
you put on a museum label, especially in those cases where the provider has 
only supplied a field-code label? Do you just label a specimen with its 
museum registration number, and rely on accessing the database for 
everything else, or do you put everything known about the specimen on the 
label? Our general practice is to label with registration number, locality, 
date and collector. Everything else, including the taxonomic identity of the 
specimen (which can change from revision to revision) remains in the 
database.
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Dr Robert Mesibov
Honorary Research Associate, Queen Victoria Museum and Art Gallery
and School of Zoology, University of Tasmania
Home contact: PO Box 101, Penguin, Tasmania, Australia 7316
(03) 64371195; 61 3 64371195

Australian Millipedes Checklist
http://www.qvmag.tas.gov.au/zoology/millipedes/index.html
Tasmanian Multipedes
http://www.qvmag.tas.gov.au/zoology/multipedes/mulintro.html
Spatial data basics for Tasmania
http://www.utas.edu.au/spatial/locations/index.html
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