[Taxacom] Field Biologist Data Gathering Tools

Doug Yanega dyanega at ucr.edu
Mon Mar 26 18:25:50 CDT 2007

>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?

Our museum's database has a separate field in which the literal text 
of the label(s) is entered. ALMOST NEVER does the literal label text 
contain all of the pertinent information that needs to go with the 
specimen's record - this is epecially true of insects, where the 
labels have to be about 8x15mm in maximum dimensions. Therefore, the 
information in the database is generally far more detailed and far 
more important (should anyone need to know about the specimen) than 
what is written on the label. All it requires is that a unique 
database-coded label be added to the specimen, and that the data 
entry person knows how to parse and interpret label data. The 
advantage, once one has done this, is that the original data label 
can be left as is, even if it's only a numeric code. Furthermore, if 
we had a dollar for every original data label that was erroneous in 
one way or another, we could buy a new compactor system - but by 
using the database to store the CORRECT data, we don't have to 
re-print new labels every time someone puts N instead of S, or 
transposes two numerals, or misspells a town name, or any other 
common error. All one needs to know is that if there is a database 
code on a specimen, then one should look in the database to retrieve 
the data, and not use the actual label.

While I can see how it might be easy to have field capture of most of 
the information that goes into a data record (Country, State, county, 
lat/long, elevation, date), the process of generating specimen labels 
involves too much abbreviation and line-juggling (at least for 
insects, trying to squeeze everything into 5 lines no longer than 
15mm) for that particular process to be automated. But yes, I look 
forward to the day when I can press a button on a handheld unit in 
Thailand and it beams the collection data via satellite to my lab 
computer in California.


Doug Yanega        /Dept. of Entomology         /Entomology Research Museum
Univ. of California - Riverside, Riverside, CA 92521-0314
phone: (951) 827-4315 (standard disclaimer: opinions are mine, not UCR's)
    Skype: Dyanega               http://cache.ucr.edu/~heraty/yanega.html
   "There are some enterprises in which a careful disorderliness
         is the true method" - Herman Melville, Moby Dick, Chap. 82

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