[Taxacom] Species Pages - where are the online descriptions?

Mary Barkworth Mary at biology.usu.edu
Sun Feb 1 07:03:12 CST 2009

Bart identified the problem - that species pages are having to be
constructed on a volunteer basis by people that are already swamped with
expectations. Like you, I have found that most species pages when
brought up are simply regurgitation of nomenclatural information or
provision of an electronic version of a printed work. The last are of
value to those who cannot afford the book - many. In that category, but
in my prejudiced view containing more resources than most, is
http://herbarium.usu.edu/webmanual/ which started with the content of
the grass volumes of the Flora of North America. What sets them apart is
that each species is illustrated with a line drawing and, for native and
introduced species, there is a distribution map. There are also many
pages on Carex that Tim Jones has put together at
http://utc.usu.edu/factsheets/CarexFSF/index.htm  These are original but
contain links to the FNA treatment which Tim used as the starting point
for his identification key. (http://utc.usu.edu/keys/) . Yes, I am

In terms of nomenclature, botanists are really well served by TROPICOS
http://www.tropicos.org/. It was initiated as a resource to aid the
curators at Missouri Botanical Garden but is now a major resource for
those working in areas of interest to the Garden. What one sees now is,
however, the result of many many years of work - and vision and
commitment. My impression is that its initial development was funded by
the Garden.  I recommend it to all organizations offering nomenclatural
information - of which there seem, in some areas, many offering more or
less the same basic information. [Disclaimer - I have no formal
connection with the garden - I just use Tropicos a lot]. If I have
nomenclatural questions I ask Kanchi Gandhi of IPNI, a resource that is
stronger that contains some names not in Tropicos.

Anyone seeking to build resources by just grabbing what is out there and
asking taxonomists to keep it up to date, make corrections, etc. etc.
should really search hard to find out first whether there is an already
existing resource that, with some support, might become the resource
that is needed. Taxonomists are very busy. A few weeks ago, I asked
people at US herbaria to update the information in the Biodiversity
Collections Index. From your comments, there were several that did so
(thank you folks). Nevertheless, the doers represented a small fraction
of the US herbaria. We should not be surprised. Taxonomists are busy
people - and Index Herbariorum has served them well for many years. The
best news that came out of the discussion was that BCI and IH were going
to be able to exchange information in their common fields automatically
- sometime in the future. Would that this had been the approach when BCI
was started. Perhaps it was and the difficulties and that time were
insurmountable - but the impression that I get sometimes is that an
organization decides a resource would be wonderful (and a good Web site
point to real species pages would be useful), but taxonomists are busy.
Make it worth **their** while. Publicity and good will is great -
together with $1 (or more), it buys a cup of coffee.  Time for this one
to start working on some of the promises she has made ...


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