[Taxacom] O Canada, and the lack of Canadian vascular plant data on GBIF

Tim Dickinson tim.dickinson at utoronto.ca
Mon Sep 20 08:49:35 CDT 2010

  Edwin Groot is correct. Canadian undergrads *are* being hired to 
assist with collection digitization projects in Canadian herbaria thanks 
to federal and provincial funding for Canadensys 
(http://www.canadensys.net/). In fact, this funding has been sufficient 
in several cases to let us hire full-time help for 1-2 years. In the 
case of TRT, these funds only arrived late last year, so that we have 
had a person in place for just the last 6 months. Before this, almost no 
funds were available for databasing (the Northern Ontario Plant 
Database, http://www.northernontarioflora.ca/, provided a welcome 
exception), and georeferencing was not targeted explicitly at all. As a 
result, all of our collection documentation resources (at TRT) have been 
applied to databasing up until now. We do not have institutional IT 
support for getting collection data online, and so the Canadensys 
support is invaluable.

Adolf Ceska is absolutely right that UBC has an excellent e-flora site, 
thanks mainly (so far as i know) to the efforts of an ambitious and 
creative geography professor and his student programmers, together with 
the existence of the UBC database.

A third source of Canadian data that comes to mind is the Flora of the 
Canadian Arctic Archipelago (http://www.mun.ca/biology/delta/arcticf/).

In other words, only recently has there been support for a national 
effort (unfortunately not yet involving all collections) to make 
vascular plant specimen data accessible via GBIF. Canadian vertebrate 
zoologists were luckier, as they were able to tie in with earlier 
efforts like ORNIS, FISHBASE, and MaNIS. Note that the Canadensys 
project includes entomologists as well as botanists and mycologists. My 
guess is that what we're seeing with plants at present on GBIF is the 
result of lack of financial support, insufficient encouragement earlier 
to integrate efforts on BC and the Arctic archipelago with GBIF, and 
differences in the magnitudes of the problems involved. Way more taxa, 
perhaps in some cases way more data, and a lack of appropriate data 
standards. Even now, we are finding that quite apart from cleaning up 
our data, the whole process of standardizing to the current Darwin Core 
fields is a bit of a nightmare because of the way they seem to reflect 
practice with vertebrate collections.

As participants in Canadensys we fondly hope that that the situation 
described by Alex McClay will begin to turn around in the coming year. 
The determination to do so is there, but the funding hasn't been, 
whether at the level of individual institutions, provincial support, or 
federal support.

Cheers, ---TAD.

<Tim Dickinson
<ROM Green Plant Herbarium (TRT)
<Department of Natural History
<Royal Ontario Museum
<100 Queen's Park
<Toronto  ON
<Phone:  (416) 586 8032     FAX:  (416) 586 7921
<E-mail:  tim.dickinson at utoronto.ca
<URL: http://www.rom.on.ca/collections/curators/dickinson.php
<URL: http://www.eeb.utoronto.ca/people/faculty/dickinson

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