[Taxacom] Software for curating taxonomic/biological/specimen information

Doug Yanega dyanega at ucr.edu
Thu Dec 1 12:27:42 CST 2016

I'll offer my two cents. Back around 1994, I had a postdoc at the INHS 
to help develop a database for their aquatic insect collection. The 
database was in FileMaker. I learned how to use it, how to design fields 
and modify the interface, how to link relational files, and it was not a 
difficult thing. 22 years later, I still use FileMaker Pro, now to 
manage a collection at UCR containing some 4 million specimens, of which 
around half a million have database records. True, it is not 
pre-packaged. You have to learn how to make it do what you want it to 
do, but it can do almost anything. True, it has some "personality 
quirks" which take getting used to. But it is platform-independent, 
flexible, powerful, easy to learn and use, fairly cheap, and it is 
extremely well-supported. Over 20 years and still going strong, and I 
have no fear of ever losing our data to obsolescence. I've seen most of 
the other software that's around, and have never yet seen anything that 
I would consider a significant *overall* improvement over what FMPro 
does for me. True, I had to put a fair bit of my own time and energy 
into building the interface, but that's not really a drawback; after 
all, if I decide I need a new or modified data field (e.g., in order to 
better correspond to Darwin Core standards), or want to add new 
functionality (e.g., displaying images, linking to Google Earth), I can 
do it myself (or with a little help and/or research), sometimes immediately.

I'll add one more thing: since it CAN be customized, FMPro offers the 
potential for different users to develop tools, tricks, and interface 
designs that can be shared with other users, to everyone's collective 
benefit. If someone else using FMPro wanted to see how my database is 
structured, I could easily send them copies of the templates for each of 
the five relational databases that comprise my system (one for 
localities, 3 for taxonomy, and one for specimen records themselves), 
and vice-versa; we could learn from one another, and maybe both come out 
ahead. I know at least a few major collections other than mine use 
FMPro-based databases (e.g., INHS, AMNH), so I'm not alone. But, when 
discussions like this crop up, they ALWAYS focus on pre-packaged 
specimen management software, so you will rarely hear from us. I'd 
encourage people to consider FMPro as another option.


Doug Yanega      Dept. of Entomology       Entomology Research Museum
Univ. of California, Riverside, CA 92521-0314     skype: dyanega
phone: (951) 827-4315 (disclaimer: opinions are mine, not UCR's)
   "There are some enterprises in which a careful disorderliness
         is the true method" - Herman Melville, Moby Dick, Chap. 82

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