Taxonomy in the digital age

There has been a lot written in the last few years about the rapidly evolving field of biodiversity informatics. Taxonomy is now moving quickly into the web-based information age, which for most of us (including me) means new and different ways of working with, thinking about, and sharing data about biodiversity.  Faced with the choice of doing things like they've been done for centuries, or embracing new technologies and ways of thinking, we begin our new project – Arctic Flora of Canada and Alaska – with the full intent of adapting to and using the standards and tools that are being developed for web-based communication of biodiversity information. 

For the uninitiated, the recent papers below provide good summaries of some of the new tools that are being developed.  The general approaches explained in these collectively represent the direction we’re hoping to take the Arctic Flora. Of course these are just small sampling of the many new tools that are emerging. Most of these papers are open access; to find them, click on the link then click on the URL (if present) or click the included 'Google Scholar' search, which will take you to the publication. 

Firstly, you’re reading this post on our brand new Arctic Flora Scratchpad site. Read more about the history and launch of Scratchpads in Smith et al. (2009).  In short, Scratchpads were developed as a way to share, curate and communicate many kinds of biodiversity information.  If you’re reading this, I would suggest that the site works!

Berendsohn (2010) reviews the history and current directions of the EDIT (European Distributed Institute of Taxonomy) Platform for Cybertaxonomy.  The Platform brings together into a single working enviornment the many tools that taxonomists need to do their work and publish it online and in print.

Venin et al. (2010) discuss how descriptive data (i.e., taxon descriptions) are being dealt with and integrated into the Platform for Cybertaxonomy, including the tools currently available and those expected to be available in the future. The authors report that their aim is to eventually fully implement the program Xper2 into the Platform.

Xper2 is a recently developed program for managing, storing, editing and analysing (e.g., interactive keys) descriptive data on the web (Ung et al. 2010).  The program is non-commercial and free of charge. Other programs that have been developed to work with descriptive data are the more familiar Delta and Lucid platforms.

Insightful papers on the state of taxonomy and the need to move to a web-based system of information distribution, including some of the sociological aspects of this major transition in how we do our work, include Mayo et al. (2008), Smith et al. (2010) and Costello (2009).

It’s also worth exploring several related papers by Vince Smith.

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Scratchpads developed and conceived by (alphabetical): Ed Baker, Katherine Bouton Alice Heaton Dimitris Koureas, Laurence Livermore, Dave Roberts, Simon Rycroft, Ben Scott, Vince Smith