Taxon Assignment

John Pickering
13 December, 1998


Much work remains to be done to understand and conserve the planet's biodiversity. Out of the estimated 3 - 30 million extant species, only about 1.4 million species have scientific names, with the majority of species, primarily tropical or marine ones, being unknown and undescribed by science. Even in temperate regions, because of the difficulty of collecting and identifying the rich diversity of small specimens, most of our knowledge from surveys and inventories concerns vertebrates and vascular plants. Invertebrates, fungi, and microbes are poorly known for most areas. Fortunately, as technology advances, it is now becoming feasible to consider conducting complete inventories of our natural heritage.

The concept of an All Taxa Biotic Inventory (ATBI) is to inventory and make information available on all species within a specified area, such as a park or wildlife preserve. The first ATBI was conceived and planned in Costa Rica for the estimated 235,000 species in Area de Conservacion de Guanacaste (ACG). It was a joint venture between the ACG and Costa Rica's Instituto Nacional de Biodiversidad (INBio). Unfortunately, while much inventory work and biodiversity development continues in Costa Rica, this ATBI as a formal entity ended prematurely in November of 1996. Additional ATBI's are now under consideration by the U. S. National Park Service for the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and other national parks. If undertaken, these ATBI's will provide considerable employment opportunities for young ecologists and systematists. The ATBI in Costa Rica, for example, had raised $20 million of the estimated $90 million needed to complete the project.

The goal of an ATBI is not simply to list the presence or absence of species within the defined area but primarily to collect and disseminate useful information on the assemblage of species that live in and move through the area. An ATBI would have many steps between data collection and the dissemination of its final product -- information. Here is a partial list of what might be included:

For more information of the concept of an ATBI, please see the following links:
Trial Species Home Pages and Insect Diversity Project

We wish to teach you modern inventorying techniques and have you learn local natural history. Hence, we suggest that you inventory a section of your school yard or local park to provide supplemental information for the ATBI and as a training exercise for you.

Because of time constraints, we propose to balance organizing and disseminating information with field work at your local site. Each of you will be required to build three pages on the WWW: one for a higher taxon (i. e., either a genus, tribe, subfamily, or family) and one Web page for each of two species within your higher taxon. The species you choose must exist both locally and in the Smokies. After visiting your local site and consulting with your teacher, please choose a higher taxon and two species. You will be required to present evidence that each of your species occurs locally, and hence, we recommend that you consider working with trees and plants and staying away from bears and bobcats. Some of the species that occur in the Smokies are listed in the Checklists under Flora & Fauna at this site. You may choose your taxa so long as they are not the same as another student's. In addition, if you choose to work with species' for which a higher taxon page already exists, you may make pages for three species within that higher taxon, rather than two species pages and a new higher taxon page. Choices will be approved on a first-come, first-served basis. If you want suggestions, please ask.

Computer Accounts
We have created a UNIX computer account for each of you. Through your account you have access to e-mail, the WWW, and a place in which to create your Web pages. You can use the computers in the BioScience Learning Center, those in Ecology's Teaching Facility, or other machines with access to the Internet to work in your account. The UNIX machine's address is, and your e-mail address is

Grading -- Substance over appearance
Because you will use a new technology for which you have little or no experience, we will grade this assignment primarily on the content of your Web pages and not on how slick they appear. In short, go for content. However, we do not want just plain text. We want your pages to include images, tables, and hypertext links between them and other sites. Additional guidelines and help will be given on how to accomplish the technological aspects of what is required. For example, we anticipate being able to help you scan a limited number of 35mm slide photographs for inclusion into your pages. We encourage you to take photographs and obtain previously scanned images from the Web to include in you pages. We will grade the assignment based on the amount of effort that you do, on your thoroughness and creativity, and on quality and content. The following page layouts are to guide you. You may modify them if you feel that by so doing your pages will improve. As possible examples of species-level Web pages, please see Trial Species Home Pages If yours are anywhere near as good as these, you will get you full credit and 5 bonus points. So don't panic when you see them.

Web Page Layout
Our goal is that each of you will contribute pages to our Web site that will disseminate information on the species at Sams Farm. We propose to link information phylogenetically, with species Web pages being linked to pages on genera, genera linked to tribes, tribes to subfamilies, etc. Hence, we want you to create two types of pages with the following specifications:

Higher Taxon Page

  1. Title -- the name of your higher taxon (e. g., Quercus, if you choose this genus -- oaks), include both the scientific and common names.

  2. Author -- Put your full name and a possible link to information about you if you want to have a home page on yourself.

  3. Higher Taxon -- the name of your higher taxon's higher taxon (e. g., Fagaceae, the beech family, of which species in the genus Quercus are members).

  4. Description of your higher taxon, including diagnostic characters (e. g., written description, a key, photographs, etc.) to distinguish members of the your higher taxon from members of other taxa. Include original taxonomic citations.

  5. Species List of all taxa within your higher taxon. This table should include a complete list of all the taxa within your higher taxon, listed alphabetically. We suggest that each line in this list include the scientific and common name(s). Be sure to state how you arrived at this list, giving appropriate citations. The names of your two species should each have a hypertext link to their individual Web pages. If you chose Quercus, then this list would be fairly long and you might want to include it on a separate linked page. W. H. Duncan and M. B. Duncan list 60 species of Quercus in Trees of the Southeastern United States, alphabetically starting with Quercus acutissima and ending with Quercus virginiana. Assuming that your two species are Quercus alba (white oak) and Quercus nigra (water oak), both of which occur at Sams Farm, then you would have hyperlinks from these two species to their respective Web pages.

  6. Identification Guide to distinguish the species within your higher taxa from each other. If your higher taxon includes numerous species, you may wish just to give a citation of a key or field guide that can separate them rather than including the whole key in your Web page. However, please include enough information to identify the species for which you are building Web pages from each other and from other members of your higher taxon. In short, continuing our example, make sure that you include enough information to distinguish Q. alba and Q. nigra from each other and from the other 58 Quercus in the Southeast.

  7. General Information on your higher taxon's natural history, life cycle, ecology, economic importance, uses, etc. Limit this to one paragraph. Include citations and links so that users can get for more information elsewhere.

  8. References should be give in scientific notation. For books, also include the ISBN number if possible. You may wish to set up your references so that they are linked with intra-page links to the text of your pages. In this regard see the HTML source commands:

Species Pages

  1. Scientific Name -- the scientific name of a species (e. g., Quercus alba) followed by taxonomic authority.

  2. Taxonomic Authority -- Name of individual(s) who first described the species.

  3. Common Names -- List of all common names.

  4. Higher taxa -- Give the Class, Order, Family, Subfamily, Tribe and Genus of the species, providing hypertext links to those for which Web pages exist. See "Tree of Life."

  5. Identification Discription of species including diagnostic characters to distinguish it from other species. Try to cover all life stages and growth forms (e. g., flower, fruits, leaves, bark, branching patterns; adult, egg, larva, pupa, etc.). If possible include images and/or drawings of important characters. Give the following information on the species:
  6. Geography -- Give an overview of the species distribution and relative abundance. Include a map if you can. Include a table or list of whether it occurs in the following political and geomorphological divisions and habitats within Sams Farm:

    Quercus nigra L.

    North America:
    Continental United States; Canada
    Yes Duncan & Duncan, 1988
    Eastern North America:
    United States east of Mississippi;
    Ontario and eastern Canada
    YesDuncan & Duncan, 1988
    Southeastern United States:
    YesDuncan & Duncan, 1988
    Southern Appalachian States:
    YesDuncan & Duncan, 1988
    Coastal PlainWidespreadRadford, Ahles & Bell, 1968;
    Jones & Coile, 1988
    PiedmontWidespreadRadford, Ahles & Bell, 1968;
    Jones & Coile, 1988
    Blue Ridge MountainsMarginalRadford, Ahles & Bell, 1968
    Great Smoky Mountains National Park
    NoRadford, Ahles & Bell, 1968
    Ridge and ValleyYesJones & Coile, 1988
    Cumberland PlateauYesJones & Coile, 1988
    Central ArchYesAlbert J. Meier, Pers. Comm.
    GeorgiaYesJones & Coile, 1988
    Clarke County, GeorgiaYesUGA Herbarium Specimens
    Sams FarmCommonJohn Pickering, Pers. Ob.
    Old Field
    No adultsJohn Pickering, Pers. Ob.
    CommonJohn Pickering, Pers. Ob.
    1-Hectare Plot
    CommonJohn Pickering, Pers. Ob.

    For each place, be sure to cite your sources in the table. If you are personally recorded it, be sure to cite yourself with Pers. Obs (Personal Observation). Try to give some indication in your table as to the species abundance and spatial distribution, using such terms as widespread, local, common, rare, or absent. If there are no records or you lack information, hazard a guess: "No information, but possibly, probably, probably not,..." and cite yourself -- the now expert! For Sams Farm, give the evidence that you have that it does or does not occur there. For example, describe the logic behind your decision and cite any authority who may have helped you determine you material. If you include photographs of individuals from Sams Farm, be sure to state that the photographs are from material from Sams Farm in their captions.

  7. Natural History -- Describe its ecological requirements, life-cycle, diet, seasonal activity, population dynamics, etc.

  8. How to Encounter -- Give information on how where, how and when to find it. If it occurs in Sams Farm, focus on how to observe, find, catch it at Sams Farm. Be specific. For example, if it is growing in the 1-hectare plot at Sams Farm, give plot coordinates so that someone wanting to see it can go directly to it.

  9. References -- as above. In total, we are required to cite 5-20 published references in your pages. You should use the Science Library. Go on an arranged tour if you are unfamiliar with Galin, GALILEO, or other electronic aspects of data retrieval offered by the library. Start by using Current Contents, BIOSIS, Zoological Record or Agricola. Find your references in the library or on the Web using GALILEO. Use Galin to get the call numbers. Use your Net browser to search the Web for additional information.

    Warning -- Do not break copyright laws or fail to cite sources. Bad things could happen to you. While you are encouraged to include information from books, journals, the WWW and elsewhere in your pages, do not break laws. Be sure to use quotation marks and cite text from all sources. Be sure that you have permission to put images on our Web server before you do so and cite your source for each image. All figures, maps and images are to include a citation to there original source in their caption. If you take a photograph or make a figure, then please include your name in the caption, e. g., [Photograph by John Pickering]. In short, get permission before you put other authors' information on the Web.

    Duncan, W.H. & M. B. Duncan. 1988. Trees of the Southeastern United States. The University of Georgia Press. Athens, GA. (ISBN 0-8203-0954-0). 322 pages.

    Jones, S. B. & N. C. Coile. 1988. Distribution of the Vascular Flora of Georgia. Dept. of Bothany, University of Georgia. Athens, GA.

    Radford, A. E., H. E. Ahles & C. R. Bell. 1968. Manual of the Vascular Flora of the Carolinas. University of North Carolina Press. Chapel Hill, NC.

Sams Farm -- We wish to restrict your activities at Sams Farm to the three areas where we have taken you on field trips. These are the old field and the adjacent wetland and woods in the southwest corner of the property. Do not go elsewhere on the farm, as we do not wish to interfere with the farming and dairy activities. Do not cross the fence on the east side of the woods.

Safety -- Follow the guidelines given in the course syllabus. In particular, we recommend that (1) you go to the farm in groups rather than alone, (2) tell someone where you are going and when you should be back, (3) take a compass and head south toward Highway 78 if you get lost, (4) don't cross the stream under any circumstances if it is flooded, (5) be aware of deep holes in the wetland and know how to swim, (6) avoid poison ivy, especially the massive patch by the gate, (7) check yourselves for ticks immediate on returning home, and (8) take water so as to avoid heat stroke. Oh, and have fun.

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