The Polistes Foundation

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Web-based identification guides for common North American butterflies, moths, caterpillars, wildflowers, and invasive species

Proposal funded by the USGS-NBII


Cover letter

From: John Pickering <>
To: Annie Simpson <>

February 03, 2002

Annie Simpson
Biological Resources Division


Here is our proposal to develop Web-based identification guides. If it meets your approval, please relay it to Gladys. If not, send me your recommendations, and I'll see what we can do. I'll be in Boston 5-12 Feb. You can reach me there via Kevin Weick at 617-484-6428.

The proposal totals $24,900, as per your recent request. Earlier we envisioned a larger budget that included guides for common ferns, grasses, trees, and vertebrates. Hopefully, we can tackle these and additional groups in the not too distant future.

John Pickering Office: 706-542-1115
711 Biological Sciences Building FAX: 706-542-3344
University of Georgia Lab.: 706-542-1388
Athens, GA 30602-2602 Department: 706-542-3379
e-mail: Home: 706-353-7076
URL: <,_John.html>


Title: "Web-based identification guides for common North American butterflies, moths, caterpillars, wildflowers, and invasive species."

John Pickering, University of Georgia
Brian Scholtens, College of Charleston
Robb Turner, SAMAB
David Wagner, University of Connecticut
Kay Yatskievych, Missouri Botanical Garden

Summary: We propose to build guides to empower Web users to identify over 1,400 North American species, using Polistes Corporation's 20q software (see <>). The guides will be useful to schools, citizen scientists, land managers, and scientists alike. They will provide a powerful tool for teachers, students and other non-experts to identify species and contribute to our knowledge of pollination and herbivory (see Nature Days <>).

We propose to do the following:

  1. Add at least 600 North American common species to a wildflower guide. Kay Yatskievych at Missouri Botanical Garden will coordinate all plant work. Students in Georgia will provide technical support to Mobot in image processing, scoring characters, and populating Web pages. We propose to create a gateway Web page for each species that will include at least one high-quality photograph of the species and links to the Missouri Botanical Garden's Tropicos database <>, <>, and other sites with textual information, distribution maps, and additional images for the species.

  2. Add at least 600 butterfly and moth species from North America and Mexico. Our goal is to focus on the common butterflies and larger moths from the United States, Canada, and Northern Mexico. Brian Scholtens will provide taxonomic expertise and oversight. Georgia students will take high-resolution digital photographs of both the upper- and undersides of the morphs of target species in the University of Georgia' s Natural History Museum. They will provide technical support, process images, and put information on the Web. For each species, we will build a Web gateway with at least two diagnostic high-quality images and links to information on appropriate Websites, such as Butterflies of North America, USGS Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center's Website, <>. We will focus on Nymphalidae, Papilionidae, Pieridae, Saturnidae, Sphingidae and charismatic species in other groups that non-experts most likely will find and wish to identify.

  3. Add 150 species to a guide to North American caterpillars. Dave Wagner at the University of Connecticut will coordinate this work, select species, provide photographs, and advise Georgia students in scoring characters. Georgia students will process images and build gateway Web pages that will contain at least one photograph per species and links to USGS and other sites as described above. Even though there are over 14,000 Lepidoptera species in the United States, by selecting the 150 species most commonly encountered by school children in eastern North America, we estimate that we will enable them to successfully identify over 80% of the specimens that they find. For polymorphic species and ones that differ significantly between instars, we intend to include several photographs.

  4. As a showcase of how to identify exotic invasive species from native ones, we propose to add at least 50 invasive species and their look-alike relatives to the guides. These will include the gypsy moth and most of the invasive and native honeysuckles in the genus Lonicera. We will put invasive species into the guides described above guides and also into a guide that we will create specifically for invasive species. Again, we will link each invasive species in the guides to existing Web pages on each species. In the addition to the 50 invasive species that we will add of our choosing, we will provide technical support to USGS-BRD personnel and your collaborators so that you can send us photographs and characters and include 300 species of your choosing into the on-line guide(s).

  5. We propose to develop a technical support center for taxonomists, photographers, illustrators, and others volunteering help with IDnature guides. The center's equipment and expertise will allow volunteers to contribute toward our goal of eventually providing Web users with guides to all species. In 2002, we anticipate that volunteers will complete a guide to North American salamanders, for example. Most notably, we must replace a digital camera that is on loan to us. Goto here to see a medium resolution image from this camera. Then click on the image to see its maximum resolution. We also must add storage capacity to our servers to enable to serve the images.

  6. We propose to develop Easy Names for all the species that we add to the guides. Easy Names are standard identifiers that are easily remembered, are unique for each morph that they name, are permanent, and can be used over the Web to retrieve the most current scientific name. In addition to making standard names easier for non-experts, they provide permanent pointers by which information about organisms can be linked across Web databases. For example, Brian Scholtens will start to add Easy Names to the authority list of 14,000 North American butterflies and moths that he is building. Kay Yatskievych will do the same for the plants. Eventually we hope that Easy Names will be widely adopted, being added to the ITIS database, for example. The Easy Names entries will link to scientific names in the ITIS database.

  7. At no charge to users, we will serve the proposed guides and images through existing servers into the foreseeable future. If at some point we are unable to continue this service, we will transfer the guides to a non-profit or government organization. The proposers individually retain exclusive copyright, with all rights reserved, to their photographs. Polistes Corporation does the same for the 20q software that serves the guides.

$6,500 Digital Camera: Nikon D1X, lenses, flash, AC-power supply, cables
$2,500 Storage Disks: with SCCI interface for existing Unix server and mirror
$2,500 Computer: Macintosh G4 and software
$7,655 Support for UGA undergraduate student technicians ($7.50/hour)
$2,000 Support of Kay Yatskievych, Missouri Botanical Garden
$1,500 Support of Dave Wagner, University of Connecticut
$1,000 Support of Brian Scholtens, College of Charleston
$1,245 5% indirect costs for The Polistes Foundation, to manage the grant

1 year from transfer of funds from USGS-BRD to The Polistes Foundation.

Discover Life | All Living Things | IDnature guides | The Polistes Foundation | Proposals | NBII, 2002