The Polistes Foundation

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Web identification guides to North American birds

Proposal to the USGS-NBII

Cover letter

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

April 11, 2003

Annie Simpson
National Biological Information Infrastructure


Here is our proposal totalling $24,900 to develop IDnature guides to North American birds. If it meets your approval, please relay it to Gladys. If not, send me your recommendations, and I'll change it.

John Pickering Office: 706-542-1115
717A 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 identification guides to North American birds.

Principal Investigator: John Pickering, University of Georgia, Athens

Administrative Contact: Kevin Weick, The Polistes Foundation,,_Kevin.html

Summary: We propose to build interactive identification guides to all North American birds and make them freely available to Web users through Discover Life ( The proposed IDnature guides will give teachers, students, citizen scientists, land managers, and scientists alike a powerful tool to identify birds. They will help Web users to study and monitor birds and contribute to our knowledge of their distribution and biology.

We propose to do the following:

  1. Using The Polistes Corporation's 20q software (, we propose to build IDnature guides to over 1,100 kinds of North American birds, including all species recognized by the Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology ( and the USGS Patuxent Wildlife Research Center's Breeding Bird Survey (
  2. The proposed guides' underlying data structure will be in XML, as specified in by the schema for IDnature guides at
    These XML files will be put on Discover Life and made available to everyone.
  3. We will build one master guide to North American birds and 8 subguides. The master guide and subguides to Ducks/Geese/Swans, Game, Perching, Raptor, Sea, Shore/Wading, Woodpecker, and Other birds will draw information from XML files for each bird family using the above schema's <include> tags. For a prototype guide that we have already built for the Woodpeckers, please see
  4. The proposed guides will include scientific names, other names, character-state attributes used in identification, illustrations of character-states, and links to images and information about each species.
  5. Nancy Lowe (,_Nancy.html) will illustrate all the morphological character-states in the proposed guides. The guides will present her illustrations as thumbnails that link to higher resolution images. John Pickering will retain ownership and copyright of these illustrations. The public will be allowed to use them for non-profit purposes so long as they credit Nancy Lowe and specify a link to Discover Life where used.
  6. Technicians will support the proposal by processing images, scoring attributes, and linking the guides to images and information for each species. They will try to link each species in the guides to at least one high-quality photograph, a distribution map, and textual information at the Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology, the USGS's Breeding Bird Survey, ITIS, and other Web sites.
  7. The guides will distinguish kinds of birds within species, allowing users to identify distinct kinds to sex, age, region, and seasonal plumage. For species that cannot be distinguished by field markings, the guides will resolve identifications to all possible species or to a higher category that includes these species.
  8. At no charge to users, we will serve the proposed guides and images through existing Discover Life 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.
  9. The PI and other contributers will retain ownership and exclusive copyright, with all rights reserved, to any illustrations, photographs, or text they place in the guides or elsewhere on the Discover Life Website. The Polistes Corporation does the same for the 20q software that serves the guides.

$10,000 Scientific illustration ($20.00/hour)
$6,200 Technicial support ($7.00 to $10.00/hour)
$6,155 PI Salary (10% time)
$1,300 Unix system support ($65.00/hour)
$1,245 5% indirect costs for The Polistes Foundation to manage the grant

6 months from transfer of funds from USGS-NBII to The Polistes Foundation.

Discover Life | All Living Things | IDnature guides | The Polistes Foundation | Proposals | Birds, 2003