The Polistes Foundation

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Web identification guides & maps of North American invasive species

Proposal to the USGS-NBII

Cover letter

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

July 23, 2003

Annie Simpson
National Biological Information Infrastructure


Here is our proposal totalling $24,900 to develop IDnature guides and maps of North American invasive species. 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 and maps of North American invasive species.

Principal Investigator: John Pickering, University of Georgia, Athens

Administrative Contact: Kevin Weick, The Polistes Foundation,

Summary: This is a continuing project to build interactive identification guides and maps of North American invasive species. We will make these products freely available to Web users through Discover Life ( The proposed IDnature guides and maps will give teachers, students, citizen scientists, land managers, and scientists alike powerful tools to distinguish invasive species from each other and from their native look-alikes. They will help users to study and monitor invasive species. Thus, Web users will be better able to contribute to our knowledge of these noxious species and help in their control.

We propose to do the following:

  1. Guides
    Using The Polistes Corporation's 20q software (, we propose to build IDnature guides to distinguish up to 300 invasive species from each other and from their native North American look-alikes.
    • We will select the species from the checklist that we maintain at, adding new species as requested by NBII. Started in 2002, this checklist currently links to information on 250 kinds of invasives.
    • Our focus in 2003 is to add to the IDnature guides for North American invasives as many weeds and other invasive plants for which data are available. We will also include all look-alike native species for which we get distinguishing characteristics from Jeff Waldon at the Conservation Management Institute.
    • The proposed IDnature guide will integrate information from other guides that are being built, such as the one to Wildflowers by Kay Yatskievych at Missouri Botanical Gardens.
    • 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.
    • We will build one master guide to North American invasives and subguides as appropriate. The structure will follow the one we built for Butterflies that draws information from XML files for each butterfly family using the above schema's <include> tags. For this example guide, please see
    • 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.
    • Nancy Lowe (,_Nancy.html) will illustrate 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.
    • 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, textual information from fact sheets, such as from the Global Invasive Species Database, and taxonomy from ITIS.
    • Where appropriate the guides will distinguish kinds within species, allowing users to identify distinct kinds to sex, age, region, seasonal characters, and life stages. 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 a species.
  2. Maps
    We propose to integrate spatial data from NBII partner databases and generate maps for all the invasive species and their look-alikes for which distribution data are available.
    • For up to 20 Web-enabled databases that NBII selects and gets authorization from their owners, we will integrate spatial point data into distribution maps.
    • We will enable Web users to display these maps with 20q's Global Mapper (see This mapper is developed by the partnership between (see and The Polistes Corporation. It plots points on a composite satellite image of the globe and then allows users to zoom in through various layers to see detailed maps. Currently its base maps include a 1:1,000,000 scale map of the world, 17 million topo maps of the United States, and aerial photographs of 89% of the United States to 1 meter per pixel resolution. In total, approximately 20 terabytes of data reside on Topozone's servers and are used by the Global Mapper.
    • For compliant databases that provide unique identifiers with their point data, we will add links on the maps to enable Web users to query data records associated with individual points. Currently we are doing this for data provided by databases at the Missouri Botanical Garden, the University of Georgia, and the University of Illinois.
    • The Global Mapper uses the NAD83 standard to plot points. We will require contributing databases to provide points in NAD83 or NAD27 standards and to specify which one they are using. The Global Mapper automatically switches from latitude-longitude to UTM coordinates at finer resolutions. We will accept points in either of coordinate these systems, but not in other ones.
    • We would prefer that partnering databases allow 20q to get points and associated records from them on the fly using HTTP GET or POST requests. 20q processes the data returned in various formats, including HTML, XML, and plain text. However, for databases that are not Web-enabled, but that are connected to the Internet, 20q can integrate data into the Global Mapper through direct requests to DBI compliant databases, such as Oracle and MySQL, after authorizing with a login name and password.
    • In future proposals, we envision extending the use of the Global Mapper to additional databases and also allowing users to contribute their observations to participating databases. In effect, we plan to build a Web-based, real-time monitoring system of invasive and other species of concern.
  3. Servers
    At no charge to users, we will serve the proposed guides, images, and maps through existing Discover Life servers into the foreseeable future.
    • Currently we have five Sun servers running at the University of Georgia, Athens, and one Linux server at the Agricultural Research Council, South Africa, that together serve over 650,000 pages and images a month.
    • In 2003, Sun Microsystems Inc. gave The Polistes Foundation an equipment grant of over $200,000 that included a number of large storage disks and 10 additional processors. We will use these to serve Discover Life and associated pages from a second site, the Missouri Botanical Garden.
    • If at some point we are unable to continue this service, we will transfer the guides to a non-profit or government organization.
  4. Copyright
    The PI and other contributors 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 or associated Websites. The Polistes Corporation does the same for the 20q software that serves the guides.

$10,000 Scientific illustration ($20.00/hour)
$6,200 Technical 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

9 months from completion of paper work between USGS-NBII and The Polistes Foundation.

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