Progress report to NBII, December, 2010

Cooperative research on biodiversity informatics:
Creation of web-based tools for invasive species identification, reporting
mapping, and other biodiversity information

Cooperative Agreement
The Polistes Foundation

John Pickering
University of Georgia, Athens

Progress Report for period 16 September - 15 December
Submitted 15 December, 2010

Updated: 17 December, 2010

Identification Guides

This quarter we focused our efforts on two major groups of organisms: wildflowers and moths.
Deliverables: Expansion of North American plant guides (Identification Guides) / Customized Plant Guide for pilot sites (Outreach)

  • We have completed reconciling lists of names from three moth checklists - Butterflies and Moths of North America ( Nearctica ( and Mississsippi State Moth Photographers group ( We now recognize 11,826 moth names and 795 butterfly names in our North American guides. This is completion of work continued from Sep 2010 report.
  • We are in the process of building state level and site level checklists for moths. We imported from three sites: Butterflies and Moths of North America, Georgia moths, from which over 2,400 names have been reconciled.
    and University of Michigan Biological Station (one of our study sites) for which we reconciled 1,350 names.
  • We continue builidng moth guides and have scored all Geometridae (over 1,437 species) for initial characters, and illustrated these characters in the guides. There are 2,222 moths in Georgia of which 300 are Geometrids. We are in the process of adding more detailed characters for the Georgia Geometrids. Our goal is to resolve the Georgia Geometrids down to groups of five, to test how well the character sets can resolve a state fauna, before continuing to build this guide for Michigan and other states.
  • In addition to moths, we have also pulled in a checklist for Fulgoroidea of North America and initiated guide building for this group.

    Deliverable: External Web site integration into plant guide mash-ups:

    • We imported the USDA guide to Fabaceae and converted binary characters to multichotomous key, increasing efficiency and ease of use for this guide.
      For attributions on this page, click "Credits" or "Checklist"

    Deliverable: Field station partners - providing support for pilot study sites

    Deliverable: Mapping and data integration:
    Resolve taxonomic homonyms issue by taking into account scientific name and family names to disambiguate:

    • We are building a database to reconcile generic problems across different taxonomic codes. Our software automatically flags the path, which is where species are placed taxonomically in the tree of life. Initially we had 24,000 conflicts where a species would be in two or more different paths. This can result from two reasons: 1) There can be the same name in two different taxonomic codes (for example, the genus Stelis is both an orchid and a bee) or 2) Different taxonomists put the same species in two different families (for example, Monotropa uniflora has been recently moved from Ericaceae to Monotropaceae and might appear in either family, depending on the resource) Our ultimate goal is to reconcile our names and the taxonomic paths with those in ITIS. Towards this end, we are assigning species to single families unless they are homonyms, in which case we put them in a homonym database. This database now has over 350 genera that correctly use the same name in different families (as in Stelis). We are using an automatic name checker to reconcile lists of species from site checklists with our 1.2 million names. We reconcile names from external checklists with standard names we have collected from our sources, such as John Ascher at AMNH for bees, ITIS and other sources.
    • Becka Walcott has manually corrected over 7,000 name error occurrences on over 1,000 individual names, reconciling Discover Life names with authorities, and correcting synonyms, incorrect families, and misspellings.
    • The mapper thumbnail is now live - not a generic thumbnail but a mini map of actual distribution of species so can see on each species page.

    Deliverable: Developing smart phone compatibility:

    • Developed mobile phone framework for web app user interface.
    • Designed handheld-friendly Discover Life home page.
    • Set up geo-location tagging so that photos can be automatically linked to lat long.
    • Designed pilot species page to handheld-friendly mobile format.
      then enter "Actias luna" or "Apis mellifera" in search box

    Deliverable: Teach photography protocols (Outreach)

    • Local Plant Photography field trip - Goldenrod pollinators and associates - Stone Mountain Oct 17
    • 4H workshops at National 4H Congress, taught macro photography and Discover Life protocols to 200 students and their supervisors.
    • Met with 4H national director, to develop educational partnership with 4H that will enable students participate in collecting data on species.