Final report to NBII, December, 2011

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

Final Report for period 15 March, 2010 - 15 December, 2011
Submitted 14 December, 2011

Updated: 13 December, 2011

Deliverables: Identification Guides / Outreach:

Wildflower guides:

  • The customized wildflower guides for the following study sites resolve to nine species, allowing the user to compare images: Rocky Mountain Biological Laboratory, CO, Nantucket Field Station, MA, Mountain Lake Biological Station, VA, and Highlands Biological Station, NC. Two additional sites, The State Botanical Garden, GA and Balsam Mountain, NC, are close to completion with this stage.
  • A major step in building the guides is scoring each species for a set of ten characters that appear on the front page. These "top ten" basic characters separate the species into smaller groups which we then resolve by scoring for characters in comparison with others in the smaller groups. We have scored the "top ten" for the states of North Carolina, Virginia, Maryland and Vermont, and are close to completion of this stage for Massachusetts and Georgia.
Moth Identification Guides:
  • We continue building moth guides. For the Clarke County, GA guide, we now have a total of over 46,000 photographs of moths and other insects that come to lights, and of those, over 27,000 are identified to species. We are now using web tools and protocols that enable us to expedite tenfold the species identification process. For example, up to last month, we had identified 17,000 moths to species, and using new methods we are already up to 27,000 species one month later. With partners at Syracuse University and Encyclopedia of Life, we are developing a video game in which players help sort our moth records into categories, another aid to expediting identification. We currently have 691 species in our moth guides of Clarke County, a guide which serves as a basis for identifying common moths in much of Eastern North America. See:

Deliverable: Idenfitication Guides -- Incorporation of photographs by expert cooperators:

We incorporated entire databases from the following:

  • Les Mehrhoff, Invasive plants of New England
  • Lisa Ames, moths of South Georgia
  • Larry McDaniel (from Flickr album), moths of Eastern Tennessee
  • Sheryl Pollock, (from Flickr album) insects, plants and others of Virginia
Other additions to databases:
  • Doug Yanega updated datasets from the University of California, Riverside into the Global Mapper, thus updating over 125,000 records.
  • Leo Shapiro added 26,065 records from the Singing Insects of North America database to the Global Mapper. See
  • Art Bogan and his colleagues from the Freshwater Mollusk Conservation Society started an IDnature guide to 306 kinds of fresh water mussels in North America. See
Deliverable: Outreach -- Teaching photography protocols/ Moth Party/ Bee Hunt/ Plant photography:

We taught two week-long workshops using macro photography to collect digital photographic data on plants and moths at Highlands Biological Station, NC, and an Improving Teacher Quality Workshop at Charlie Elliott Wildlife Center, GA. In addition, we taught one-day workshops in photography of plants, day-flying insects, lichens, and other groups at Nantucket Field Station, MA, Chattahoochee Nature Center, GA, and Stone Mountain, GA.

We are now encouraging teachers to use our moth datasets for teaching quantitative analysis. These datasets and their web pages entice teachers to participate in data collection and use Discover Life projects for teaching science.
See and

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

  • We have added the following study sites:
    Nantucket Field Station, MA
    Roan Mountain, NC/ TN
    State Botanical Garden, GA
    Sweetwater Creek, GA
    Stone Mountain Park, GA
    Charlie Elliott Wildlife Center, GA
    UGA Tifton campus, GA
    UGA Griffin campus, GA
    Rock Eagle 4H Center, (Putnam County) GA
    The pages for these are accessible from the master study site page, along with a map with live links for each.
  • From these new sites we have incorporated 52 checklists of plants, moths, butterflies, lichens, mammals, birds, fish, reptiles and amphibians.
Deliverable: Mapping and data integration:

  • Resolve taxonomic homonyms issue by taking into account scientific name and family names to disambiguate: We continued building a database to reconcile generic problems across different taxonomic codes. This database has over 1200 genera that correctly use the same name in different families (as in Stelis).
  • We manually corrected name error occurrences, reconciling Discover Life names with authorities, and correcting synonyms, incorrect families, and misspellings. The final 200 names are waiting for information from taxonomic authorities in the Mollusca.
  • We cleaned up the Monocotyledon and Dicotyledon guides so that it will become a valid management tool for unusual species (mainly exotics/ invasives) rather than a dumping place for invalid names.
  • We validated names for every checklist imported at new study sites.
  • We have imported moth chcklists imported for 18 states, and ensured correct names for these.
  • Natural History Surveys
    We launched Natural History Surveys in Georgia, Kentucky, Massachusetts and North Carolina.
    Other states in which partners have expressed initial interest in natural history surveys are Utah and Wisconsin. Participating study sites in these state surveys will collect photogrphic data on plants, moths and other insects, lichens, fungi, birds, mammals, herps and other groups of interest. For the Georgia Natural History Survey, see
  • Encyclopedia of Life partnership
    • Encyclopedia of Life now displays our maps on their species pages.
  • National Coodinated Bioblitz
    • We provided support to a National Coordinated Bioblitz with Ecological Society of America SEEDS organization, and led a one-day photographic survey of the State Botanical Garden for UGA students involved with this effort. Participating students used Discover Life protocols to collect data in April on 12 college campuses across the continent and in Puerto Rico.

Deliverables table from SOW, for reference:

Identification Guides 1,000-2,000 diagnostic photographs taken by students, for expansion of North American Plant Guides OCT 2010
Incorporation of photographs by expert cooperators (e.g. Les Mehrhoff) into Discover Life guides JUN 2011
External Web site integration into plant guide mashups; 5 new sites NOV 2010
External Web site integration into plant guide mashups; additional 5 new sites JUN 2011
Smart Phone Compatibility Pilot version of iPhone identification guide JUN 2011
Conversion of species checklists into handheld-friendly format JAN 2011
Pilot version of Global Mapper in handheld-friendly format JUN 2011
Pilot version of Image Album in handheld-friendly format NOV 2010
Outreach Customized plant guide for pilot sites MAY 2011
Teach photography protocols AUG 2010
Moth Party event AUG 2010
Lead plant photography field trip OCT 2010
Organize Bee Hunt event SEP 2010
Conduct surveys of lichens MAY 2011
Biological Field Station outreach presentation SEP 2010
Report on additional Field Station partners FEB 2010
Mapping and Data Integration Resolve taxonomic homonyms issue by taking into account scientific name and family name to disambiguate JUN 2011
Progress Reports First Quarter Technical Progress Report30 SEP 2010
Second Quarter Technical Progress Report30 DEC 2010
Third Quarter Technical Progress Report30 MAR 2011
Final Technical Progress Report30 JUN 2011

Discover Life | All Living Things | IDnature guides | Global Mapper | The Polistes Foundation | Report & Proposal