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  News from MO - 2001 Table of Contents  

Research Computing

Botanical Database

TROPICOS, the botanical database at the Garden, is a continuously growing and changing resource. The accumulated information on over 880,000 plant names and 1.6 million herbarium specimens was developed through the actions of a wide variety of floristic, nomenclatural, and bibliographic projects both at the Garden and in collaboration with other institutions. This wealth of information is available on the Internet through w³TROPICOS at the Garden's web site (http://www.mobot.org). The w³TROPICOS site provides access to the vascular plant and bryophyte nomenclatural databases, which also include links to related flora and checklist projects, specimen, type, and chromosome data, habit and specimen images, and distribution maps based on available specimens. w³TROPICOS also provides access to the bibliographic database that contains over 85,000 titles. These references provide the literature references used within the other databases and can now be accessed by author or keyword. A few publications are being used to provide images of rare botanical works. The prototype provides images of each page of the work and access to the place of publication for the name records published in the work. Direct web access to the specimen database is also possible. Individual specimens can be selected by collector and number or can be displayed from a list of specimens for a country or collection number range. In addition to the usual specimen label information, the specimen display includes a history of determinations for the specimen, thus providing a quick way to check for changes in identification or updates for specimens sent for determination.

A redevelopment project is underway to create TROPICOS II, the next generation of the TROPICOS database. The most exciting development is the transfer of TROPICOS data to INFORMIX relational tables. We have begun developing output options and defining the next phase of the project. At this time we are testing web access to the tables through both structured form queries and "write your own" SQL (Structured Query Language) access. The new system is also designed to allow automated queries with XML (Extensible Markup Language) or other formatted output. The next phase, providing input and output functionality to TROPICOS II for all projects and authority file maintenance is underway.

Research Web Group

In November 2000 the Research Web Group successfully completed a project to digitize herbarium specimens, slide collections, and printed illustrations, with funding from the Institute of Museum and Library Services. The purpose of this project was to integrate digital images with TROPICOS data to create a large database of plant images and information freely available on the web. By the end of the project, over 21,000 images were put online, and a database application was created to assist organizations in publishing their digital images. Over 6,000 type specimens were digitized from a wide variety of neotropical plant families including the Bignoniaceae, Fabaceae, Apocynaceae and Myrsinaceae. Furthermore, over 700 new neotropical Orchidaceae types and line drawings were scanned, as well as all types included in incoming or outgoing loan material to help protect against loss of the material.

The digitized slide collections include:

1. Alwyn Gentry’s collection of more than 6,000 images of mainly neotropical plants from almost all plant families, but focusing on the Bignoniaceae. About 60% of the slides are vouchered, which means there is a dried herbarium specimen with collection data made for the live plant on the slide. These images can therefore be linked to specific specimen data in the TROPICOS database.

2. 635 slides of plants located in Missouri and surrounding Midwest states taken by Edgar Denison, a local amateur botanist.

3. Over 600 vouchered slides of Bolivia taken by James Solomon in the 1980s and early 1990s, as well as over 300 vouchered slides of the family Rubiaceae, taken by Charlotte Taylor and her colleagues.

4. Over 1,500 slides of the Araceae family, on which Tom Croat of the Missouri Botanical Garden is an expert. This was a very complete collection, and images were processed for almost every species of neotropical Araceae. The type specimens of Araceae named by Croat were also processed for imaging.

5. 250 slides of South African irises taken by Peter Goldblatt.

Even though the project officially ended in 2000, digitization of slides and type specimens continues with the support of the Research Division. A comprehensive web site for this project is still being maintained at http://www.mobot.org/mobot/imls.

In January 2001 the Web Group began a new project to digitize rare books with funding from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. This is a collaborative project between the MBG Library, the LuEsther Mertz Library at the New York Botanical Garden, and the Oak Spring Garden Library. The goal of the project is to digitize and preserve beautifully illustrated and botanically significant books in each library’s private holdings in order to make them available to an international audience. This project will result in a large database of botanical and gardening books available to scholars, gardeners, and book enthusiasts. The Rare Book Web Site is available on the web at http://www.illustratedgarden.org/mobot/rarebooks/.

Chris Freeland is the Project Manager and Technical Coordinator for the Web Group and its digital library projects. Beth Owen, Web Content Developer, works with staff to design and develop new material for the Research web site. Leslie Miller, Imaging Coordinator, creates digital imaging standards that Imaging Technicians Fred Keusenkothen, Wendy Westmoreland, and Debbie Windus use to digitize and edit images for the web. Myriam Fica, Information Systems Technician, continues to provide support for research projects and system users, as well as publishing content for the web.

Geographic Information Systems

The GIS program at the Missouri Botanical Garden consists of a full-time GIS Analyst, Trish Consiglio, and a GIS lab complete with computers, ArcView software, digitizing tablet, HP Plotter, and reference materials. Various uses of GIS technology at MBG include creation of distribution maps for publications, predicting species distributions, and prioritizing collection sites. Recently, the addition of ArcIMS software donated by ESRI has enabled MBG to dynamically integrate mapping technology with data from w³TROPICOS to generate on-the-fly distribution maps via our Web Site on the Internet. Looking to the next year, our projects include image analysis (satellite and aerial), biogeographical studies, and more in-depth analysis of distribution patterns from several recently published floras.

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News from MO 2001 was created by Kathy Hurlbert, Leslie Miller, Eloise Cannady and Mary Merello (October 2001) and placed on the MOBOT webserver 1/22/02.


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