New approaches for collaborative key design and development: What Bug Is That? and IdentifyLife

David Yeates *1, Kevin Thiele 2, Matt Taylor 3


1 CSIRO Ecosystem Sciences, PO Box 1700 Canberra ACT 2601, Australia
2 Western Australian Herbarium, Kensington WA 6151, Australia
3 Centre for Biological information Technology, The University of Queensland, Qld 4072, Australia

The Taxonomic Research and Information Hub (TRIN) recently funded the collaborative development of web-based keys to all 640 Australian Insect families, found at the website What Bug Is That? http://anic.ento.csiro.au/insectfamilies/.  Most of these keys are deployed as Lucid interactive keys using the server-side player application; a minority are HTML dichotomous keys and other formats. The Lucid server-side player allows the keys to be deployed effectively over the web and enables easy updating of content. Each family treatment includes a fact sheet, and wherever available, images. The site acts as a clearing-house for order and family-level keys, offering links to multiple web based resources in this domain.  Many of the keys originated as publications in CD format, the TRIN collaborative model has allowed them to be accessed for free, and has been able to increase the scope of keys to the entire fauna. IdentifyLife (http://www.identifylife.org/) is a new project that has developed a collaborative web-based environment for building and maintaining identification keys and the descriptive data underpinning them.  With funding from the Atlas of Living Australia and the Encyclopedia of Life, IdentifyLife seeks to:·        bring together into one resource - Keys Central - a wide range of identification tools to help people throughout the world identify living organisms.·        create a collaboration space - My IdentifyLife - where the world's community of experts and enthusiasts can collaboratively manage community-agreed character lists for groups of organisms, identification keys and descriptive information for all the world’s organisms. ·        build an ambitious key - the Key to All Life – capable of handling identifications for all the world's living organisms.Existing systems for handling descriptive data, such as Lucid and DELTA, are mostly desktop software and have limited capability in a connected (web) world. IdentifyLife brings advantages in the collaborative management of data, the ability to share resources between projects, and the opportunity for creating super-projects by combining descriptive data from a variety of sources to address new questions and challenges.


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