Welcome to the first issue of the Biodiversity Synthesis Center's Newsletter. This quarterly newsletter will bring you reports and updates on past and future synthesis meetings, research and outreach projects from BioSynC and postings from the Encyclopedia of Life. Based at the Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago, we are dedicated to advancing biodiversity science through our diverse meetings, workshops, research programs, and outreach.

We want to disseminate news, projects and collaborations that resulted from your synthesis meeting through this newsletter and the BioSynC website. To include your news and updates please complete our short Synthesis Meeting Report form.

There are currently no upcoming meetings scheduled. We welcome Synthesis Meeting proposals at any time, but set 3 target dates for review each year: 1 March, 1 July, and 1 November. You can find out how to propose a meeting here.

Meeting News

Synthesis Meeting Updates

August 24, 2011

BioSynC has hosted thirty-six synthesis meetings over the past three-and-a-half years with topics ranging from tree visualization, to early land plants, to hymenoptera ontologies. These meetings have promoted the synthesis of innovative scientific information and encouraged scientists and broader audiences to contribute to the knowledge-base of the Encyclopedia of Life.

Recent highlights from synthesis meeting include:

  • The June 2011 Cybertaxonomy meeting targeted both already published taxonomic literature and to-be-published taxonomic articles in order to extract taxonomic content (e.g., species descriptions and re-descriptions, diagnoses, and material examined) and automatically provide it to the EOL. Major accomplishments are the tighter integration of initiatives like Plazi, Pensoft Publisher and the EOL. Several journal editors attended the meeting that will now implement some of the cybertaxonomic tools developed primarily by Plazi and Pensoft in order to provide XML-based output of taxonomic content automatically to the EOL. For example, the largest zoological taxonomic journal Zootaxa, which has previously not provided any content to cybertaxonomic databases, will make relatively small adjustments to its publishing workflow that will generate content for the EOL in the future. A manuscript describing the visions for the publication of cybertaxonomic articles in diverse journals is currently being written by the participants.
  • Participants from the May 2010 Lichens synthesis meeting recently published a 127-page monograph in the journal Phytotaxa containing 100 new species of lichenized fungi. Content from the publication is being shared with EOL via the e-lichens data partnership established at the meeting.
  • Participants from the June 2008 Decapods synthesis meeting recently published a special supplement to the journal Raffles Bulletin of Zoology containing seven articles on decapod crustaceans. The supplement included important revisions, global checklists, and listing of all valid species for several infraorders. Data from the meeting participant publications are now being shared with EOL via WoRMS.

Visit the Synthesis Meeting News page for more updates from past meetings.

Upcoming Meetings

Life and Literature

June 1, 2011

Life and Literature is a two-day conference hosted by The Biodiversity Heritage Library and The Field Museum. The conference will convene librarians, biologists, computer scientists, publishers, students, and other stakeholders to set the agenda for biodiversity literature digitizing and its networked environment for the next four to five years. Join us November 14-15, 2011 for an exciting combination of plenary speakers, panelists, activities, and breakout sessions.

Focal topics include: Biologists and Biodiversity Literature Research, Informatics and the Public Record Publishers, Aggegators, and Authors: new models and access Learning and Education Building Collaborative Networks for Science and the Humanities.

To register and for more information please visit the Life and Literature website http://www.lifeandliterature.org/

Related Meeting: 
Life and Literature

Software Development at BioSynC

July 31, 2011

BioSynC sponsors work on several applications for visualization of biodiversity information, including phylogeny web tools (http://www.reelab.net/tred/), collaboration with the iPlant visualization group (http://www.iplantcollaborative.org), and a web tool called Viewer of Life on EOL (VoLE), a visual taxonomy browser written by Kris Urie using Encyclopedia of Life web services. The browser displays a taxonomy tree with images and text gathered from the EOL. Taxa are displayed in a space-filling "treemap" layout, showing both the taxon name, which is linked to the EOL taxon page, and a representative image from EOL.

For more information on visualization software developed in BioSynC see the Tree Visualization project page.


Game Design Publication

August 24, 2011

BioSynC and The Field Museum's Education Department published a worked example that presents the importance of scientific accuracy in gaming environments which rely heavily on learning-based activities that will appear in Volume 3: Issue 1 of the International Journal of Learning and Media.

This worked example focuses on WhyReef, a simulated coral reef in the virtual world of Whyville.net, which is targeted towards youth ages 8-16. The scientific accuracy of the WhyReef simulation fosters an appreciation for coral reef ecosystems, engages youth in scientific methods and techniques (particularly hypothesis testing and collaborative problem-solving), and assists with science content knowledge of coral reefs. It addresses the manner in which scientific accuracy in a learning-based virtual world simulates real-life scientific observations about and experiences in ecosystems; allows players to mimic scientific processes in order to inform solutions to real world questions; and provide real-life "scientific discovery" moments and opportunities for "higher-level" engagement.

For more information on WhyReef visit the BioSynC WhyReef project page.


EOLv2 is coming soon!

August 24, 2011

The Encyclopedia of Life is launching a new version of eol.org in September. This new version will have a different interface and several new tools to explore the content within the EOL. Stay tuned to EOL for more updates!