The Biodiversity Heritage Library Life and Literature conference continued on November 16th with a smaller meeting with the goal to organize an African BHL and African contributions to EOL. This meeting had representatives from Kenya, Uganda, Ghana, Tanzania, and South Africa. The meeting was hosted by BioSynC and sponsored by the JRS Biodiversity Foundation.
The conference convenes 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.
View an online conference schedule here and follow the meeting on the Life and Literature twitter feed, @life_lit.
During the last week of October the Biodiversity Synthesis Center at the Field Museum Chicago hosted an IUCN Red List workshop on behalf of the University of York, UK. The purpose of the meeting was to assess threats to over 640 species of cone snails, one of the largest assessments undertaken for this purpose at a single session.
Conus, being the largest genus of marine invertebrates, is of special significance to biodiversity. Occurring primarily in tropical coastal waters, these snails are predatory and capture their meals of fish, molluscs or worms using complex neurotoxins delivered through detached ‘harpoons’ evolved from their radulae. The toxins, which possibly number in excess of 50,000 across the genus, are of considerable interest to biomedical science with drugs already on the market for the treatment of intractable pain and with many other applications in research. To date, less that 1% of toxins have been characterized. Conus confronts the same threats from fishing, pollution and habitat loss as other tropical marine taxa, but with a carnivorous diet, these gastropod molluscs are at a trophic level where habitat degradation also carries special significance in its potential for reducing prey abundance and disrupting the food chain.
In September 2011, 21 delegates representing 9 online biodiversity reporting projects (and one citizen science research project) from six regions of the globe met in Milton Keynes, UK, to talk about data sharing, compare and exchange free or shareable content and tools, plan next generation development to connect their projects more closely, discuss user experience, recruiting, content management, copyright, fundraising and other shared challenges, and document best practices.
The meeting is expected to result in jointly-authored papers about citizen scientist motivation and behavior, several collaborative grant proposals, and assorted experiments in cross-platform data sharing. Slide presentations from the meeting are available here.
This meeting was co-sponsored by BioSynC, the EOL Learning + Educaiton Group, and the EOL Species Pages Group.
Today begins the "Assessing the status of cone snails" working group at BioSynC. During this meeting, cone snail experts will review and update data on the status of cone snails. Participants include specialists in taxonomy, biology, ecology, and conservation together with representation from pharmacology and bio-medical sciences. It also includes interested parties from the marine curio trade who have specialist knowledge on the sourcing of shells used as raw materials for manufacture of jewelry and crafts, and as specimen shells for the serious collector and casual tourist sectors.
In mid October, Zoology Curator Rüdiger Bieler hosted the Third Annual Meeting of the participants of the NSF-funded "Bivalves-in-Time-and Space" project (see http://bivatol.org/bits) at the Biodiversity Synthesis Center. The BiTS projects to develop bivalves as a preeminent model for macroevolutionary studies. The meeting focused on the phylogenetic analyses of morphological and molecular data in two large groups of clams (cockles/Cardiidae and venus clams/Veneridae) and brought collaborators from throughout the U.S. and The Netherlands to the Museum.
Friday, September 30th, ended the highly productive Carex meeting. This working meeting brought together global systematists, floristic specialists from the Western Great Lakes Region, and representatives from Encyclopedia of Life, Scratchpads/ViBRANT, and the eMonocot Project to work collaboratively on the systematics of sedges. The meeting provided a rare opportunity for collaboration and communication between regional workers and global experts in the systematics and evolution of a widespread and ecologically important plant genus.
Products from this meeting include:
An online a checklist of the estimated 2,100 species of Carex worldwide, including a publication on making Carex monophyletic
Online portals to global Carex taxonomy, species pages, photos and literature
Online species pages and identification keys for the ca. 200 Carex species of the Western Great Lakes Region
Enhanced biodiversity informatics tools being used in the global eMonocot, Encyclopedia of Life, and Scratchpads projects
Training and buy-in for participants so that they and their students will continue to add and modify content for Carex in the on-line checklist, EOL species pages, and Keys to Nature online keys
Despite a rainy morning, the Carex meeting has a successful start!
The sedges of genus Carex, at 2100 species worldwide, comprise one of the largest angiosperm genera. The Regional and Global diversity of Carex meeting brings together sedge taxonomists from 10 countries and botanists from the Western Great Lakes region to coordinate the creation of work on taxonomy and species pages for the genus, create online keys to Carex of the Western Great Lakes region, and initiate creation of an online portal to the entire family Cyperaceae (5000 species worldwide). The meeting aims ultimately at producing an authoritative resource for Cyperaceae data worldwide, integrating understanding from global and regional perspectives.
We wish all participants a good and productive meeting!
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.