Missouri Botanical Garden Open Conference Systems, TDWG 2016 ANNUAL CONFERENCE

Font Size: 
A participatory module to curate species lists for generating a dynamically updating taxonomic backbone for the India Biodiversity Portal
Thomas Vattakaven, Sandeep Tandekar, Rahul Kumar Sinha, Sathish M, Prabhakar Rajagopal

Building: Computer Science
Room: Computer Science 3
Date: 2016-12-08 09:15 AM – 09:30 AM
Last modified: 2016-11-23


An effective biodiversity informatics platform relies upon species name lists and their taxonomic hierarchies to provide the backbone upon which species information and content are organised. However, taxonomy is a dynamic subject and newer understanding of the relationships between organisms leads to revisions in names and hierarchies. Usage of invalid names, synonyms, misspellings etc. causes fragmentation of data associated with a species and it is therefore essential to keep the namelist updated with the latest revisions.

The India Biodiversity Portal (IBP) is an attempt based in civil society, which seeks to address the biodiversity information needs of India. The availability of a species name list is crucial for the portal to aggregate and serve information. However, a comprehensive list that captures the current taxonomic standing of all biodiversity in the country is lacking. Innovative solutions are required to bring together taxonomic expertise on various taxa to generate such an output for the flora and fauna of India.

IBP has developed a “Taxon namelist” module that caters to the twin aims of aggregating species namelists for the country as well as constructing a single underlying taxonomic backbone to organise and provide navigation of species-related content. The module provides a participatory interface that allows examination and editing of names, their attributes (authority, taxonomic status, current accepted name or synonyms) and taxonomic hierarchy. In addition, names are binned within three categorised lists based on their curation status: The ‘raw list’ with uncurated names, the ‘working list’ with names matched with the Catalogue of Life and a ‘clean list’ curated by experts, with explicitly validated names for the country. Permissions on the interface are allotted in a clade on the taxonomic tree to ‘taxon curators’ for participation in the raw and working lists and to ‘taxon editors’ for working on the clean list.

The portal dynamically synthesises a management hierarchy called the ‘IBP taxonomic hierarchy,’ prioritising the taxon levels in the clean list and ‘snapping’ other names onto it at the nearest matching taxon rank within its original hierarchy. Taxon editors work closely with the portal to keep the clean list updated with revisions. IBP currently has functional clean lists populated by taxon editors for spiders (Aranea), birds (Aves), ants (Formicidae), cicadas (Cicadoidea) and Orthoptera. Continued participation from curators and editors will ensure curation of all names and generate Clean lists to reflect the current state of documented biodiversity available in India.