[tdwg-content] Definition of Individual (was Re: [tdwg-tag] Do terms in the http://rs.tdwg.org/dwc/terms/ namespace actually resolve?)
steve.baskauf at vanderbilt.edu
Wed Sep 1 17:33:20 CEST 2010
Well, my thinking on including small populations of individuals in the
definition of the proposed dwc:Individual class
(http://code.google.com/p/darwincore/issues/detail?id=69 and related
issue http://code.google.com/p/darwincore/issues/detail?id=80) was
simply based on practicality. I know that collectors put bundles of
grass individuals together on an herbarium sheet, bryophyte collectors
have numerous moss individuals clumped together in a specimen, and
entomologists put several individual insects of the same species
collected at the same time and place together in the same jar. I also
take images that include several individuals of the same species (e.g.
http://bioimages.vanderbilt.edu/baskauf/67323). People collect
different individuals at the same place and time and call them
"duplicates". In these cases, the person recording the Occurrence
isn't interested (or perhaps CAN'T in the case of clonal plants where it
might not be clear where one individual starts and another ends)
separate out the individuals. As I have conceptualized it, the purpose
of being able to create instances of the class Individual is to be able
to create named nodes that connect other resources. I will not
elaborate about that here because you can read about the idea in detail
at Biodiversity Informatics 7:17-44
(https://journals.ku.edu/index.php/jbi/article/view/3664). But the
point is that any entity that meets my definition of Individual can
usefully serve as such a node. If clarification is needed about what
"Individual" means in a particular circumstance, another proposed term
(individualRemarks) can be used to elaborate.
There are circumstances such as you brought up (queen vs. worker ant)
where it would be better to describe the biological individuals as
separate dwc:Individual's. In fact, it would probably ALWAYS be better
to have Individuals be separate biological individuals if it is possible
to do so. But in cases where it's not possible (or if somebody in the
past chose not to do so, as in the case of duplicate specimens),
allowing small populations to be considered as Individuals still allows
the benefits of them sharing common identifications and linking those
identifications to multiple Occurrences.
There is of course the problem of "collections" of Occurrences where
Individuals of different species end up together in the same resource
(see the Conclusions section of the above paper), e.g. contents of a
pitfall trap, an image showing multiple species in their habitat, and a
specimen with evidence of parasitism by another species. I haven't put
enough thought into how to handle these situations to suggest a
solution, but it does not seem out of the question to define some other
term ("conglomeration" maybe? "bag" and "collection" are already taken)
to connect an Occurrence resource to multiple Individuals. This in
itself is a strong argument for why determinations should be associated
with Individuals rather than Occurrences. In the model that I described
in the paper, an Occurrence has an "individualID" property that connects
the occurrence to its determinations via the Individual. But that
wouldn't have to be the case. An Occurrence could have a
"conglomerationID" property that would connect it to the Conglomeration
resource and that resource could then have several "individualID"
properties that connect it to the multiple individuals with there
separate determinations. Anyway, more thought needs to go into this,
but the problem does not seem unsurmountable.
Peter DeVries wrote:
> I am also wondering if the "individual" definition should be changed
> to mean one individual organism rather than a potential collection of
> individuals. Individuals from the same colony could be represented
> using a separate related vocabulary. Allowing multiple
> individuals will cause problems for consuming applications. For
> instance, is the queen a separate individual or not? How do you
> differentiate between a photo of the queen vs. a photo of one of the
> workers. There are also potential problems even if the individuals
> are all workers.
> I have been thinking that for some attributes like character states,
> it might be best to have a family level ontology. In this example, you
> might have a "formicidae_ontology", that could be used to deal with
> individuals from the same colony as well as ant specific character states.
> <rdf:Description rdf:about="http://example.org/individual/123412">
> <ant:colonyMateOf rdf:resource="http://example.org/individual/123414"/>
> This could be defined as a subproperty of dc:relation or something
> similar in the gbif/tdwg vocabulary.
> - Pete
Steven J. Baskauf, Ph.D., Senior Lecturer
Vanderbilt University Dept. of Biological Sciences
postal mail address:
VU Station B 351634
Nashville, TN 37235-1634, U.S.A.
2125 Stevenson Center
1161 21st Ave., S.
Nashville, TN 37235
office: 2128 Stevenson Center
phone: (615) 343-4582, fax: (615) 343-6707
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