Morphological Data Representation

Robert A. (Bob) Morris ram at CS.UMB.EDU
Mon Nov 26 18:13:09 CET 2001

Certainly end users need this and many kinds of information.
We believe in integrated applications that discover or know where to
find the answers to questions like this. See our toy demo (This requires
MSIE, but it is perfectly possible---and probably better---to support
this kind of thing at the server.

I subscribe to the belief that simplicity is superior to complexity,
especially since much of the infrastructure now available to XML-based
applications means that much of the programming to support gathering
information from disparate sources is provided in the toolkits.

To pick a field guide at random (or rather, what's at hand): the
National Audubon Field Guide to Insects and Spiders has almost no
taxonomy above Order (it does mention that the insects are in Class
Insecta and Phylum Arthropoda; no mention of Subphylum, Subclass,
Superorder, Suborder or other arcana easily found from ITIS). In my
experience, field guide books may have a little nod toward taxonomy
above Family (or Order if they are meant to be broad) but make no
attempt to place the descriptive data in such taxonomy. Electronic
descriptive pages vary widely, but those that embed taxonomy in their
databases risk errors, excessive and often redundant data, and
fragility in the face of taxonomic revisions.

I say that if we are talking about descriptive data, we should just
stick to descriptive data.

Bob Morris

Peter Rauch writes:
 > Date:         Mon, 26 Nov 2001 11:22:45 -0800
 > From: Peter Rauch <peterr at>
 > To: TDWG-SDD at
 > Subject:      Re: Morphological Data Representation
 > On Mon, 26 Nov 2001, Robert A. (Bob) Morris wrote:
 > > My feeling is that taxonomic hierarchy is best got by web
 > > applications from services such as ITIS or other web
 > > services offering XML. There is a large community of
 > > descriptive data consumers, e.g. field naturalists, that
 > > find taxonomic hierarchy generally uninteresting. IMO,
 > > trying to integrate it with descriptive data actually
 > > addresses a small group of applications at a cost of added
 > > complexity.
 > "There is a large community of descriptive data consumers, e.g.
 > field naturalists, that find taxonomic hierarchy generally
 > uninteresting."
 > Bob, this comment needs a little bit more explanation /
 > discussion.
 > Without arguing _where_ the field naturalist and other consumers
 > should get their taxonomic hierarchical information, I'd want to
 > argue that such information is (should be!) anything but
 > "uninteresting" to many (most?, all?) consumers, in their work
 > of understanding who is present in their study worlds and why.
 > Having access to purported (evolutionary) relationships of their
 > study organisms focuses a special, valuable, most "interesting"
 > light on their studies. These users need to find these taxonomic
 > relationships handily, somewhere. In that context, your question
 > --Where?-- is probably a fair one to ask.
 > Peter

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