[tdwg-content] What I learned at the TechnoBioBlitz

Donald.Hobern at csiro.au Donald.Hobern at csiro.au
Tue Oct 12 02:16:07 CEST 2010

Thanks, Joel.

Nice summary.  One addition which we do need to resolve (and which has been suggested in recent months) is to have a flag to indicate whether a record should be considered to show a "natural" occurrence (in distinction from cultivation, botanic gardens, zoos, etc.). This is not so much an issue in a BioBlitz, but is certainly a factor with citizen science recording in general - see the number of zoo animals in the Flickr EOL group.


Donald Hobern, Director, Atlas of Living Australia
CSIRO Ecosystem Sciences, GPO Box 1700, Canberra, ACT 2601
Phone: (02) 62464352 Mobile: 0437990208 
Email: Donald.Hobern at csiro.au
Web: http://www.ala.org.au/ 

-----Original Message-----
From: tdwg-content-bounces at lists.tdwg.org [mailto:tdwg-content-bounces at lists.tdwg.org] On Behalf Of joel sachs
Sent: Monday, 11 October 2010 10:47 PM
To: tdwg-bioblitz at googlegroups.com; tdwg-content at lists.tdwg.org
Subject: [tdwg-content] What I learned at the TechnoBioBlitz

One of the goals of the recent bioblitz was to think about the suitability and appropriatness of TDWG standards for citizen science. Robert Stevenson has volunteered to take the lead on preparing a technobioblitz lessons learned document, and though the scope of this document is not yet determined, I think the audience will include bioblitz organizers, software developers, and TDWG as a whole. I hope no one is shy about sharing lessons they think they learned, or suggestions that they have. We can use the bioblitz google group for this discussion, and copy in tdwg-content when our discussion is standards-specific.

Here are some of my immediate observations:

1. Darwin Core is almost exactly right for citizen science. However, there is a desperate need for examples and templates of its use. To illustrate this need: one of the developers spoke of the design choice between "a simple csv file and a Darwin Core record". But a simple csv file is a legitimate representation of Darwin Core! To be fair to the developer, such a sentence might not have struck me as absurd a year ago, before Remsen said "let's use DwC for the bioblitz".

We provided a couple of example DwC records (text and rdf) in the bioblitz data profile [1]. I  think the lessons learned document should include an on-line catalog of cut-and-pasteable examples covering a variety of use cases, together with a dead simple desciption of DwC, something like "Darwin Core is a collection of terms, together with definitions."

Here are areas where we augemented or diverged from DwC in the bioblitz:

i. We added obs:observedBy [2], since there is no equivalent property in DwC, and it's important in Citizen Science (though often not available).

ii. We used geo:lat and geo:long [3] instead of DwC terms for latitude and longitude. The geo namespace is a well used and supported standard, and records with geo coordinates are automatically mapped by several applications. Since everyone was using GPS  to retrieve their coordinates, we were able to assume WGS-84 as the datum.

If someone had used another Datum, say XYZ, we would have added columns to the Fusion table so that they could have expressed their coordiantes in DwC, as, e.g.:

(I would argue that it should be kosher DwC to express the above as simply XYZ:lat and XYZ:long. DwC already incorporates terms from other namespaces, such as Dublin Core, so there is precedent for this.

2. DwC:scientificName might be more user friendly than taxonomy:binomial and the other taxonomy machine tags EOL uses for flickr images.  If DwC:scientificName isn't self-explanatory enough, a user can look it up, and see that any scientific name is acceptable, at any taxonomic rank, or not having any rank. And once we have a scientific name, higher ranks can be inferred.

3. Catalogue of Life was an important part of the workflow, but we had some problems with it. Future bioblitzes might consider using something like a CoL fork, as recently described by Rod Page [4].

4. We didn't include "basisOfRecord" in the original data profile, and so it wasn't a column in the Fusion Table [5]. But when a transcriber felt it was necessary to include in order to capture data in a particular field sheet, she just added the column to the table. This flexibility of schema is important, and is in harmony with the semantic web.

5. There seemed to be enthusiasm for another field event at next year's TDWG. This could be an opportunity to gather other types of data (eg. 
character data) and thereby
i) expose meeting particpants to another set of everyday problems from the world of biodiversity workflows, and ii) try other TDWG technology on for size, e.g. the observation exchange format, annotation framework, etc.

Happy Thanksgiving to all in Canada -

1. http://groups.google.com/group/tdwg-bioblitz/web/tdwg-bioblitz-profile-v1-1
2. Slightly bastardizing our old observation ontology - http://spire.umbc.edu/ontologies/Observation.owl
3. http://www.w3.org/2003/01/geo/
4. http://iphylo.blogspot.com/2010/10/replicating-and-forking-data-in-2010.html
5. http://tables.googlelabs.com/DataSource?dsrcid=248798

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