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Public symposium to coincide with Catalogue of Life global team meeting

11/2/2012 | Mare Payne, News Bureau | 217-333-0567;

[ Email | Share ] CHAMPAIGN,Ill. — Throughout the scientific literature our collective knowledge, from where an organism lives, to what it eats, to its physical characteristics, is linked to scientific names, such as “Homo sapiens,” the name for humans.

Scientific names have been created for more than 250 years and are spread through thousands of scientific journals, many of which are not digitally accessible.  With infrastructure such as the World Wide Web now available, several efforts, including the Catalogue of Life are now well under way toward completing a catalog of Earth’s species. 

The Catalogue of Life, a product of the private foundation Species2000 and the U.S. government’s Integrated Taxonomic Information System, and accessible online, has compiled more than 1.3 million species of plants, animals, fungi and microorganisms, an estimated 70 percent of the projected total known species on Earth.

“Providing a truly global catalog of scientific names is therefore key to unlocking this collective knowledge, making it more accessible to scientists and the general public alike,” said R. Edward DeWalt, an aquatic entomologist at the Illinois Natural History Survey. “Producing such a catalog is a daunting task.”

The Illinois Natural History Survey, part of the Prairie Research Institute at the University of Illinois is hosting a meeting of Catalogue of Life biologists, computer scientists and administrators – the so-called “Global Team”– at Allerton Park and Retreat Center near Monticello next week to discuss future software development and policy issues. David Eades, of the Natural History Survey, is the chairman of the team.

The public is invited to a symposium Wednesday at 10 a.m. that explains four aspects of this massive international project.  It will be at the Illinois Natural History Survey, Room 1005, Forbes Building, 1816 S. Oak St., Champaign at 10 a.m.

The program:

10 a.m. “Invertnet: A New Paradigm for Digitization of Invertebrate Collections,” by Chris Dietrich, Illinois Natural History Survey, Insect Research Collection.

10:25 a.m. “Species File Software: A Foundation for Taxonomic Database Development,” by DeWalt.

10:50 a.m. Break.

11:10 a.m. “Integrated Taxonomic Information System – Taxonomic Names for North America and the World,” Thomas M. Orrell, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C.

11:35 a.m. “The Catalogue of Life: Legacy, Next Steps, Sustainability,” Peter Schalk, Stichting Expertisecentrum voor Taxonomische Identificatie, Netherlands.

Scientists report that as many as 8-10 million more species remain to be discovered. 

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