Full computerization of Texas herbarium data, the primary objective of the Flora of Texas Project, will allow electronic manipulations of floristic data to create biodiversity information systems that are not available and, perhaps, not envisioned at this point in time. This pilot 'Texas Endemics' project explores two bioinformatic elements that are likely to be part of future WWW-based floristic data systems; mapped visualization and collaborative, on-line development of dynamic data sets.
Current options for mapped visualization include simple distribution maps by Texas county and 'overlay' expression of multiple distribution maps to allow 'diversity' mapping of all Texas endemics as a group and those included within and higher level taxa (family/genus). The value of these maps is directly proportional to the quality of the base data. The base data, county records as vouchered by herbarium specimens, are housed at institutions located throughout the state and nation. Since specimen collection/determination is an on-going enterprise, one can assume that the base data will change through time. Thus, this system includes options for data input/modification from registered users at remote sites to create, from base data, a dynamic data set.
The nature of county record information for each taxon distribution can be viewed by selecting the Annotation Status Map link on the distribution map page (note toggle for this link) or 'annotation' tags present on checklists for taxa that carry annotations. This will reveal base data (light green), confirmed county records (dark green), refuted county records (red), and free comments (grey). All counties marked with green are included in the mapping system. Information on a given county record can be obtained by selecting a colored county from either type of single-taxon map (annotation or distribution). Information on a given taxon that is not relevant to county record data (taxonomy, endemism, etc.) can be examined by selecting the Statewide Annotation List link available on each single-taxon map page and the checklists.
On-line modification by registered specialists is initiated by either selecting a given county from a single-taxon map or the links provided (single county/statewide) just beneath each map. Selection from a county on the map defaults to that county whereas entry via the 'single county' link provides a county selection menu. Once the county is determined, either by default or user selection, the annotator then selects the type of information to be provided:
Confirm taxon's presence in county
'Statewide' annotations relate to the taxon as a biological or systematic entity, as opposed to its county-level distribution in Texas. Comments here, available as a chronological reference from each taxon map and checklist entry that carries this type of annotation, house relevant information from specialists that might not logically fit into the suite of 'county-level' annotation categories.
This requires vouchering info from the specimen that includes at least herbarium/accession number or (for non-accessioned herbaria) herbarium/collector/collector number. The system will not accept annotations that lack the minimum subset of data needed to locate a given specimen. The full suite of data is preferred. Once a given annotator vouchers a specific county record with specimen data, only that annotator can retract (see below) the record and thereby exclude it from the mapping system.
Refute taxon's presence in county
Many county records in the base data are derived from distribution statements, such as 'East Texas' that have been converted to county distributions. This conversion has been, in many cases, a bit arbitrary. This option is available for those familiar with either a given taxon or the flora of a given county/area. It negates a 'base data' record but is displaced by a confirmed county record or a retraction (below). A refutation by one annotator cannot displace another annotator's confirmation. While this must be accomplished via a retraction (below) produced by the confirming annotator, an 'outside' refutation is recorded in the data stream as are free comments (below) which can be used to alert the confirming annotator to possible problems.
Retract a prior annotation
We all make mistakes. This option allows a given annotator to retract his or her prior confirmatons/refutations. Not applicable to data provided by other annotators.
Revise a prior annotation
This option allows supplemental comments or corrections that are included in the stream of data available for a given county record. This does not result in any functional (county record) change in the dataset.
Make a free comment
Similar to the revision option (above), inserted into the tracked data stream, but not linked to prior annotations.