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What Is That? Creating User-Friendly Keys to Make Species Identification Easier and Faster

Whit Farnum
Organization: Museum of Comparative Zoology

International Mathematica User Conference 2008
Conference location

Champaign, IL

Taxonomic keys are essential for identifying plants and animals to the species level. A dichotomous key guides the user through choices involving the specimen's anatomy in a specific order. This format can frustrate new users, amateur naturalists, and trained taxonomists. This format also provides a rule structure that can be mined for species information. The data is then searched and sorted according to the organism's body plan. The resulting format allows traits to be searched in any order. This method of data mining and organizing could be used to create rough drafts of matrix style keys from the existing literature. It also creates an ability to reference back to the original key so user can be guided by the expertise of the original writer. This program provides a familiar framework for taxonomists that will allow them to convert existing keys and make new keys in a readily converted format. It does this with minimal formatting requirements in order to simplify data entry. Making this information widely available will make species identification faster leading to a better inventory of life on Earth.

*Mathematica Technology
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AntKeyConverterHeadPlans.nb (223.4 KB) - Mathematica Notebook
AntsofMicronesia-CutTraits-images.xls (80 KB) - Microsoft Excel document
CreatingUserFriendlySpeciesIdentificationKeys_Abstract.nb (251.2 KB) - Mathematica Notebook
CreatingUserFriendlySpeciesIdentificationKeys_Presentation.nb (772 KB) - Mathematica Notebook
CreatingUserFriendlySpeciesIdentificationKeys_Slideshow.nb (826.2 KB) - Mathematica Notebook
NorthAmericaMatrix.nb (92.4 KB) - Mathematica Notebook
NullProblemExplanation.nb (32.1 KB) - Mathematica Notebook
body_hierarchy.xls (31.5 KB) - Microsoft Excel document
single (4.2 MB) - ZIP archive