By John La Salle, Head, Australian National Insect Collection, CSIRO Ecosystem Sciences
In September 2009, CSIRO and the Chinese Academy of Sciences opened a Virtual Taxonomy Laboratory (VTL) between the Australian National Insect Collection and the Institute of Zoology in Beijing.
The VTL will accelerate taxonomic collaboration and productivity via web-based activities. Using web-based communication and collaboration tools, researchers from different laboratories, departments, countries or regions are able to work together on diagnoses, descriptions and writing manuscripts by extracting and comparing morphological features and DNA sequences. Additionally, it is possible for external advisors to train students or junior scientists from overseas. Taxonomists can examine specimens, even rare type material, via remote microscopy or even select ones they want to borrow for further examination by viewing virtual collection materials.
The initial VTL facility (http://anic.ento.csiro.au/virtual/index.html) includes:
An example of these can be found at: http://anic.ento.csiro.au/virtual/accimages.html
It is hoped that the concept of the Virtual Taxonomy Laboratory will grow hand-in-hand with the Atlas of Living Australia to provide the ability to further speed up the process of producing, managing and delivering biodiversity information.