CSIRO – Virtual Taxonomy Laboratory

CSIRO – Virtual Taxonomy Laboratory

  • By Robyn Lawrence
  •  April 10, 2010
  •  Tags:  Blogs & news Communications

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 set up for the launch in Beijing.

The set up for the launch in Beijing. Chao Dong Zhu (visible on the far left screen and at the microscope) and John La Salle, in Canberra, (visible on the far right screen).

Dr John Stocker (CSIRO Board Chairman) and Dr Megan Clark (CSIRO Chief Executive) at the launch of the Virtual Taxonomy Laboratory in Beijing.

Dr John Stocker (CSIRO Board Chairman) and Dr Megan Clark (CSIRO Chief Executive) at the launch of the Virtual Taxonomy Laboratory in Beijing.


A demonstration of the Virtual Taxonomy Laboratory in Beijing being watched by (on right) Dr John Stocker and Dr Megan Clark.

A demonstration of the Virtual Taxonomy Laboratory in Beijing being watched by (on right) Dr John Stocker and Dr Megan Clark.

A screen dump from the Virtual Taxonomy Laboratory.

A screen dump from the Virtual Taxonomy Laboratory.

The initial VTL facility (http://anic.ento.csiro.au/virtual/index.html) includes:

  • Access to web based communication tools
  • Remote microscopes in both facilities (microscopes with web-based cameras which allow participants to examine specimens in other laboratories in real time)
  • Shared taxonomic work spaces
  • Collections on line – links to whole drawers of insects which can be examined from anywhere in the world, with the option of zooming on in specimens.

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.