By John Tann and Robyn Lawrence, Atlas of Living Australia
The Atlas of Living Australia team is working with the Council of Heads of Australasian Herbaria (CHAH) and the Council of Heads of Australian Faunal Collections (CHAFC) to think about the next generation of the Australia’s Virtual Herbarium (AVH) and Online Zoological Collections of Australian Museums (OZCAM) websites. These sites present information on the plant and fungal specimens held by Australian herbaria, and the animal specimens held by Australian museums. The ALA’s work in integrating specimen data and in building web interfaces for exploring biodiversity data makes it possible to build new versions of these tools using shared ALA infrastructure.
In March 2011, members of the herbaria and museums informatics groups came together to review a prototype redevelopment of the OZCAM portal using ALA software and databases, and to discuss how to proceed. AVH and OZCAM sites each need to be able to present their data in their own way, but can be supported through the same underlying architecture and common ALA tools and services.
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As a side-benefit from developing this OZCAM prototype, the ALA developers have created a range of new web services which will be available for use by other web sites wishing to incorporate information on Australian biodiversity.
Presentations were given on several aspects of the latest Atlas developments:
The Director of the Atlas, Donald Hobern, led lively sessions putting into context the background to establishing the Atlas, and elicited ideas about the future priorities for the Atlas, and critically, its future viability.
The value of collections – their specimens, data and metadata – were recognised for their central importance to the Atlas.
The workshop was a great success. Some of the participants said afterwards:
“The meeting was excellent, I really found it stimulating and inspiring”.
“I gained a richer context for the work we do”.
“It was good how all the groups gelled together. There was a real spirit of cooperation and teamwork in the room”.
There was a strong feeling of having a common goal to make good use of the resources of each group represented.
The recent establishment of an umbrella body for all Australian natural history collections – the Council of Australian Biological Collections (CABC) will further link the groups and help resolve common issues.
CABC will be an overarching council representing the collection community. It will incorporate the executives from each of the existing Councils of Heads of Collections – CHAH, CHAFC, the Council of Heads of Australian Entomological Collections (CHAEC) and the Council of Heads of Australian Collections of Microorganisms (CHACM), with secretariat support coming from the Australian Biological Resources Study (ABRS), and ALA having observer status. CABC has established its terms of reference and will be the united body for tackling issues that relate to all members. For instance, decisions about building and hosting new products such as the portals for each community, data proprietary issues, and future mutual directions.
ABRS: Australian Biological Resources Study
ALA: Atlas of Living Australia
AVH: Australia’s Virtual Herbarium
CABC: Council of Australian Biological Collections
CHACM: Council of Heads of Australian Collections of Microorganisms
CHAEC: Council of Heads of Australian Entomological Collections
CHAFC: Council of Heads of Australian Faunal Collections
CHAH: Council of Heads of Australasian Herbaria
OZCAM: Online Zoological Collections of Australian Museums