The Atlas of Living Australia (ALA) is sorry to announce the sad news that two of our close overseas colleagues in biodiversity informatics have passed away unexpectedly in recent weeks.

Professor Frank A Bisby (1945 – 2011), from Reading, UK.
Larry Speers (1949 – 2011), from Ontario, Canada.

Many of us involved in the ALA have worked closely with these men over the years and are saddened by their passing.

Professor Frank A Bisby

Professor Frank Bisby

Frank Bisby was the first Chair of the Taxonomic Databases Working Group (TDWG, and remained active in the organisation until his death. Frank led a series of significant projects to use databases and web technologies to support taxonomy, including the International Legume Database and Information Service (ILDIS, – an early and significant, and continuing, project to use information technology to develop a global information resource for a major group of plants. He was also the Executive Director for Species 2000, based at the University of Reading, UK. Species 2000 is a partner with ITIS in developing the Catalogue of Life – a global species database in use by hundreds of projects around the world. Frank’s energy helped to ensure that these projects succeeded in their goals and attracted the long-term funding required to maintain a significant database.

Frank had just attended the annual TDWG conference in New Orleans with his friends and colleagues in biodiversity informatics and was attending further nomenclatural meetings when he passed away.

Larry Speers

Larry Speers

Larry Speers worked for Agriculture Canada, where he was involved in developing a national database from butterfly specimens. His experience with databasing natural history collections led to his appointment as the first GBIF Programme Officer for the Digitisation of Natural History Collections, based at the Global Biodiversity Information Facility (GBIF, Secretariat in Copenhagen, Denmark. In this position, Larry was instrumental in helping to establish many of the standards and best practices which continue to underpin GBIF’s global activities in managing biodiversity data as well as the ALA’s approach to handling such data.

Greatly missed

Frank Bisby and Larry Speers both contributed greatly to the enthusiasm with which natural history collections and the taxonomic community around the world have adopted databases and web technologies as a core component of their work. Without their efforts, the ALA would not have been able to achieve so much over the last few years. We will miss them both.