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A few slots still open for the Bad and Ugly Halloween Event!

2013-07-10 10.23.57There are still slots available for volunteers to help with our upcoming Bugs: The Bad and the Ugly Halloween Event!  The event takes place on Saturday, October 26th, from 10-4 pm at the Museum for Youth in Mesa, AZ. We anticipate 300-400 visitors to attend this exhibit which will feature specimens from our collections, live insects and spiders, monster sized models, augmented reality bugs, and even some bed bugs! Contact Melody at access2discovery @ for  more information.

Making Science Accessible

How can we make science accessible to everyone? That is the challenge that both formal and informal educators are faced with as classrooms become increasingly diverse.  Be sure to read our new Education/Outreach page entitled “Making Science Accessible” as we review some tools and resources and talk about the issues and barriers related to language and learning.

Weekly reading: Page (1988) on assumptions 0, 1, 2

Today we read Page (1988): Quantitative Cladistic Biogeography: Constructing and Comparing Area Cladograms. In this paper, the author presented algorithms that implement Assumptions 1 and 2 previously proposed by Nelson and Platnick (1981).  Together with Assumption 0 (Zandee, 1987), these so-called ‘assumptions’ are used to resolve fundamental/individual area cladograms involving missing taxa, widespread taxa, and redundant distributions. They provide different sets of solutions for a given taxon-area cladogram with such conflicts, with Assumption 0 typically yielding the least and Assumption 2 the most area cladograms.

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taxonbytes at TDWG 2013 – two papers on Answer Set Programming as a tool for taxonomic reasoning

At this year’s TDWG 2013 Annual Conference held from October 28 to November 01, in Florence, Italy, Nico Franz will present two talks on Answer Set Programming and name/taxon concept representation and reasoning. Both papers form part of the Semantics for Biodiversity Symposium, and specifically the Session “Ontologies and Formal Models” convened by Ramona Walls of iPlant and Nico Franz. Here are the abstracts; the actual presentation slides will be shared on taxonbytes.

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Hasbrouck Insect Collection specimens featured prominently in 2013 Ask A Biologist Ugly Bug Contest

ASU’s popular “Ask A Biologist” outreach program just released a preview of its 2013 Ugly Bug Contest Poster; available here. This year the “contestants” were selected from specimens of the Hasbrouck Insect Collection. The process of selection and summaries of natural history information were put together by our recent lab graduate Madalyn Karamooz who is credited on the poster. The specimens represent common and charismatic species of insects that occur in Arizona. One them – Anthonomus grandis Boheman a.k.a. “Colonel Mustard” or the “boll weevil” – was a once notorious (though now eradicated) pest of cotton throughout the southern United States.

The poster represents a cute take on Hasbro’s game Clue. Thanks to the SoLS Bioimaging Facility, in particular Page Baluch and Charles Kazilek, for working with us. Look out for these “Ugly Bugs” at regional schools; tens of thousands of school children will vote for them until mid December, 2013.

SCAN acquires Filtered Push capability

Pending final database settings adjustments on the iDigBio servers, SCAN is set to become the first major biodiversity data portal to facilitate “smart” expert annotations using Filtered Push semantics and technology. Thanks to the wonderful team at Harvard University including Maureen Kelly, Paul Morris, and David Lowery, we can now (1) “flag” imaged yet under-identified SCAN specimens as such, (2) assign them to experts connected to our virtual environment, (3) have them perform annotations and identifications, and (4) record these updates both inside SCAN and in the external Filtered Push environment. The annotations are embedded in an ontology and can be propagated to other Filtered Push compatible platforms, such as Specify –

The general workflow is outlined here:

In the coming weeks there will be a good bit of tweaking and optimizing, and a need to serve up many pertinent images and recruit testers. That said we now have a very powerful and pioneering annotations system available for use and promotion.

Weekly reading: Quantitative cladistic biogeography – area cladograms

Ronquist (1997) is a “classic” at this point (though see RASP), but one can reach further back in time with quantitative biogeographic methods (read: computer programs). Though not much further than this: R.D.M. Page (1988) – Quantitative cladistic biogeography: Constructing and comparing area cladograms. Systematic Zoology 37: 254-270. Our reading for this week’s discussion. Link to JSTOR.

Article digest: BioNames: linking taxonomy, texts, and trees

Rod Page, who maintains one of the most engaging and insightful blogs in biodiversity informatics, has a preprint available on-line in which he documents the approach taken and functions offered by BioNames to connect taxonomic names, literature, and – mostly a novelty in this context – phylogenetic trees. A worthy read and impressive achievement.