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Adding descriptions to Taxon Profile Pages in SCAN

This is a primer on adding (previously published) descriptions to Taxon Profile Pages in SCAN (or in Symbiota more generally). Examples are related to the Weevils of North America (WoNA) checklist. For sake of simplicity this entry uses descriptions that were previously digitized and are available through the Biodiversity Heritage Library.

Here is an exemplary, step-wise procedure to add a SCAN taxon description. Doing so requires permission to be a Taxon Profile Editor (such permissions are granted by portal administrators).


  • Following log in, and with proper permission, the “pen” icon in the top right corner will prompt to the content management system for the page.
  • Available tabs include (from left to right): Synonyms/Vernacular, Images, Image Sort, Add Image, and Descriptions. Move to that last tab.


  • If a description was previously added, then it can be edited by clicking on the respective “pen” icon.
  • If no description was added previously then clicking on the green “plus” icon. Fill in data under the following conventions. Attention to detail yields consistent formatting.
  • Confirm with Add / Edit Description Block.


  • Adding the actual description text is straightforward. Symbiota has a simple text editing module to paste in text. Bold, italics, and underlined fonts are supported, in additional to special characters, and links.
    • No Heading is needed.
    • Aim to reproduce the content of the description as faithfully as possible (italics, etc.). OCR is rarely 100% accurate.
    • Take note of specific terms that you cannot confidently reproduce.
    • Remove undesirable line breaks.
    • Write out “male”, “female” if the original text uses the corresponding symbols.
    • Edit abbreviations to enhance understanding; example “L. 3.4 mm; .13 in.” => “Length 3.4 mm; 0.12 inch.
    • Consider carefully what information is more or less directly related to identifying the target taxon, as opposed dealing extensively with natural history or larger taxonomic issues. Leave those latter types of information out.
    • Separate natural history notes from the diagnosis in different paragraph.
  • Confirm with Add / Edit Statement. 
  • Proof-read the results carefully, make corrections as needed.

Tips on how to find descriptions in the BHL 

  • Finding references in the BHL is not always trivial; the native BHL search function has its limitations. Searching just for the name of a taxon is often not the most effective approach.
  • Instead, it helps to know the reference; locate it with a search (this can even work by search for “BHL [reference]” in Google); and then browsing to the volume, issue, and page of interest.
  • Nearly all North American weevil species are recorded in O’Brien & Wibmer 1982. Use this reference to identify the complete name/author/year/page reference for the target taxon. E.g., Acalles indigens Fall 1907-268.
  • One can make some inferences using O’Brien & Wibmer 1982 with regards to the name used in the original publication. For instance, if the author name is in parenthesis one can infer that it was described originally in a different genus and therefore the BHL search would have to also aim at that different genus.
  • Use OCR and possibly editing in Word, or download the full PDF document or just relevant pages as needed.
2 Comments Post a comment
  1. Hello,

    It’s recommended to use the stable Page URL as the identifier to link to a particular page within BHL, rather than the (potentially volatile) address with the #page anchor.

    The Page URL appears in the webpage identified as “URL for current page:”

    In the case of the example given above, the Page URL for the page of the description of Acalles granosus would be


    February 26, 2014
    • Thank you, William. Good advice, will follow. Incidentally this is the first comment ever on this page. Thanks again, Nico.

      February 26, 2014

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