Introduction (via Symbiota homepage; see also the developing WordPress Symbiota Website). “In this quickly changing world, there has developed a great necessity to learn about our world-wide biota at an increased rate. Scientists are predicting that future species declines will approach historical mass extinction levels within this century. We need to develop better tools to aid taxonomists, field biologists, and environmental educators. It is imperative that we increase our rate of conducting biological inventories, especially within the tropics, as well as steering youth toward becoming our future scientists. Symbiota web tools strive to integrate biological community knowledge and data in order to synthesize a network of databases and tools that will aid in increasing our overall environmental comprehension.”
“The Symbiota Software Project is working towards building a library of webtools to aid biologists in establishing specimen based virtual floras and faunas. The effort typically needed in building a quality virtual flora/fauna is usually under estimated. Writing the software, compiling the data, and curating the data relationships are each capable of overwhelming a project. The complexity of each of these tasks has shown that collaborative efforts are needed to build quality virtual flora or fauna of any significant taxonomic and geographic scope. The central premise of this open source software project is that through a partnership between software engines and scientific community, higher quality and more publicly useful biodiversity portals can be built. An open source software framework allows the technicians to create the tools, thus freeing the biologist to concentrate their efforts on the curation of quality datasets. In this manner, we can create something far greater than a single entity is capable of doing on their own.”
Active Symbiota Portals
Symbiota’s lead development team includes Ed Gilbert and Ben Brandt. The Symbiota user community has grown rapidly in recent years an is currently estimated to include some 250 natural history collections and 2500 users. SEINet alone averages more than 20,000 visits per month throughout 2013, according to Google Analytics. An expanding list of active Symbiota portals includes is offered here.
- SEINet – Southwest Environmental Information Network
- SEINet is a virtual flora that covers the southwestern region of North America with a particular interest in the desert regions.
- IRHN – Intermountain Region Herbarium Network
- This herbarium network covers the Intermountain Region, between the Sierra Nevada and the Rocky Mountains.
- Northern Great Plains Regional Herbarium Network
- This portal brings together information from herbaria in North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, Minnesota, Iowa, Illinois, and Missouri.
- CNH – Consortium of Northeastern Herbaria Portal
- This portal provides access to herbarium specimen data housed in member institutions, with particular emphasis on specimens collected in the region. The database includes taxa traditionally found in herbaria, including plants, fungi, diatoms, algae, and lichens.
- SERNEC – Southeast Regional Network of Expertise and Collections
- This portal serves to network the 230 herbaria in 14 states in southeastern North America and publish on-line botanical resources that will be available to scientists, land managers, state and federal agencies, educators and the general public.
- NANSH – North American Network for Small Herbaria
- Now live on-line – a unifying portal for smaller North American herbaria with various regional concentrations and affiliations. Some 15 collections included as of February, 2014, and hopefully more will join.
- Neotropical Flora Portal
- In development – emphasis on herbarium collections with a New World tropical concentration.
- Herbario Virtual Austral Americano
- The primary purpose of this portal is to support the distribution of herbarium specimen data for plants that grow in southern South America (i.e., Argentina and Chile).
- CoTRAM – Cooperative Taxonomic Resource for American Myrtaceae
- This portal serves researchers of American Myrtaceae and others who might want to identify unknowns.
- Macroalgal Herbarium Consortium Portal
- Data provided through this project portal will allow researchers to determine how macroalgal biodiversity and our aquatic ecosystems have changed over the past 150 years as a result of climate change, bioinvasions, and a wide range of human activity.
- CNABH – Consortium of North American Bryophyte Herbaria
- This portal serves as a gateway to distributed bryophyte resources of particular interest to the research community in North America.
- CNALH – Consortium of North American Lichen Herbaria
- This portal serves as a gateway to distributed lichen resources of particular interest to the taxonomic and environmental research community in North America.
- MyCoPortal – Mycology Collections Data Portal
- This portal has a suite of user-friendly, web-based data access technologies to aid taxonomists, field biologists, ecologists, educators, and citizen scientists in the study of fungal diversity.
- Flora & Fauna of MABA – Madrean Archipelago Biodiversity Assessment Project
- These virtual data portals serve as a gateway for the environmental research community as well as the general public to access and contribute to a growing collection of specimen records and observations. These data represent the products of contemporary field research as well as historic data mined from publications and historic records.
- Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute Portal
- The STRI Portal leverages the value of data sharing using information from different STRI resources
- SCAN – Southwest Collections of Arthropods Network
- This portal brings together arthropod collections at universities and museums from the Southwest and beyond to create a virtual information network of arthropod occurrences.
- NAP – Neotropical Arthropod Portal
- This portal is a developing platform to manage and integrate occurrence data for arthropod specimens across many countries and collections with relevance to the greater Neotropical region.
- Proposed or in development: Jamaican Portal (via NYBG), Pacific Portal (Hawaii).