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Using SCAN to construct a virtual checklist and key

Presentation Notes for the Arthropod Biodiversity Sessions held on September 19, 2013, at the 12th Biennial Conference of Science and Management on the Colorado Plateau, Northern Arizona University.

Using SCAN to Construct an Arthropod Checklist – Preliminary Insights from the “Weevils of North America” Project

Nico Franz, Michael Shillingburg & Sarah Shirota

  1. Go to SCAN homepage
  2. Log into SCAN as contributor & user
  3. Navigate to WoNA
  4. Mention Authors, Summary Statistics, More Details
  5. Type “Acalles” into Search window (note connection to Taxonomic Thesaurus); Rebuild List
  6. Uncheck Synonyms; Rebuild List (now with less species listed)
  7. Switch to alternative tab with Taxonomic Tree Viewer; search for “Acalles
  8. Note SCAN Taxonomic Thesaurus as work in progress; choose A. clavatus (Edit) to illustrate
  9. Return to WoNA homepage
  10. Check Notes & Vouchers, Taxon Authors; Rebuild List
  11. Click on Map to see voucher occurrences; place cursor on 1-2 occurrence records; then return to Checklist
  12. Now click on Display as Images; Rebuild List
  13. Select A. carinatus; view Species Page
  14. Lead up to a display bifurcation: (1) Path via image to specimen record; (2) Path via description (Edit => Edit) to BHL source
  15. Travel Path (1): lateral view, large version (two clicks; note scale bar, ASUHIC UI), then to Occurrence Editor
  16. Glance over Occurrence Record; point out Annotations (Filtered Push)
  17. Wrap up Occurrence Path; Swich to Path (2) = BHL
  18. Return to WoNA homepage; illustrate Voucher Management options: Non-Vouchered/Missing Taxa, Reports
  19. Interim summary: SCAN facilitates the collaborative assembly of fully vouchered, interactively searchable and editable virtual checklists; yet how about keys?
  20. Switch to SEINet; with prior Log In; select Dynamic Keys: lat/long near Humphries Peak (i.e., Checklist = San Francisco Peaks); Taxon = Ericales
  21. Select Plant / habit = shrub, and Leaves / type = pinnatifid-pinnatisect: a small number of species are retained
  22. Now switch to => key generation; same variables for Checklist & Taxon; Display Character List
  23. Explore Plant / habit =>Submit Critera; possibility of single/multi-state coding with inheritance and reversal
  24. Now switch to Anderson 2002 – Curculionidae; => primary source for WoNA taxa/characters/states
  25. Then switch to in-the-works Google Drive Spreadsheet – SCAN Keys in Progress; review WoNA Key, 2nd Pass (key parsing courtesy of Salvatore Anzaldo)
  26. Conclusions, I – work to be done – implement key, with display of diagnostic features (module is already written); increase taxon coverage, etc.; work towards proposal submission in 2014
  27. Conclusions, II – SCAN checklists and keys can position themselves as a more semantically powerful, scientifically sound, standards-compatible, and shareable complement to BugGuide; the platform needs sound working examples with arthropods to make the scientific case and grow the user community
  28. Special thanks to Ed Gilbert, Ben Brandt, Sal Anzaldo, Charles O’Brien, students contributing to WoNA , and Conference Organizers (Neil Cobb)

Original Submitted Abstract

An overview and live demonstration are offered on the “Weevils of North America” (WoNA) checklist project. WoNA has a dual motivation, viz. (1) to showcase the ability to construct authoritative and comprehensive, specimen-based checklists using the Symbiota software platform (, and (2) to establish a multi-authored resource for identifying and understanding the distributions of some 2500 North American species of weevils (Coleoptera: Curculionoidea), one of the region’s predominant lineages of herbivorous beetles. WoNA is integrated into the Southwest Collections of Arthropods Network (SCAN), and can be accessed on-line at The project, coordinated by members of the Arizona State University Hasbrouck Insect Collection (ASUHIC), started in the second half of 2012 and benefits from specimen donations from the Charles W. O’Brien Collection (Green Valley, AZ). So far WoNA includes distribution records for some 4000 specimens (all geo-referenced) representing 800 species, of which more than 200 have been imaged (dorsal and lateral view). Symbiota supports collaborative, virtual interactions among experts and collections distributed across different institutions that scale up to the magnitude of such a project. For instance, curation of the Taxonomic Thesaurus from superfamily to species level is a perpetual challenge. Symbiota also facilitates the authoring and/or uploading of published textual diagnoses for species, based e.g. on original descriptions and publications stored in the Biodiversity Heritage Library. Lastly, Symbiota has an innovative “Dynamic Key” feature that remains to be explored and adapted to suit the particular challenges of identifying often minute arthropod taxa; including translation of traditional dichotomous keys into a nested matrix format and showcasing of diagnostic feature. In spite of these challenges, we argue here that the WoNA/Symbiota approach relevantly complements information provided by other community websites such as BugGuide, and illustrate how WoNA can serve as a template for similar efforts on other arthropod taxa.

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