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 toward 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 underestimated. 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 the 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.
An overview of Symbiota’s functions and impact was published by Gries, Gilbert & Franz. 2014. Biodiversity Data Journal 2: e1114.
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