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March 1st, 2005

Novel taxonomic web site assists ecological research in Antarctica

Sarah Spaulding, Rhea Esposito, and David Lubinski led a team of scientists, graduate students and undergraduate students to develop a dynamic web database, Antarctic Freshwater Diatoms, that combines ecological data collected over more than a decade in the McMurdo Dry Valleys region. The database takes a technologically novel approach by linking microscope images, scanning electron micrographs, original taxonomic descriptions, species geographic distributions, species assemblage data, maps, and permanent archives. Members of the research team are continually adding new data and images; no technical web knowledge is required. The interdisciplinary effort brought collaborators and students together from the University of Colorado, INSTAAR, University of Maine, CU Math-Bio Program, NSF Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU), and NSF Partnerships for Enhancing Expertise in Taxonomy (PEET). INSTAAR participants included Diane Mcknight and Chi Yang. The effort was principally funded by NSF's McMurdo Dry Valleys Long Term Ecological Research program (MCMLTER) and an NSF supplement to the Niwot Ridge LTER program to encourage collaboration among undergraduates in biological sciences and mathematics departments. Although just launched in late February 2005, the site is already serving as a model for regional taxonomic databases, as an effective way to recognize and communicate species endemism and biodiversity.