Building an LTER Taxonomic Database to Support Synthetic Research

Final Report (Required, .pdf format only) : 
Christine Laney
Ken Ramsey

We propose that an LTER-wide taxonomic database would minimize much of the work of resolving taxonomic differences for future cross-site, network level research projects. The EcoTrends project has built a database to standardize site codes and nomenclature with USDA PLANTS database symbols* and/or the Integrated Taxonomic Information System (ITIS) taxonomic serial numbers across all participating sites (totaling >1800 plant and animal species at 14 sites). We would like your help to improve, expand, and share it.

We will explore the current version of the database, create a comprehensive list of potential uses by researchers and information managers, improve the database schema, and discuss possible web tools to make the database accessible and integrated with all LTER sites (and potentially other agencies, such as USFS and USDA ARS). The outcome of the working group will be a proposal outline for funding a working group to flesh out the database and build web applications and other components discussed at the ASM.

More information:
One of the first steps in any population- or community-level, cross-site synthetic research project requires (1) finding data collected on common taxa among and between sites, and (2) resolving among- and between-site differences in (a) taxonomic codes, (b) taxonomic references, (c) taxonomic classification over time, and (d) the specificity of taxonomic classification (e.g., species vs. genus vs. functional group). Site-specific taxonomic codes and poor documentation describing these codes, typographical errors, inconsistent nomenclature, and lags in changes to taxonomic classifications create additional barriers to synthetic research.

This database could be a potential resource for:

  • Researchers and graduate students – to search for data on any taxon of interest across the network and more easily integrate data across sites using standardized nomenclature.
  • Information managers – would allow every site to upload their species definitions into a single system, and then use the database as a master list for consistent, error-free data entry and metadata generation,
  • All LTER sites - to link their taxon-level data to specific entries/URLs within USDA PLANTS, ITIS, and other informational websites.

* With the assistance of Specifik, an online tool to assist in adding PLANTS codes to species tables, built by Lee Zeman, Juli Mallett, Judy Cushing, et al. for the Grassland Data Integration (GDI) Project.  A link to "Specifik" is in the Working Group Materials section.


Session Info

Working Group Session 6

Wed, 09/16/2009 - 1:30pm - 3:30pm
East Side Deer Ridge Fireside
Working Group Materials
Official Participants
Additional Participants: 
Lee Zeman
David Patterson