Biological Names and Taxonomies on the Semantic Web -- Managing the Change in Scientific Conception

author: Jouni Tuominen, Department of Media Technology, Aalto University
published: July 7, 2011,   recorded: June 2011,   views: 3372


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Biodiversity management requires the usage of heterogeneous biological information from multiple sources. Indexing, aggregating, and finding such information is based on names and taxonomic knowledge of organisms. However, taxonomies change in time due to evolution, new scientific findings, opinions of authorities, and changes in our conception about life forms. Furthermore, organism names and their meaning change in time, different authorities use different scientific names for the same taxon in different times, and various vernacular names are in use in dif- ferent languages. This makes data integration and information retrieval difficult without detailed biological information. This paper introduces a meta-ontology for managing the names and taxonomies of organisms, and presents three applications for it: 1) publishing biological species lists as ontology services (ca. 20 taxonomies including more than 80,000 names), 2) collaborative management of the vernacular names of vascu- lar plants (ca. 26,000 taxa), and 3) management of individual scientific name changes based on research results, covering a group of beetles. The applications are based on the databases of the Finnish Museum of Natural History and are used in a living lab environment on the web.

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