Data Base News
BioMap Directive Committee
TO BIOBYTE LIST
Welcome to the first BioByte – the quarterly newsletter of Project
BioMap. It is our pleasure to introduce our recent activities and discuss
more about BioMap.
What is BioMap?
Limited time and funds is forcing conservation to be selective and cost-efficient.
Priority-led action must be based on sound knowledge. However, the paucity
of information on biodiversity distribution in many “megadiverse”
nations hinders reliable assessments and therefore timely and targeted
action. Fieldwork to collect data is necessary but time-consuming, yet
a wealth of accessible information exists and is immediately accessible
in the form of museum collections – a vast legacy and largely untapped
Biodiversity information, and its effective use, provides an essential
tool to make both routine and critical decisions, such as environmental
monitoring and enacting conservation action. It is vital that we know
what and where our natural resources are, in order to influence management
Colombia is one of the top megadiversity nations in the world, with 15%
of all known terrestrial species and just 0.8% of the world's surface
area that contains 18 Ecoregions and 65 ecosystem types. Colombia has
the greatest bird diversity in the world with 1,865 bird species, including
193 “Endemic Bird Area” species. It is widely recognized that
Colombia faces great conservation challenges and large swaths of the country
remain biologically little known.
Birds are the best-known biological group in terms of taxonomy and distribution.
Accurate locality-based information of all Colombian bird taxa (to subspecies
level) would permit detailed distribution modelling, using Geographical
Information Systems (GIS) and WorldMap, to provide a powerful tool for
Project BioMap is an initiative to formulate priority-setting strategies
to effectively and cost-efficiently focus research and conservation action,
through enhancing biodiversity knowledge and data repatriation. This model
project, led by a global BioMap alliance of conservation and academic
institutions and funded by the Darwin
Conservation International, will compile locality data of Colombian
birds, principally from museum specimens, and make them publicly available
through the internet. Using GIS/WorldMap analyses, BioMap will identify
and prioritise target areas for environmental protection and sustainable
management plans. BioMap is an innovative approach for assimilating and
repatriating data to influence five principal targets:
- Institutional capacity building (strategic action plans and decision-makers
workshops to improve planning);
- Training (workshops in Colombia);
- Research (two MSc theses, GIS/WorldMap data analysis, conservation
& management strategies);
- implementation of the Biodiversity Convention (BioMap addresses eight
- environmental awareness (birds are a powerful tool for conservation).
After a delay in starting BioMap, we have made good progress since commencing
on 1st November 2001. A few of our achievements over the past three months,
- www.biomap.net launched,
- all BioMap staff selected (5 from 30 applicants),
- 6-day training workshop completed in January,
- beta testing BioMap databasing programme, and
- synonyms of all bird taxa (3000+) compiled.
- comprehensive locality database compiled.
- compiling a database of literature.
- BioMap office in ICN, National University, Bogotá
Within just 3 months we are now a fully established team and ready to
start databasing collection-based specimen locality data. The BioMap full-time
staff team of six, all bar one of whom are Colombian, is based with Dr.
F. Gary Stiles in ICN in Colombia and Dr. Robert Prys-Jones at NHM in
the UK. Databasing is commencing of both the ca.32,000 specimen collection
of ICN and of the ca.20,000 Colombian specimens in NHM in March. In mid-April
similar work on the ca.30,000 Colombian specimens at the American Museum
of Natural History (NY) will begin.
We hope this newsletter will inform you of BioMap progress thus far,
and help chart the next three months. Issue 2 will be e-mailed by Friday
Dr. Paul Salaman, Manager
Sussy De La Zerda, MSc, Colombian Coordinador
Nov 6: A new taxon of Grallaria (Antpitta)
recognised in The Natural History Museum bird collection, having been
collected 120 years ago in central Colombia. Presently being described
by Project BioMap.
Nov 15: Project website launched at www.biomap.net plus
www.biodiversityscience.org and www.nhm.ac.uk/zoology/biomap/biomap.html
(one of the top hitters in NHM zoology web pages).
Nov 16: Five positions vacant for BioMap staff were
publicized by email to over 200 people and institutions in Colombia, the
Colombian ornithology listserver (RNOA), and through the webpage.
Nov 28-29: Discussions between BioMap and American Museum
of Natural History (AMNH) in New York lay the groundwork for commencing
on the ca.30,000 Colombian specimens held there (19,818 plus ca.10,000
Rothschild specimens) in mid-April.
Nov 30-Dec 8: BioMap databasing programme developed
at CI-CABS (Washington DC), which will undergo beta-testing through January-February
2002. See more below.
Dec 4: Received the support of Mort and Phyllis Isler
(Washington DC) with a digitised location gazetteer (based on Antbirds)
for Project BioMap.
Dec 5: Discussion between BioMap and Dr. Gary Graves
at the National Museum of Natural History (Smithsonian), laying the groundwork
for an agreement.
Dec 7: Thirty applicants for five BioMap staff positions
as selection process commences.
Dec 9-15: Selecting and interviewing applicants for
BioMap staff positions in Bogotá by José Vicente Rodriguez
(CI-Colombia), Alvaro Espinel (CI-CABS), Gary Stiles (ICN), and Paul Salaman
(for Robert Prys-Jones).
Dec 16: Meeting Juan Guillermo Jaramillo with Alvaro
Espinel and Paul Salaman in Medellín regarding database cooperation
by Interconexión Eléctrica (ISA).
Dec 17: BioMap staff selected with unanimous agreement.
See more details below.
January 18-19 2002: Preparing training workshop.
Jan 21-26: Six-day BioMap training workshop with six
staff, plus two MSc candidates (Ana Maria & Maria Angela). Workshop
conducted by Gary Stiles, Alvaro Espinel, and Paul Salaman. Additional
participation includes 2 staff from Instituto Alexander von Humboldt (IAvH),
3 CI-Colombia staff and an ornithology student from Universidad Nacional
(15 people in total).
Jan 27-Feb 1: Tropical Andes “Center for Biodiversity
Conservation” workshop in Cartagena with Alvaro Espinel and Paul
Salaman discussing BioMap concept with organizations from other Andean
Feb 2-3: Ornithological field visit to Sierra Nevada
de Santa Marta by CI-CABS staff Dr. Thomas Brooks and John Pilgrim, plus
Alvaro Espinel, Minhaj Hasan and Gillian Edgelow at CI-CABS have developed
the BioMap Data Entry Tool programme since November 2001. The programme
has undergone extensive ß-testing in January-February 2002. The
final version will be available from early March on the website and by
requesting a copy via email. The file compresses to <2 megabytes (zipped).
The self-standing database comprises two key features
1) A DBS application file has an introductory window for log in and then
direct access to three data entry windows. All data required within each
of the three data sources -specimens, observations and literature- are
entered within a single window, so there is no need to swap between sheets
within each source category.
2) Five key dictionaries are the foundation of the Data Entry windows.
The dictionaries are: contributors (authors), institutions, locations
(full gazetteer), species nomenclature (including synonyms), and bibliography,
together with many smaller reference dictionaries. Dictionaries are vital
to standardise information entered and vital to simplify the job of data
entry personnel. The location dictionary has >1,700 geo-referenced
localities (latitude-longitude-altitude), and the nomenclature dictionary
has 3,399 bird taxa (1,874 species), and includes Spanish and English
names plus >1500 synonyms.
The final version will be circulated to the ornithological community
in Colombia for comments shortly.
The Project Manager, Dr. Paul Salaman, instigated the
project on 1st November at NHM and is a Research Fellow at both CI-CABS
and NHM for BioMap. He graduated from the University of Oxford earlier
in 2001 and has over a decade of ornithological research in Colombia.
The announcement to Colombians for five BioMap staff positions was extremely
successful with 30 applicants. The selection process was extremely difficult
owing to the outstanding qualities of all applicants. However, within
one month from the first national announcement (to over 200 individuals
and institutions) the BioMap Directive Committee selected the following
Colombian Coordinator, Sussy de la Zerda has a BSc from
Universidad de los Andes, Bogotá, and MSc from Virginia Polytechnic
Institute & State University. She is President of the Bogotá
Ornithological Association (ABO) and founding member of ABO and the Colombian
Ornithological Association (ACO). Ten years of ornithological research
in Colombia and co-author of the Bogotá Bird Guide.
Darwin Fellow (US cataloguer & MSc at King’s College, London),
Juan Carlos Verhelst, has a BSc from Universidad de los
Andes, is a member of both Antioquia (SAO) and Caldas (SCO) Ornithology
Societies and has been conducting ornithological research for 7 years,
particularly on the birds of shade-coffee & forest remnants.
Darwin Fellow, Clara Isabel Bohórquez has a BSc
from Universidad Nacional and worked in ornithological research in Arizona
(Uni of Montana) and throughout Colombia for seven years. She also has
extensive experience collecting and working in the ICN collection. ACO
Colombian Cataloguer, Diana Arzuza, has a BSc from Atlantic
University in Barranquilla. She is the founder and President of Atlantic
Ornithology Foundation-ORNIAT and coordinated investigations in the Caribbean
region of Colombia for the past 4 years.
Colombian Cataloguer, Andrea Morales, has a BSc from
Pontificia Universidad Javeriana and is a member of ABO. She has coordinated
education and environmental protection projects for birds in recent years.
The BioMap Directive Committee unanimously agreed that María
Angela Echeverry and Ana María Castaño
are outstanding applicants for Darwin Fellows. They agreed that the project
should attempt to seek funds so they can also participate and assist with
databasing in Europe and with literature sources. There is no obligation,
but with half of the MSc costs available from King's College, London (ca.US$7,000),
BioMap will attempt to seek the additional US$35,000 required for each
candidate. Presently, we are seeking additional funding and request information
for additional sources to apply to.
A highly successful six-day BioMap training workshop was conducted from
21-26 January 2002. Gary Stiles and Alvaro Espinel conducted the workshop
for the six BioMap staff, plus two Darwin Fellow candidates. Additional
participates including two staff from Instituto Alexander von Humboldt
(IAvH), 3 staff from CI-Colombia & an ornithology student from Universidad
Nacional. 15 people participated with over 450 person training hours completed
over six days.
Jan 21: Introduction to BioMap - José Vicente
Project concept, timetable and contracts discussed.
Jan 22: The History of Colombian Ornithology –
Literature of Colombian birds – FGS
Jan 23: Species concepts – FGS (F. Gary Stiles)
Meeting - Colombian Ornithological Association
Specimen examination – FGS
Jan 24: Care and management of bird collection –
Preparation of specimens – FGS
Jan 25: BioMap database presentation – Alvaro
Experimental data entry on four laptops.
Jan 26: Beta-testing the BioMap database and finally
recommendations and comments.
The course was invaluable in bringing together the BioMap team which
is both highly motivated and enthusiastic to commence and complete this
3 year project.
March: BioMap database programme online.
March 15: Memorandum for museum cooperation.
March 25-27: BioMap poster presentation at the “Student
Conference on Conservation Science” in the University of Cambridge,
April 15: Databasing in the USA commences.
April 22-26: Interactive session by Project BioMap at
Conservation International’s Annual Meeting "Zero Biodiversity
April 30: First 6-month report to the Darwin Initiative.
May 1: UK and Colombia press release of Project BioMap.
May 17: Issue 2 of BioByte emailed. Includes editorial
“Why Museums Matter” by Dr. Robert Prys-Jones.
June 1-15: III International theory-practical course
“Care and management of Natural History Collections”. BioMap
has three staff participating.
Scientific and technical network website for participants in Project
|BioMap Directive Committee
Robert Prys-Jones – Museo de Historia Natural,
Gonzalo Andrade y Gary Stiles – Instituto de Ciencias
Naturales, Universidad Nacional de Colombia
Jose Vicente Rodriguez - Conservación Internacional
Alvaro Espinel – Conservation International–Center
for Applied Biodiversity Science, Estados Unidos.
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