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Electronic Field Guides and User Communities in the Eco-informatics Revolution

R. D. Stevenson, University of Massachusetts Boston
William A Haber, Missouri Botanical Garden
Robert Morris, UMASS Boston

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The recognition that taxonomy is central to the conservation of biodiversity has reestablished the critical role of taxonomy in biology. However, many of the tools taxonomists produce for the identification and characterization of species, e.g., dichotomous keys, have been difficult to use and largely ignored by the general public in favor of field guides, which are essentially browsable picture guides. We review the role of field guides in species identification and discuss the application of a host of digital technologies to produce user-friendly tools for identification that are likely to greatly enhance species identification in the field by nonspecialists. We suggest that wider adoption of the citizen science model and the use of electronic field guides will enhance public understanding and participation in biodiversity monitoring.

Key words

bioinformatics, birding, citizen science, ecoinformatics, field biology, field guides, species identification, taxonomic keys, taxonomy
Ecology and Society. ISSN: 1708-3087