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This article is part of the supplement: Biodiversity Informatics

Open Access Research

Location, location, location: utilizing pipelines and services to more effectively georeference the world's biodiversity data

Andrew W Hill1*, Robert Guralnick1*, Paul Flemons2, Reed Beaman3, John Wieczorek4, Ajay Ranipeta2, Vishwas Chavan5 and David Remsen5

Author Affiliations

1 University of Colorado Museum of Natural History and Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, University of Colorado Boulder, Boulder CO 80309-0265, USA

2 Australian Museum, 6 College St Sydney 2010, New South Wales, Australia

3 Florida Museum of Natural History, University of Florida, Gainesville FL 32611, USA

4 Museum of Vertebrate Zoology, University of California, Berkeley CA 94720, USA

5 Global Biodiversity Information Facility Secretariat, Universitetsparken 15, DK-2100, Copenhagen, Denmark

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BMC Bioinformatics 2009, 10(Suppl 14):S3  doi:10.1186/1471-2105-10-S14-S3

Published: 10 November 2009

Abstract

Background

Increasing the quantity and quality of data is a key goal of biodiversity informatics, leading to increased fitness for use in scientific research and beyond. This goal is impeded by a legacy of geographic locality descriptions associated with biodiversity records that are often heterogeneous and not in a map-ready format. The biodiversity informatics community has developed best practices and tools that provide the means to do retrospective georeferencing (e.g., the BioGeomancer toolkit), a process that converts heterogeneous descriptions into geographic coordinates and a measurement of spatial uncertainty. Even with these methods and tools, data publishers are faced with the immensely time-consuming task of vetting georeferenced localities. Furthermore, it is likely that overlap in georeferencing effort is occurring across data publishers. Solutions are needed that help publishers more effectively georeference their records, verify their quality, and eliminate the duplication of effort across publishers.

Results

We have developed a tool called BioGeoBIF, which incorporates the high throughput and standardized georeferencing methods of BioGeomancer into a beginning-to-end workflow. Custodians who publish their data to the Global Biodiversity Information Facility (GBIF) can use this system to improve the quantity and quality of their georeferences. BioGeoBIF harvests records directly from the publishers' access points, georeferences the records using the BioGeomancer web-service, and makes results available to data managers for inclusion at the source. Using a web-based, password-protected, group management system for each data publisher, we leave data ownership, management, and vetting responsibilities with the managers and collaborators of each data set. We also minimize the georeferencing task, by combining and storing unique textual localities from all registered data access points, and dynamically linking that information to the password protected record information for each publisher.

Conclusion

We have developed one of the first examples of services that can help create higher quality data for publishers mediated through the Global Biodiversity Information Facility and its data portal. This service is one step towards solving many problems of data quality in the growing field of biodiversity informatics. We envision future improvements to our service that include faster results returns and inclusion of more georeferencing engines.