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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service


item Hoberg, Eric

Submitted to: Meeting Abstract
Publication Type: Abstract Only
Publication Acceptance Date: September 4, 2003
Publication Date: October 7, 2003
Citation: Hoberg, E.P. 2003. Collections, archives and informatics: a new synergy for tracking history and biodiversity from species to populations. International WOrkshop for Arctic Parasitology II. Arctic Centre, University of Lapland, Rovaniemi, Finland.

Technical Abstract: Collections reside in a conceptual continuum, extending from a minimalist view as static, archaic and dust ridden repositories to an increasingly enlightened vision where actual specimens drive an informatics revolution that is entirely global and interactive. Biological collections including those in parasitology have served as the foundations for systematics knowledge, and modern systematics constitutes the gateway for elucidating the structure, history, and continuity of the biosphere across both temporal and geographic scales. Collections of varying scope and depth consolidate, document and codify our cumulative knowledge for diversity and organismal distribution. We have amassed knowledge, but have yet to use it effectively. Maximizing and enhancing the application of specimens-based information requires immediate expansion of capabilities for biodiversity informatics under the integrative framework of parasitology. At a general level, we can formulate and contribute to a new paradigm in which parasite collections constitute the hub of information systems linking an array of specimens-based data derived from the study of parasitic and free-living organisms. Parasites thus become a window on the world, revealing facets of biocomplexity, and further become resources for documenting biodiversity as a general reference system for the dynamics of intricate biological associations. Articulation of a broader vision and a transformation for collections requires development of uniform standards, recognition of hierarchies for specimens and information, and use of museum-based resources as historical archives. Collections standards are the drivers of comparability, and uniformity of core databases and data fields ensures capture of specific information. Thus, globally distributed museums represent nuclei within an internationally distributed network. Concurrently, hierarchies and linkages among components of collections ensure that we maximize the use of specimens from logistically challenging surveys and inventories. Although much opportunistic field collection continues and should not diminish, increasingly material consolidated in major museum collections may be derived from hypothesis driven frameworks that address substantial interdisciplinary questions in systematics, evolution, biogeography and ecology. Parasitology is well suited to this challenge and transition. Field collections can range from opportunistic to strategic and hypothesis driven, but in either category accepted standards for data should be defined and applied. Modern collections should be representative, and recognize hierarchies and linkages among type materials, physical voucher specimens, entire frozen specimens, DNA products, and sequences that diagnose putative species or populations of parasites at appropriate and discrete geographic and temporal scales. In this way collections contribute to resolving questions from population genetics to systematics, ecology and epizootiology. Representative specimens, appropriate for both morphological and molecular investigation, should be required from any field-based study. Within collections the adoption of uniform pathways for data streams, long term preservation of physical specimens, and connectivity to frozen repositories including specimens and nucleotide products is requisite. Biodiversity informatics presents the opportunity to use knowledge in new ways. Collections in this realm become portals where a specimen record(s) is linked to species homepages that summarize available data for (1) morphology (diagnostic and digital imagery, interactive keys); (2) DNA sequence data; (3) phylogeny (closest relatives and broader relationships in the Tree of Life); (4) biogeography and host associations; and (5) biology and epizootiology. Information systems lead to synthesis in GIS formats, and comparative baselines to track long and short term historical trends in abundance, distribution, and epizootiological factors. We can have data structures that promote a deeper understanding of interactions of hosts, parasites and the environment, essentially integrating host and parasite biology with climate to develop predictions about our rapidly changing biosphere. Achieving the new vision for collections, one that is dynamic, integrative, and interactive must be paralleled by a cultural transition among field biologists that maximizes timely sharing and dissemination of information. Defined roles and responsibilities, and agreements among museums, repositories, programs for survey and inventory must be driven by collaboration, cooperation, and communication. These critical characteristics of the evolution for how we develop and use collections are embodied in broad collaborative frameworks that are represented in the Beringian Coevolution Project, and the Research Group for Arctic Parasitology. Central to the success of both endeavors have been the essential contributions and effective use of resources held in museum collections. The complementary nature of the BCP and RGAP, focusing on disparate geographic and temporal scales, heightens the significance of large comprehensive collections. We must collect for the future and with the future in mind, concurrently advance a synergy for informatics, historical baselines, and archives to elucidate biological patterns, track history, and the processes that have structured the biosphere. Broad synoptic resources or specimens for comparative studies in morphological variation, phylogenetic reconstruction, molecular systematics, phylogeography, ecology and epizootiology are the backbones of museum collections. Systematics is the foundation- with systematics all approaches become possible.

Last Modified: 7/27/2016
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