HISCOM 2009 AGM Cairns

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Australian Tropical Herbarium (map) James Cook University, 19–20 October 2009.



  • Bill Barker, State Herbarium of South Australia, Department of Environment and Heritage
  • Peter Bostock, Queensland Herbarium, Department of Environment and Resource Management, Queensland
  • Margaret Cawsey (invited, Fauna Collections Informatics Group, Australian National Wildlife Collection, Canberra)
  • Niels Klazenga, National Herbarium of Victoria, Royal Botanic Gardens
  • Donna Lewis, Northern Territory Herbarium, Department of Natural Resources, Environment the Arts and Sport
  • Laurence Paine, Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery, Tasmania
  • Ben Richardson, Western Australian Herbarium, Department of Environment and Conservation
  • Brett Summerell, Royal Botanic Gardens, Department of Environment and Climate Change, New South Wales
  • John Tann, Atlas of Living Australia
  • Helen Thompson, Australian National Herbarium, Department of Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts
  • Alison Vaughan, National Herbarium of Victoria, Royal Botanic Gardens
  • Greg Whitbread, Australian National Herbarium, Department of Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts
  • Karen Wilson, Royal Botanic Gardens, Department of Environment and Climate Change, New South Wales


Australia's Virtual Herbarium

Items from AVH2 public release priority task plan

  1. Deadline: Need a realistic deadline
  2. Creation of registered user accounts: in progress, approved by CHAH
  3. AVH admin accounts: in progress. Each herbarium to nominate an AVH admin for their institution:
    1. Brisbane: Peter Bostock
    2. Melbourne: Alison
    3. NT: Donna
    4. Perth: Ben
    5. Adelaide: Helen Vonow
    6. Hobart: Lawrence
    7. Canberra: Greg
    8. Sydney: Gary
  4. Canberra to engage web designer: This item has been superceded by work done by Niels. General agreement that Niels' work is better, and that we should seek a quote from Paul Coddington on the time required.

There was general agreement to separate the bug fixes required to release a first version from new features.


(To be added to Google Code by Ben, or anyone else who wants to do it...)

  • Query point feature doesn't work in some browsers -- clicking on a dot results in the display of the "no specimens found" error.
  • Panning: Some users try to use Google Maps' approach to panning (using a drag) rather than clicking on the map where the centre of the map should be placed. Change the label next to pan radio button: "Pan (click to centre map)"
  • Make the Click on map choice a "sticky option" per session
  • The Extended query locality page needs to be updated as per Niels' demonstration page
  • Update logos for institutions -- HISCOM reps to email Ben with an EPS or TIFF file if their logo in the test AVH is not correct. Additionally, supply department name and URL updates.
  • Ensure Help pages are ingested in such a way that the template is wrapped around the help and the resulting pages are displayed as per Niels' demonstration help page
  • Ensure BioCASE indexing stores all fields correctly in database (apparently fixed, pers. comm. Paul Coddington)
  • Implement GET/POST query syntax for Simple Query only, but ensure the parameters used in the old interface are handled so that current implementations of the direct query will continue to work after the launch of AVH 3.
  • User interface for the user registration page needs to be updated as per Niels' demonstration. (Link needed.)

Tasks for HISCOM members

  • Full Scientfic Name should include authority (and not family)
  • Date Last Edited column must be provided for all records by all herbaria

Future Wishlist

AVH Help Pages

HISCOM thanked Alison for her big effort in collating the help pages.

AVH Data Inconsistencies

(Minutes to do -- please contribute.)

Early Warning System and Weed Tracker

  • A project manager is needed
  • A scoping document exists

AVH Meeting on Wednesday

Relationship of AVH with NZVH

  • Using the AVH code as a base for the NZVH
  • Requires that the AVH codebase be stabilised to avoid extra work at their end
  • Would like to use the HISCOM wiki as a basis for their help pages
  • Should AVH and NZ have reciprocal links (e.g. in banners)?
    • Logos?
  • Should AVH and NZ share some data reciprocally?
    • Australian herbaria hold records for NZ specimens
  • Need a clear communication channel
  • Need project management
  • Need a road map for AVH so that we can collaboratively apply for funding for separate parts of the code base and develop each part in a way that both Australia and New Zealand benefit.
  • Need to publish NZVH to provide further opportunities for funding

Atlas of Living Australia

ALA was given a big pot of money to spend on infrastructure, which includes collection management. Getting data out of institutions has been flagged as a major problem. Donald has had preliminary talks with Paul, Bill and Rex on solving the technical issues with getting data out through a web service.

Categories of service development:

  1. (Won't) No ability to implement web service. Could be a technical, administrative or political reason.
  2. (Can't) Would like to implement but are unable due to lack of technical expertise, or there are other impediments, for example a corporate unwillingness for web services.
  3. (Could) Have implemented a service, but would welcome input on implementing a fast, stable web service in one or more of BioCASE, TAPIR (and others? OAI-PMH, SOAP, REST).

For details of this discussion, including a summary of wrapper status for each herbaria and further development see: Wrappers for Herbarium Data

Sensitive Data Report

The report is titled "Our secrets are not your secrets: Sensitive data and the Atlas of Living Australia", and is authored by John Tann and Paul Flemons.

Each state determines conservation status in different ways, and seeks to restrict the data in different ways.

Is proposing a Sensitive Data Service that is able to detect sensitive data in a provided dataset and provide useful output that would be helpful to the user. Also proposing a "toolbox" that would provide information about what things to look out for before releasing data to the public.

Does HISCOM feel that this is a good idea?

It can't be perfect, so it may be dangerous -- loopholes? Guarantees aren't possible. That said, technically the service is feasible, given the usual political and administrative caveats. The appropriate jurisdiction must be given the tools to maintain the data. FCIG resolved that it would be useful and recommended as such to CHAFC. See the Faunal Collections Informatics Group, Report to HISCOM. CHAH need to discuss the staff resourcing and funding issues associated with maintaining the data from their jurisdictions.

Would AVH use it?

  • CHAH has an agreement between herbaria that they will obfuscate data, and will not provide data sourced from other herbaria

ALA Collection Data Management

John presented ALA's view of the collection data management area. (Document links to come.)

What can ALA do for AVH?

  • Another service up for redundancy
  • Better network infrastructure -- faster, more stable
  • Licenses for mapping layers, Google Maps for public use
  • ALA validation service?
  • Ongoing support for creating web services, becoming a part of the biodiversity network

Australian Plant Census and Australian Plant Name Index

APNI is the database into which data from the APC process is stored. AFD will be maintained through ABRS and APC will be maintained through CHAH. ALA is funding some work on APC and APNI. An infrastructure checklist is available (not public?), as is a general service layer document noting the services in testing.

Life Sciences Identifiers

A public review of the Life Sciences Identifiers Applicability Statement is imminent. (See TDWG site.) TDWG will be providing a set of recommendations for how to use LSIDs, rather than making a blanket statement about which GUID technology is most appropriate for use by the biodiversity informatics community.

Biodiversity Information Standards (TDWG)

  • Nescent
  • Agricultural focus

The conference is in Montpellier, France, and runs from 9–13 November 2009.

Report from FCIG

Margaret presented FCIG's Report to HISCOM.

Demonstration of HOLTZE

The Northern Territory Herbarium has redeveloped its specimen database and interface as a web application built using Oracle Application Express (APEX). Donna demonstrated HOLTZE, named after several plant collectors.

HISCOM Chair 2010

Having a CHAH member as HISCOM Chair has been more useful organisationally, but it hasn't resulted necessarily in more timely outcomes.

Joint FCIG and HISCOM meeting: yes. The next FCIG meeting is in May, and the chairs of each committee should discuss when a joint meeting might take place.

More regular use of ad-hoc small technical groups is needed, as HISCOM isn't able (both due to size and to breadth of expertise) to quickly develop technical recommendations and discuss technical issues that crop up.