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Database Management of Specimen, Literature, and Nomenclature for Systematics

A key component in the philosophy for funding grants in the National Science Foundation’s Partnerships for Enhancing Expertise in Taxonomy program is promoting the electronic gathering and dissemination of systematics and taxonomic information. When the Therevid PEET project was begun in the summer of 1995, no widely used database tools existed to catalog specimen, nomenclatural, and literature data. Furthermore, the history of custom-built databases on now inaccessible mainframe computers provided a daunting reminder of what we did not want to repeat. A high priority was placed on being able to export the data for use and integration elsewhere; being seamlessly cross-platform on both Macs and PC’s; having full relational capabilities so that the same data are not entered endless times introducing additional error potential; having a server technology and web publishing capabilities, and an open architectural design so that Mandala could be easily modified by users with different needs who were studying other taxa. FileMaker Pro, while not yet fully relational in mid-1995, promised to be so in the next version and was already cross-platform with full exporting capabilities. Thus began the building of the yet unnamed Mandala from 5 original files to the now 27 (+ 1 visitors guest book for the web) fully relational, cross-platform database system (see database model (pdf).

Database systems like other software, evolve to meet the needs of its users, and so too has Mandala. The current focus is less on adding new fields to accomodate data entry and more on developing easier ways for the less experienced user to mine the data to answer the questions about their group of organisms or places of interest. User feedback is an essential part of this process.

Mandala, the database system, is available upon request to potential users from Gail Kampmeier <>, the principal designer. Although fully functional, this demo is to be distinguished from Therevid Mandala, with its data on specimens, nomenclature, and literature related to the fly family Therevidae, which is searchable on our website.

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