Friday, July 25, 2008

Show Me...Crab Spiders on Bark

One of the DarwinCore elements for specimen and observation data is "habitat". To my knowledge, not a lot has been done with these data. Either there are actually few records cached at GBIF that have this field filled or the data are in a such a mess as to be (mostly) unusable. I certainly hope it's not the latter. No matter how messy, there is still a wealth of information here if one takes the time to sift through it. The data are not unlike folksonomies and someone with more patience than me could probably develop a natural classification of these terms.

Faceted search is a first crack at making these data useful, because there is certainly more trajectories into the data than without making use of the data. For a first cut at this, I pulled 30 random contributed specimen records in the Nearctic Spider Database for each species and merely display the full contents on the species pages. Then, I index the pages as always using my trusty Zoom Search. Voila, a quick way to do some quick, faceted searches. It's not perfect, but it's better than nothing. Where "crab spider bark" or "wolf spider beach" once produced no search results, there are now 5 and 17 results returned, respectively. Incidentally, Flickr produced 13 and 18 results, respectively but many images are useless.

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