About Morphbank ALA
User: Guest  [click to login]

About Morphbank ALA



Morphbank ALA is a continuously growing database of images that scientists use for international collaboration, research and education. Images deposited in Morphbank ALA document a wide variety of research including: specimen-based research in comparative anatomy, morphological phylogenetics, taxonomy and related fields focused on increasing our knowledge about biodiversity. The project receives its main funding from the Biological Databases and Informatics program of the National Science Foundation (Grant DBI-0446224).

Morphbank ALA was established in 1998 by a Swedish-Spanish-American group of entomologists and is currently housed at the School of Computational Science (SCS) at Florida State University. The project has grown immensely since its beginnings and presently includes a team of 15 biologists, computer scientists and information scientists who are working on developing the software. Morphbank ALA is dedicated to using open-source software and is a Fair Use Web Site. The software used in the current Morphbank ALA system includes PHP, ImageMagick, MySQL, Apache, Java, and JavaScript.

Overall, Morphbank ALA facilitates research efforts by making it possible to store, discuss and share detailed images of specimens from all over the world. Currently, Morphbank ALA holds more than 216,000 public images of more than 4500 different species. Many more images are in the system that are presently not public, but are held private until the contributing scientists are ready to release the images. These images to document characters and features to describe organisms, make observations about the organisms, or make a comment about the images themselves. The set of morphological features unique to a specimen can be used to identify future specimens. New species are discovered and described by looking at images in Morphbank ALA and extinct or very rare specimens are preserved for current and future generations to study.

Morphbank ALA is an excellent source of information for identification of biological specimens. In taxonomy, descriptions of new species or other nomenclatural acts can be documented by images and image comment tools in Morphbank ALA. Biologists who use Morphbank ALA can mark an image, make comments about images that are seen by other researchers often continents away. Morphbank ALA provides stable Web links to image collections for use in online and traditional print publications. Large biological inventory projects can use Morphbank ALA to share image information about morphological types and allow experts to do remote identification.

Beginning with Morphbank ALA version 2.7 character and character information can now be recorded using a specific type of collection. Users can create character states and use the collection slide-sorting software to illustrate characters or as a tool to effectively use images for character discovery. The ability to create these characters exist now in the system and will soon be able to use these in matrices, and export in Nexus format.

Part of the Morphbank ALA mission to promote sharing of information in the biological community with the public but also with other biologists by creating a set of Web tools to make this easier. A public outreach collaboration, Morphbank ALA at the Mary Brogan, is ongoing with the Mary Brogan Museum of Art and Science to explore the public implications and utility of a educational tool like Morphbank ALA.

Morphbank ALA is working towards collaborating with many research projects to develop a better community resource. A few of these collaborators include: Herbarium at the University of Alaska Museum of the North, Peabody Museum of Natural History, Systematic Entomology Laboratory USDA-ARS, Robert K. Godfrey Herbarium, PlantCollections Project, and many National Science Foundation Assembling the Tree of Life (ATOL), Partnership for Enhancing Expertise in Taxonomy (PEET) and Planetary Biodiversity Inventory (PBI) projects. Our Morphbank ALA image diversity collection highlights these projects and many more.

We welcome new projects and individual biologists. Click here to sign up for an new account and become part of the Morphbank ALA project.