30 Jul 2015

Canadian Biodiversity Facility

This week while volunteering as a naturalist in Elk/Beaver Lake Nature Centre, I met a family that is having a Puffin Summer. Every day they go to Puffin Cam and then look up a new fact about puffins on the internet.

It used to be that you had to go to the library and find a book in order to learn about nature. How else could you identify what kind of butterfly you saw or what plant is growing behind your grandparents' woodshed? Now there are terrific online resources for people who love learning about the biological sciences! Of particular interest to Canadians is the Canadian Biodiversity Information Facility. The CBIF operates in support of the Global Biodiversity Facility, which has information on over a million and a half species.

Are you trying to find information on sapsuckers or ladyslippers, or other animals and plants? The CBIF is working to improve access to data on living things of interest to Canadians. On their website there are three tools to help users find the information they need:
  • Integrated Taxonomic Information System (ITIS) is a catalogue of common and scientific names and their synonyms that will eventually include all species found in Canada, the United States and Mexico. I clicked on Search ITIS, then entered the common name "oystercatcher" into their simple form, and it came up with links to pages on many kinds of oystercatcher birds, and the scientific names for each kind. Here's a photo of this striking bird, with its bright eyes and bill and pink feet.

"Black Oystercatcher HMB RWD4" by DickDaniels (http://carolinabirds.org/) - Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons - https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Black_Oystercatcher_HMB_RWD4.jpg#/media/File:Black_Oystercatcher_HMB_RWD4.jpg

For the other two tools, you'll need the species name for the living thing you want to find.
  • Species Access Network is the Canadian component of a global project to provide Internet access to information associated with the billions of specimens housed in the world's natural history collections.Users can search these collections by species name, source collection, collector, or location.
  • Species Bank includes a collection of electronic resources that provide detailed information to support the identification of Canadian species including descriptive information, photographs, distribution maps, and more.

Now that it's summer, I hope you'll enjoy being out in the wide world, finding plants and animals in towns and in wild places. When you come back indoors, the CBIF website is a good place to learn about what you've found -- but no computer can substitute for breathing the same air as our animal and plant neighbours.

No comments: