From January - November 2002, ALL Species undertook an ambitious project—to begin the process that would eventually ensure a web page for every species and would link the efforts of taxonomists worldwide through the internet in a new way. To determine what species information already existed on the Web, Dave Thau, our Director of Engineering, in consultation with Kurt Bollacker, programmed taxonomically informed web crawlers and parsers to get a complete sense of the extent of the largest taxonomic databases online. With the subsequent help of Hugo Llamas, our Content Manager and Interface Designer, this multitude of data was turned into a useful search engine that links species names to the online sources which provide information about those species.
Within 3 months, this search engine, available at http://www.speciestoolkit.org/ became the largest publicly available resource indexing a total of 873,979 species and 1,124,819 names.
The Species Toolkit
The next step on the way to a webpage for every species was to expand the search engine into the Species Toolkit - an integrated suite of tools designed to highlight the work of the taxonomic community and help taxonomists disseminate information about themselves and their species of interest.
Another intended design feature in the Toolkit was the Species Page Editor, a service with which taxonomists would add species to our search engine, create pages containing information which may not be found elsewhere on the Web, and edit existing species pages. Species pages would include pictures, sounds, species descriptions, identification keys, and other appropriate files. Species pages would also be linked from the taxonomist profile pages.
Also included in the Toolkit design were tools to enable taxonomists to post information about themselves and their interests, such as a Registration System and Taxonomist Pages. These tools were envisioned as a free membership service that would allow taxonomists to easily create web pages about themselves and their areas of interest. These pages would also include pictures, species descriptions, and other rich media. They would also integrate with the search engine, so that each member would list his or her taxa of expertise with links that hook directly into the search engine.
To further support the taxonomic community, a taxonomist Community Board prototype was designed to provide a place to discover information about relevant projects, find out about requests for proposals, and post and view resumes. Our hope was that these community services would provide one place for taxonomists to find specialists in other areas and discover new project projects and partners.
Another application that Dave Thau and Hugo Llamas developed in support of a webpage for every species was the ALL Specimen Browser. This tool allows taxonomists to easily upload and compare images of specimens within taxa, search and browse hierarchically using data uploaded from a database, and add descriptions. Additional context can be added using authority files uploaded from Excel. An example of the Specimen Browser customized for the California Academy of Sciences database can be seen here: http://www.antweb.org.
The Current ALL Species Toolkit Situation
Unfortunately, due to a lack of funding, full design and deployment of the Toolkit was put on hold. However, all of the code is freely available under the GNU Public License at SourceForge.