Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Call for Disasters in the Field Submissions

Gilian Ice and Darna Dufour from the Ohio University are preparing a book about disasters that happened to people during their field work! Today, Philip Cantino sent around this message via the taxacom list which mainly addresses biologists. However, I hope this message is also spread among geologists. Many heroic situations in exotic places have been experienced by some geobloggers (e.g. reprted here ,here, here, here, here, here, here, here , here, here , here, here, and here). I could imagine you could also tell hundreds of desaster stories ;)

Here is the message sent around today by the taxacom list:

Call for Disasters in the Field Submissions

Have you ever had essential equipment fail when you are in the middle of the jungle? A difficult student? Research permission revoked in the middle of the project? Been struck by lightning? Dropped your camcorder in a river? We need your stories about
challenges in field research. We all know that the old adage, "what can go wrong, will go wrong" often holds true when we do international field research. However, we all find creative ways of working around these potential disasters. We are working on a book titled, Disasters in the Field: Preparing for and Coping with Unexpected Events to be published by Altamira Press. The purpose is to present students and researchers with an overview of problems associated with doing international fieldwork-to provide them with practical suggestions that will help them prepare for the field and minimize the impact of unexpected events. We're going to use real
stories to make these issues come to life. If you have a story about any of the topics below, please consider submitting it.
Stories are 200-1000 words and will be incorporated into chapters. You have the option of being credited with the submission or requesting that it be anonymous. Please contact Gillian Ice and Darna Dufour at field.disasters@oucom.ohiou.edu if you are interested. We'll provide you with guidelines and deadlines.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Paleostrat is now GeoStratSys

Paleostrat has changed its name to GeoStratSys.

"The GeoStrat Digital Information System (GeoStratSys) provides a desktop working environment for stratigraphy-related geologic data. Providing a secure private working space, access to public data, imbedded GIS capabilities, and visualization and analytical tools, it may be used by individuals, collaborative projects, and organizations in support of research, publication, and public outreach. GeoStratSys is an evolutionary version of PaleoStrat that it replaces. It has been designed to move away from the classic web site that delivers static information to the next generation of web-accessible, digital information systems."

They just started, so most services are not yet finished. However this really sounds exiting! I'm pretty curious how the final system will look like.

Friday, December 12, 2008

My Eocene Honey Bee

In his Amphibol blog Gunnar reported about a fossil insect literature list at fossilinsects.net which brought up some memories ...

As a student I was working at the Eocene Eckfelder Maar fossil site which is well known for it's rich insect fauna. During this job we (OK it was Stefan..) found a well preserved honey bee. A big surprise as no other honey bee of this age was known at this time (1992). Fossilinsects has a link to the EDNA Fossil Insects Database where I queried for insects from Eckfeld, Germany. The first hit was Eckfeldapis electrapoides. Googling for Eckfeldapis brought several hits e.g. a citation for:

Lutz, H., 1993. Eckfeldapis electrapoides nov.gen.n.sp., eine "Honigbiene" aus dem Mittel-Eozän des "Eckfelder-Maares" bei Manderscheid/Eifel, Deutschland (Hymenoptera: Apidae, Apinae). Mainzer Naturwissenschaftliches Archiv, 31, 177-199.

I guess this was the bee we found this day...

Anyway, these 4 weeks in Eckfeld were great and exciting and this evening I discovered some old photos which brought even more nice memories..

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Taxonomy Puzzles

In his blog Taxonomy vs. Systematics Dave Hone suspected that at least some paleontologist are not aware that systematics and taxonomy are two different things.
Even worse: As I wrote earlier both are completely ignored in a large number of paleontology related research articles! The authors of these articles do use species names but there is no 'systematics/taxonomy' section which explains the taxonomic concept of the author.

Some may now argue that this is not a problem because many species used in these investigations are so common or simple that everybody knows what is meant by species XY. But this is not true. For example it has been shown by the 'ElKef blind test' (to clarify how aprupt the K/T extinction really was) that differing taxonomic concepts can drastically reduce the comparability of scientific results (Lipps, 1997, Keller, 1997).
There are many reasons why this happens: Taxon names change, names are wrongly assigned or different reference specimen or images are used etc. The result is a big chaos of synonymies which is hard to unpuzzle. Therefore, scientists may use the same taxon name but mean totally different species.

By carefully prepared synonymy lists taxonomists traditionally try to track such taxonomic changes. With our TaxonConcept tool we have stored thousands of synonymy lists and it is often surprising how complicated it can get when e.g. synonyms of taxon names get their own synonymy lists or taxon names have been wrongly assigned. As an example, the picture on the top of this page which shows a graph of the relations of the taxon 'Archaeoglobigerina cretacea' to other taxon names which includes hundreds of other taxon names.
So, if you use taxon names in your studies try to provide some hints on what your taxonomic concept is. Otherwise you may leave future generations of with taxonomy puzzles like this.


Keller, Gerta: Analysis of El Kef blind test I, Marine Micropaleontology, Volume 29, Issue 2, January 1997, Pages 89-93.

Lipps, Jere H.: The cretaceous-tertiary boundary: The El Kef blind test, Marine Micropaleontology, Volume 29, Issue 2, January 1997, Pages 65-66.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Agetagging the Geoblogosphere - 1st try

I took blogs of the last 7 days listed in Geoblogosphere - News and threw them against my ageparser tool. Here is a wordle illustrating the result of my first attempt to agetag the geoblogosphere.
The stratigraphic focus of the last 7 days seems to be on the Ordovician - really?. The difficulty is to identify the 'real content' of a blog and the results seem to be biased by the surrounding html somehow. For example Geology.com News has a 'related stories' section with numerous entries on Barnett Shale.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Metadata: Oh - The Pain!

If you really want to scare away scientists from your project, say: "metadata". Most scientists develop a skin rash on having to deal with metadata, yet useful information systems depend on metadata of some form or other. Many metadata are straight forward and can be generated from context. The most difficult metadata elements seem to be keywords.

Isn't there a way to generate metadata automatically? Well, there are methods proposed and there are some tools around for automatic metadata extraction. With less guesswork involved, the extraction process can be made more efficient. Therefore it is also useful to know which metadata can be embedded in which file formats.

A report by Polfreman and Rajbhandari, published last week in the JISC information environment repository. The extensive report looks at methods and tools for automated metadata generation, mainly from the angle of generating Dublin Core metadata for institutional repositories.

Polfreman, Malcolm, und Shrija Rajbhandari (2008), MetaTools - Investigating Metadata Generation Tools , JISC, London, United Kingdom. [online] Available from: http://ie-repository.jisc.ac.uk/258/

Robert has already looked at the tool offered by Yahoo! and considers it potentially useful for Stratigraphy.net. We'll keep you posted on any progress we make with automated metadata extraction.