Assignment of global information system coordinates to classical museum localities for relational database analyses



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Texas Tech University


Many decisions are made based on information concerning the flora and fauna of the world. With the development of a large number of technological breakthroughs, such as computers, DNA sequencers, satellite imagery, and image analyzers, etc. the volume of knowledge available conceming plants and animals is rapidly expanding and has grown beyond our ability to examine each study and data set in the classically employed "hands on" analyses. To more effectively share and interrogate data sets, a new field of science has evolved called bioinformatics. At the heart of bioinformatics is the ability to use computers to examine massive data files in a critical synthesis. These syntheses employ relational databases to examine the geographical and temporal relationships compared to other data sets.

The Museum of Texas Tech University has been archiving biological specimens as a source of information on biocomplexity, disease, affects of agriculture, etc. These collections of biological voucher specimens are a valuable source of information that may be explored in a relational format. A new Relational Database Management System was designed to perform operations and increase the purpose of the electronic database (Monk, 1998). The Natural Science Research Lab's (NSRL) current collection was constructed to meet the needs of scientists and biologists, and increase the potential of the collection using the ongoing technological development of computer software and hardware (Baker et al., 1996). A problem to such use is that the data have to be in a format that is compatible with computer analysis. For example, a location such as 10 MI S LUBBOCK cannot be recognized in a geographical context without assistance and extra computer time. Two types of locality data. Universal Transverse Mercator coordinates (UTM) and longitude and latitude, can be easily utilized by computer software. UTM coordinates are numerical data that depict exact geographical locations on a map. A world map is divided into 60 zones. To assign UTM coordinates for a specific location, the position within defined zones is established. For instance, the state of Texas is situated in zones thirteen, fourteen and fifteen (see Figure 1.1). Units express UTM coordinates in meters, so that the accuracy of a geographical location is no more than one meter.