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May 21, 2009 – ITIS Web Services Available

ITIS data are now available through the newly implemented ITIS Web Services, which are now on line and publically accessible. These services connect to the data behind http://www.itis.gov, providing programmatic access to the data through an internet connection.

The ITIS Web Services provide the ability to search and retrieve data from ITIS. Each component of the web services is provided through a web service API, which defines the name, input to, and output from the service for a particular data request.

A description page lists all the ITIS Web Service APIs with a description that includes the information provided by the API, the input needed to get data from the API, and the data that are returned by the API.

The web services may be accessed at: http://www.itis.gov/ITISWebService/

Here are some sample links so you can see how the web services work:

Get the full taxonomic record for TSN 180543
Get the full taxonomic hierarchy for TSN 178265
Search for scientific names containing “ursidae”
Search for common names ending with “bear”

The full WSDL (Web Services Description Language) for the services can be obtained at:

http://www.itis.gov/ITISWebService/services/ITISService?wsdl

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June 11, 2008 – Newly Compiled Online Bee Checklist Allows Biologists To Link Important Information About All Bee Species 

In time for National Pollinator Week, June 22 through June 28, biologists have completed an online effort to compile a world checklist of bees. They have identified nearly 19,500 bee species worldwide, about 2,000 more than previously estimated. There is a current crisis known as “colony collapse disorder,” an unexplained phenomenon that is wiping out colonies of honey bees throughout the United States. This has highlighted the need for more information about bee species and their interactions with the plants they pollinate.

“At a time when biological diversity is suspected to be declining at an alarming rate, it is important to have a solid baseline from which to measure future trends,” said Michael Ruggiero, senior scientist for the Integrated Taxonomic Information System at the National Museum of Natural History, who led the recently completed project. “This is very exciting because bees are critical for pollinating flowering plants, including most non-cereal food crops.”

“Honey bees are the most economically important pollinators and are currently in the news because of colony collapse disorder,” said John S. Ascher, a collaborator on the project from the American Museum of Natural History in New York. “Only about 500 bee species produce honey. Most species, however, do not produce honey or live in hives, yet they are crucial pollinators of crops and native plants.”

Taxonomy is the science of species classification. The bee checklist includes currently accepted scientific names, synonyms and common names; a current, complete and authoritative taxonomic checklist is key to linking all information about species. The scientific name acts as the common denominator to connect like information. Taxonomic information is not fixed and throughout time biologists reclassify species as a result of new discoveries or new research. “

The bee checklist acts as a taxonomic ‘Rosetta Stone’ that will enhance communication, information exchange and data repatriation about bees. The completed checklist is a first step in modeling and forecasting future population trends,” said Ruggiero.

Compiling the checklist has taken more than five years and the efforts of leading bee taxonomists on six continents. The checklist, coordinated by the staff of the Integrated Taxonomic Information System, a public–private partnership hosted at the National Museum of Natural History, is available at www.itis.gov. Major supporters of the project were the Global Biodiversity Information Facility, based in Copenhagen, Denmark, which is dedicated to making global biodiversity data accessible anywhere in the world, and the U.S.-based National Biological Information Infrastructure, a broad, collaborative program to provide increased access to data and information on the nation’s biological resources.

Important scientific contributors to the World Bee Checklist project include John S. Ascher, American Museum of Natural History, United States; Connal Eardley, Plant Protection Research Institute, South Africa; Terry Griswold, U.S. Department of Agriculture; Gabriel Melo, Federal University of Parana, Brazil; David Nicolson, U.S. Geological Survey; David Remsen, Global Biodiversity Information Facility, Denmark; Andrew Polaszek, Natural History Museum, United Kingdom; Osamu Tadauchi, University of Kyushu, Japan; Ken Walker, Museum Victoria, Australia; Natapot Warrit, Smithsonian Institution, United States; and Paul Williams, Natural History Museum, United Kingdom.

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April 2, 2007 – Catalogue of Life Reaches One Million Species

The Species 2000 & ITIS Catalogue of Life has reached one million species - a major milestone in its quest to complete the first up-to-date comprehensive catalogue of all living organisms. The Catalogue of Life, available on CD and on the Internet (www.catalogueoflife.org), is the result of a worldwide collaboration involving so far about 50 contributing databases and the work of 3,000 biologists. The project plans to cover all estimated 1.75 million known species by 2011.

The project is led by Dr. Thomas Orrell, of the Integrated Taxonomic Information System (ITIS) based at the Smithsonian Institution, National Museum of Natural History, Washington DC, and by the University of Reading's Professor Frank Bisby of the Species 2000 organization, based at the University's Centre for Plant Diversity and Systematics.

Dr. Orrell said: "The catalogue will cover all known living organisms, such as plants, animals and fungi, and micro-organisms such as bacteria, chromista, protozoa, archaea and viruses."

Professor Bisby said: "This electronic checklist is the modern successor to the work started by Linnaeus whose 300th birthday is celebrated this year. It now delivers one million of the world's described species, from whales to bacteria, mosses to moths, seaweeds to viruses."

A joint biological and informatics team integrates information from individual databases in the taxonomic classification. Information on exactly which species should be recognized is validated by experts before being integrated, a vital difference compared to some other catalogues available on the Internet.

The project is on course to deliver the fundamental organism catalogue needed both by the present generation of international biodiversity programs and the next generation now in planning, such as the Global Species Information System proposed by the G8 Environment Ministers in Potsdam two weeks ago.

It is a keystone component in building the world's biodiversity knowledge systems of the future. It also facilitates analytical systems working on species, such as modeling and predicting climate change outcomes on a global scale.

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July 28, 2004 – ITIS has been included in Thomson ISI's "Current Web Contents"

ITIS has been included in Thomson ISI's "Current Web Contents", a value added section of its Current Contents Connect product. The selection was based on meeting the rigorous standards of their editorial staff for: Authority, Accuracy, Currency, Navigation and Design, Applicability and Content, Scope, Audience Level, and Quality of Writing. Thomson ISI is now the owner of BIOSIS.

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ITIS Signs Agreement with Species 2000 and the Global Biodiversity
Information Facility to Build Catalog of Life

On December 19, 2003 — in Washington, DC; Reading, United Kingdom; and Copenhagen, Denmark — the Integrated Taxonomic Information System (ITIS), Species 2000, and the Global Biodiversity Information Facility (GBIF), respectively, signed a Memorandum of Cooperation to build the Catalog of Life. The Memorandum provides a basis for mutual support, access, and use of the Catalog of Life, a collaborative effort to provide a coherent and authoritative view on the taxonomy of the 1.75 million known species of living organisms on Earth. The unified catalog is fundamental to such important tasks as developing worldwide conservation strategies and understanding invasive species. With its planned coverage of plants, animals, fungi, and microorganisms, the program hopes to achieve one of the more elusive goals of modern biology, a total listing of all described species. ITIS and Species 2000 will develop, review, improve, and maintain the Catalog of Life and provide it through electronic networks and on CD-ROM. GBIF will use the Catalog of Life as an index to make the world's biodiversity data freely and universally available via the Internet and other international electronic networks. GBIF encourages, coordinates, and supports the development of worldwide capacity to access the vast amount of biodiversity data held in natural history museum collections, libraries, and biodiversity databases. ITIS is a partnership of several federal agencies (including the USGS), the Smithsonian Institution, NatureServe, Mexico, and Canada and is a vital component of the National Biological Information Infrastructure (NBII).

This agreement follows an earlier Memorandum of Understanding, signed by ITIS and Species 2000 representatives on October 6, 2003, for a cooperative operational framework to develop, scientifically review the content of, continuously improve, and maintain the Species 2000 and Integrated Taxonomic Information System Catalog of Life. The Catalog of Life is accessible at http://www.catalogueoflife.org/annual-checklist.

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April 10, 2003 – Mullidae of the World Added to ITIS

World species of Mullidae (goatfishes) have been added to or updated in ITIS based on W.N. Eschmeyer's (ed.) Catalog of Fishes version 13 March 2003.


April 10, 2003 – Modifications Made to the ITIS Database Schema and Data Element Definitions

As of April 2003, the ITIS database schema and/or data element definitions have been changed as follows:

  • The length of data element, unaccept_reason (unacceptability_reason), has been increased to 50. The unacceptability reasons defined in the ITIS Submittal Guidelines are now fully implemented.
  • The length of data element, origin, has been increased to 50. New origin values, Native and Extirpated, and Native and Extinct, are now included in the definition.
  • The data element, uncertain_prnt_ind (uncertain_parent_indicator), has been added to the taxonomic_units table. This element is defined as char(3) and is optional. It improves the ability to identify taxa whose positions in the hierarchy are uncertain.

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March 26, 2003 – Prototype ITIS Metadata Tool Available

A prototype ITIS Metadata Tool has been added as an option to the Compare Taxonomy/Nomenclature functionality to enable generation of a component of the FGDC Biological Profile with SGML output. It is currently based on an input file of scientific names only. The prototype will be enhanced in the coming months. The tool is available at Compare Taxonomy/Nomenclature.

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March 6, 2003 – Pleuronectiformes and Lampridiomorpha of the World Added to ITIS; World Scombridae and Clupeomorpha updated in ITIS.

  • World species of Pleuronectiformes (flatfishes, flounders, soles) and Lampridiomorpha (opahs, ribbonfishes) have been added to the ITIS database.
  • Clupeomorpha of the world (anchovies, herrings) have been updated in ITIS, and World Scombridae (albacores, bonitos, mackerels, tunas) have been updated based on:
    • Collette, Bruce B., Carol Reeb, and Barbara A. Block. 2001. Systematics of the Tunas and Mackerels (Scombridae). In Barbara A. Block and E. Donald Stevens, eds. Fish Physiology, vol. 19: Tuna: Physiology, Ecology, and Evolution. pp. 1-33.

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August 20, 2002 – Actiniaria, Pontoniinae, Macrobrachium, and Cetaceans of the World, and the New Insect Order Mantophasmatodea Added to ITIS

  • A world list of sea anemones, Order Actiniaria, has been added to ITIS. This work by Dr. Daphne Fautin is supported by a National Science Foundation PEET Program (Partnerships for Enhancing Expertise in Taxonomy) grant.
  • Two world lists of caridean shrimps, Subfamily Pontoniinae and Genus Macrobrachium, have been added to ITIS based on Chace and Bruce, 1993, with updates from a list maintained by Dr. Brian Kensley.
  • Cetaceans (species and subspecies) of the world have been added to ITIS based on Wilson and Reeder (eds.), 1993, and Rice, 1998, and newly described species through July 2002. Classification and synonymy changes have been provided by Dr. James Mead, ITIS data steward for cetaceans.
  • Mantophasmatodea, a new insect order with extant species in the Afrotropics has been added to ITIS based on Klass, Zompro, Kristensen, and Adis, 2002.

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June 19, 2002 – Ceraphronoidea (parasitoid wasps) of the World Added to ITIS. Chaetodontidae (butterflyfishes) and Pomacanthidae (angelfishes) of the World Updated.

Chaetodontidae (butterflyfishes) and Pomacanthidae (angelfishes) of the world have been updated in ITIS based on W. N. Eschmeyer's (ed.) Catalog of Fishes of 2000.

A world list of parasitoid wasps of the superfamily Ceraphronoidea has been added to ITIS. This work by Norm Johnson is supported by a National Science Foundation PEET Program (Partnerships for Enhancing Expertise in Taxonomy) grant.

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February 25, 2002 – Ephemeroptera, Plecoptera, Trichoptera, Terrestrial Isopoda,  and Crangonyx Species Added to ITIS

  • In collaboration with Dr. W. P. McCafferty, Department of Entomology, Purdue University, ITIS has updated the Ephemeroptera for North and Central America based on the Mayfly Central database (version February 2001).
  • Plecoptera (stoneflies) have been updated in ITIS based on the North American Stonefly List (version 2/16/01) maintained by Dr. Bill P. Stark, Professor of Biology, Mississippi College, Clinton, MS.
  • Trichoptera have been added to ITIS based on the Trichoptera World Checklist of January 2001, coordinated by Dr. John Morse, Clemson University, Clemson, SC.  John Morse is ITIS steward for caddisflies.
  • A world list of terrestrial Isopoda has been added to ITIS based on two checklists:  the 1998 version of the World List of Terrestrial Crustacea Isopoda compiled by Dr. Brian Kensley, and Marilyn Schotte, Department of Systematic Biology, National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution, and Steve Schilling, U.S. Enviromental Protection Agency, Washington, DC; and, the 1999 Checklist of the Terrestrial Isopods of the New World (Crustacea, Isopoda, Oniscidea) by Andreas Leistikow and Johann W. Wägele.
  • The Crangonyx (Amphipoda) species of the world have been added to ITIS based on the work of Dr. John Holsinger, Old Dominion University, Norfolk, VA.

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February 22, 2002 - ITIS Partnership Welcomes NatureServe

NatureServe, a non-profit organization dedicated to providing knowledge to protect the environment, has joined the ITIS partnership. Through an international network comprising natural heritage programs and conservation data centers in all U.S. states, Canada, and Latin America, NatureServe improves understanding of biodiversity by developing, analyzing, and distributing essential information about rare and endangered plants, animals, and threatened ecosystems. NatureServe can be reached at http://www.natureserve.org.

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December 6, 2001 - A New Consolidated 'Standard' Report is Introduced

A new ITIS report has been developed that consolidates data attributes formerly available from several other, more targeted ITIS reports. The new ITIS Standard Report provides the general user a 'one stop' location to view ITIS taxon data. Data categories, (when data are available), include:

Taxonomic Serial No. (TSN) Currency Rating
Taxonomic Rank Taxonomic Hierarchy with Links
Synonym(s) Reference Expert(s)
Common Name(s) Reference Other Source(s)
Current Standing Reference Publication(s)
Unacceptability Reason Geographic Division
Taxonomic Credibility Rating Jurisdiction/Origin
Taxonomic Completeness Rating Comments

The search facility for the ITIS Standard Report is conveniently available directly from the ITIS Home Page as well as the ITIS Standard Report page. Older ITIS reports remain available from the ITIS Data Access menu.

Instructions for Linking Directly to the ITIS Standard Report from another website.

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September 17, 2001 - Great Lakes Diatoms and New World Odonates Added to ITIS

In collaboration with Russell Kreis, US Environmental Protection Agency, and J. Patrick Kociolek, California Academy of Sciences, ITIS has added a list of diatoms of the Great Lakes. ITIS also has updated the Odonata based on the work of Rosser Garrison, L.A. County Agricultural Commissioner's Office.

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July 31, 2001 - Ant Subspecies of the World Added to ITIS

In collaboration with Norm Johnson, Department of Entomology, Museum of Biological Diversity, Ohio State University, Columbus, OH, a complete list of ant subspecies was added to ITIS.

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July 25, 2001 - ITIS North America Web Site Launched

Canadian, Mexican, and U.S. ITIS partners announced the availability of two new taxonomy websites at the North American Commission on Environmental Cooperation in Guadalajara, Mexico, on June 22, 2001. Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC), the Mexican National Commission for the Knowledge and Use of Biodiversity (CONABIO), and US ITIS jointly launched two new web sites for the Integrated Taxonomic Information System (ITIS): a Spanish version for Mexico (SIIT*mx), and a trilingual (English, French, Spanish) version for North America (ITIS*na).

The ITIS North America web site provides basic scientific information on the nomenclature, taxonomy, and common names in English, French and Spanish, of large numbers of life forms. It also acts as a gateway to additional information by providing users with an innovative "Internet Search Portal". This portal automatically uses ITIS information to boost the relevance of specific queries in several major Internet search engines. It also facilitates access to other specialized databases in such areas as biotechnology, genomics, botany, entomology, bibliographies, or to numerous collections of biological specimen and observation data. The site has additional links to Species 2000 and Global Biodiversity information Facility (GBIF) web sites.

The ITIS North America web site is accessible at: http://www.cbif.gc.ca/itis/.

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July 25, 2001 - ITIS and Species 2000 Challenge Scientists to complete the "Catalog of Life"

More than 30 scientists from North America, Europe, and Japan met during June 5-7, 2001 in Reading, England to plan the achievement of one of the more elusive goals in modern biology: the creation of a unified catalog of the 1.75 million known species of living organisms on earth. Such a catalog is fundamental to tasks such as developing worldwide conservation strategies or understanding invasive species from other continents. With its planned coverage of plants, animals, fungi and microorganisms, the programme has been dubbed the 'Catalog of Life'.

The two main organizations working on the task are North America's Integrated Taxonomic Information System (ITIS), and Species 2000, a global network based in the UK and Japan. The significance of the Reading workshop is that after the success of a CD-ROM prototype containing data from both organizations released in April, they are now joining forces to tackle the job together. The workshop was jointly funded by the UK Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) and the Biological Resources Division of the US Geological Survey (USGS).

ITIS and the Species 2000 member organizations have already collated basic reference data on 250,000 species, and plan to reach 500,000 by 2003. The group now extends a public invitation to partner organizations in the scientific community and to appropriate funding sources to join the effort to complete the Catalog of Life within ten years.

The workshop produced a series of actions required to overcome the scientific and technological hurdles, notably in biodiversity informatics and in taxonomic knowledge management. "It's mostly a matter of disciplined organization and locating sufficient expertise on each group of organisms", said Michael Ruggiero, Director of ITIS, and zoologist with the USGS. Species 2000 Chair Frank Bisby, Professor of Botany at the University of Reading, likened the challenge to the recent mapping of the human genome, "Like the genome project, the Catalog of Life is becoming a flagship for the biodiversity community".

The biodiversity informatics tools to be developed include interoperative systems to bring together data from sources around the world, and database 'workbench' tools to speed up the creation of the catalog itself. Another priority is developing better ways of dealing with different classifications of the same groups of organisms. All of these tools have to be integrated with processes for keeping the system up-to-date as the taxonomy changes through time.

In his guest lecture Hannu Saarenmaa from the European Environment Agency stressed the need to make the Catalog of Life available as an infrastructure embedded within the Internet. Christoph Haeuser, chair of the newly formed Global Biodiversity Information Facility (GBIF) and Chris Lyal, programme officer of the Global Taxonomy Initiative of the Convention on Biological Diversity, both emphasized the fundamental need for a global taxonomic framework and species catalog against which all biodiversity information can be referenced.

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June 26, 2001 - ITIS Has a New Look

The US ITIS site has been updated with a new look and feel. The design update includes a new logo that is now in use among the ITIS international partners. The ITIS Query and Reports have been consolidated on a single page. Also many informational pages throughout the site have been updated. Take some time and explore the updated site.

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June 12, 2001 - Herpetofauna of Mexico Added to ITIS

In collaboration with Mexico's Comision Nacional para el Conocimiento y Uso de la Biodiversidad, a complete list of Mexican amphibians and reptiles was added to ITIS.

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March 2001 - Ant Species of the World Added to ITIS

In collaboration with Norman Johnson, Department of Entomology, Museum of Biological Diversity, Ohio State University, Columbus, OH, ITIS has added the complete list of ant species of the world. The complete list of subspecies will be added soon, followed by the synonymy.

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March 2001 - ITIS joins Global Biodiversity Information Facility as founding member

On March 1, ITIS became a founding Associate Member of the Global Biodiversity Information Facility (GBIF) and attended its inaugural Governing Board Meeting on March 9-11. The international consortium's goal is to provide worldwide access, via the Internet to information about the 1.8 million known species that inhabit the earth. For more information about GBIF, go to the GBIF website at http:www.gbif.org.

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October 2000 - ITIS Customized Download Functionality Now Available

In response to requests from ITIS users, the ability to download data based upon selected search criteria is now available. The selected database items may be downloaded in the following formats:

  • XML
  • ITIS Taxonomic Workbench (TWB)
  • ASCII delimited.

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September 1999 - ITIS*ca Goes Public

On September 17, 1999, the ITIS*ca web site went public. This new new bilingual (English/French) web site is a significant step forward in the advancement of the North American ITIS partnership, initiated in 1998. It provides alternative access to and views of the standardized taxonomic data managed within the Integrated Taxonomic Information System. The web site also symbolizes the successful collaboration, both on technology and data content, that has developed among the ITIS partners. To read the announcement of the new ITIS*ca web site click the USGS newsrelease.

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August 1999 - References Restructuring Information is Posted

Information about changes to the ITIS database to accommodate a restructuring of ITIS references have been posted on the ITIS Standards and Database Documentation page.

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July 1999 - ITIS Director is Named

To our ITIS Partners, Collaborators, and Friends:

I am very pleased to announce that Dr. Michael Ruggiero has accepted the position as the USGS Program Director for the Integrated Taxonomic Information System (ITIS).

As ITIS Program Director, Dr. Ruggiero will lead USGS participation in the ITIS partnership, as well as working with the many other US, Canadian, and Mexican agencies, organizations, and taxonomic specialists that participate in ITIS to coordinate its overall development and growth.

Since 1998, Mike has been the International Biodiversity Coordinator for the Department of the Interior, where he represented the Department and the US government on technical matters relating to biological diversity. From 1994 to 1998, he served as Leader of the National Biological Status and Trends Program of the US Geological Survey (and the former National Biological Service). In 1996, Mike worked in the White House Office of Science and Technology on environmental monitoring and biodiversity issues. He served in the National Park Service for 12 years --- the last five as the Chief of the NPS Wildlife and Vegetation Division in Washington, D.C. Mike earned a Ph.D. in zoology from George Washington University, specializing in insect ecology and evolution. He has published numerous professional and popular papers in ecology, entomology, and inventory and monitoring and has served as a scientific advisor for numerous national and international programs related to biodiversity and ecological research.

Mike will officially assume his new ITIS duties as of August 1. He will have an office in the National Museum of Natural History in downtown Washington.

This is a significant step in advancing the objectives of the ITIS partnership and we are fortunate to have someone with Mike's experience and expertise to take on this new coordinating role for ITIS. I know you will all join me in welcoming Mike to the ITIS Team and in working with him to help us enhance and strengthen our partnerships.

Gladys Cotter
Associate Chief Biologist for Information
US Geological Survey

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November 1998 - ITIS is Highlighted in Government's AmericaAccess Online Magazine

ITIS is highlighted in a feature article in Access America Online Magazine. The article is entitled:
"Uncommon System for Naming Species Answers Common Need—and It’s on the Internet."

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June 1998 - US and Canada to Enhance ITIS

On June 15-18, 1998, several US participants in the Integrated Taxonomic Information System (ITIS) partnership met in Ottawa, Canada with taxonomists and information technology staff from Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC) to discuss the future of an international ITIS. (A picture and a complete list of participants are available). Both parties enthusiastically agreed to work together in a formal partnership to enhance ITIS for the future. This merger of credible taxonomic information from experts of both countries will further support a continually accessible, authoritative North American source of information on the presence or absence of species occurring on the continent and in adjacent oceans.

The Eastern Cereal and Oilseed Research Centre's (ECORC) Biological Resources Program which hosted the meetings, has Canada's largest concentration of taxonomists qualified to provide, interpret and manage these data. Dr. Jim McKenzie, Manager of the Biological Resources Program at ECORC, said "the partnership with ITIS-US will accelerate AAFC's ability to make information available to a wider range of user needs in a more cost effective manner and will ensure that Canada's particular interests are met."

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May 1998 - ITIS Recognized In THE SCOUT REPORT

The Integrated Taxonomic Information System has been recognized in The Scout Report, a weekly electronic report of high quality websites of interest to researchers and educators. ITIS is recognized as being an "efficient system for naming and classifying all of nature's living organisms." It is further characterized as being an "extraordinary and ambitious effort" in the current issue of the Report (May 8, 1998;Volume 5 No. 2) in its review of websites in Research and Education.

Websites recognized in The Scout Report are identified and evaluated by a team of professional librarians and subject matter experts who select, research, and annotate each resource so recognized. The Scout Report is the "flagship publication" of the Internet Scout Project of the Department of Computer Sciences, University of Wisconsin - Madison and is funded by a grant from the National Science Foundation. Published continuously for over three years, The Scout Report is one of the Internet's oldest and most respected publications.

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April 1998 - Pounding Out Differences, ITIS Takes Hammer

ITIS, the Integrated Taxonomic Information System partnership, received a prestigious national award for successfully completing a major project aimed at providing easy access to the first credible database of scientific names of organisms in North America and its adjacent waters. The system also offers information on the origin and general distribution of these biological species.

Vice President Al Gore's Hammer Award was given to the ITIS partner agencies for bringing ITIS from concept to reality. The Hammer Award is the Vice President's special recognition for teams who have made significant contributions toward improving government's service to the American people. Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt presented the award at a special ceremony in the Main Interior Building, 1849 C Street, NW, in Washington, DC, at 2:30 p.m., on Tuesday, April 21.

Six federal agencies worked together to foster and modernize the system for naming nature's living organisms: the US Geological Survey, the EPA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (including the National Marine Fisheries Service and the National Oceanographic Data Center), the Natural Resources Conservation Service, the Agricultural Research Service and the Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of Natural History.

"What's in a name? That which we call a rose, by any other name would smell as sweet," said Juliet to Romeo in an impassioned speech. But Gary Waggoner, a pragmatic scientist, is quick to point out that not all roses are scented, so the Bard's sentiment was sweeter than his science. Waggoner, a scientist at the USGS Center for Biological Informatics in Denver, Colo., is one of the leaders of an award-winning interagency team that has been working on standardizing scientific names for several years. Other leaders were Roy McDiarmid of USGS, Barbara Lamborne and Steve Young with EPA, Scott Peterson and Wendell Oaks from NRCS and Bruce Collette and Linda Stathoplos of NOAA.

The Vice President's National Partnership for Reinventing Government identified ITIS as a program that will contribute to the efficiency and effectiveness of government and its partnerships by reducing the confusion and misinformation that arise when people are unsure what each other is talking about -- or when they don't know that an animal or plant is known by several names. Secretary of the Interior Bruce Babbitt said it is hard to "exaggerate the importance of taxonomy to biologists and those who manage biological resources. The scientific names of organisms are the framework that allows us to connect all biological information. Taxonomy provides the foundation for understanding and integrating the similarities and differences among the world's organisms, both living and extinct."

Each partnering agency has a mission to inventory, monitor, research or manage biological resources. This creates a common need for a vocabulary shared through taxonomy, the science of describing, naming and classifying plants and animals. Taxonomic nomenclature provides the most fundamental building block for information sharing on biological resources: the scientific name.

ITIS, says Waggoner, is a grand new tool in the arsenal of environmental research, and for the first time is enabling the scientific community, resource managers, and the general public to have a common vocabulary of species at their fingertips in an online database."It is a deceptively simple notion," Waggoner said. "All we're aiming for is a unified way of naming the `things' of nature. Good science depends on every party in a discussion getting the message right."

There is a major effort being put forth among scientists and property managers to inventory plants and animals so that there is a reliable measure of existing populations. The need, said Lamborne, is to be able to document changes factually, not simply through speculation and guesswork. "Fundamental to this process is standardized terminology through which we can identify, describe and name what we are discussing," Lamborne said. "Taxonomy has an honored history in science," McDiarmid said, "but the time had come to make this technical specialty more accessible to a broad public and scientific audience. We are proud that we have been able to accomplish all that we have and believe it will make an important contribution in understanding the array of life forms that share our globe with us. Questions of taxonomy will help us define what is native and what has invaded and how numerous each are." Applying the ITIS system, said Peterson, can also help both crop and stock farmers identify hazards to their fields, the fishing industry to define the population dynamics of commercial species, and environmental managers to assess the health of natural systems.

Waggoner and his associates also provided the staff support and direction for the multi-agency development of ITIS.

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May 1997 - ITIS Name Change Reflects International Role

At its Spring 1997 meeting in Silver Spring, Maryland, the Steering Committee of the Interagency Taxonomic Information System voted to change the name of the Interagency Taxonomic Information System to the Integrated Taxonomic Information System, retaining the acronym ITIS. This change was determined to be necessary for several reasons:

  • ITIS relies on the full partnership involvement of the US taxonomic community, both in and out of government, and ITIS is intended to help meet the needs of all users of taxonomic nomenclature and identifiers, whether in or out of government. Thus, the word "Interagency" was misleading in that it could be interpreted as meaning that ITIS was an exclusively governmental project.

  • ITIS has been officially recognized in Vice President Gore's Access America -- Reengineering Through Information Technology. This is a report of the National Performance Review and the Government Information Technology Services Board. The report recommends, in part, that "The federal ITIS partners should continue to look for opportunities to enhance and expand the ITIS through partnerships with the non-federal sector and in the international community." This charge from the Administration further endorses ITIS' role in the international scientific community.

  • ITIS has been asked to allow Agriculture-Canada and CONABIO - Comision Nacional para el Conocimiento y Uso de la Biodiversidad (Mexico) to become partners in the development and maintenance of the ITIS database. The Steering Committee approved these requests and partnerships with these two international organizations will commence later this year.

  • ITIS relies on a strong relationship between sponsoring partner organizations and the world taxonomic community. The true partnership of ITIS, therefore, is significantly beyond a US federal agency partnership.

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July 1997 - The Taxonomic Resources Expertise Directory (TRED) is NOW AVAILABLE!

For more detailed information about the TRED, access the TRED now.

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September 1996 - Efforts continue to establish partnerships with potential contributors and stewards.

Inquiries by or references to potential collaborators are always welcome.

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