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About the MSB
Biodiversity Informatics Program

The Biodiversity Informatics Program (BdIP) at the Museum of Southwestern Biology is an inter-divisional effort to increase access to electronic biodiversity information, develop tools to support such access, and to increase the quality and integration of biodiversity information. Biodiversity data of interest include specimen collections, observational data, nomenclatural, endangerment status, and species-level information, and localities.

Digitizing museum specimen and observational information

MSB personnel in conjunction with New Mexico Biodiversity Collections Consortium (NMBCC) developed a program for use as a museum Information Management System which is optimized for rapid, accurate and complete data entry. Called "Maii'tsoh," the Navajo word for wolf, it is now being used by collections at UNM, WNMU, and NMSU to enter and manage their specimen data. Maii'tsoh has features to support museum tasks such as creating specimen labels and keeping track of loans. Check out this flier on Maiitsoh (PDF, 347KB) to get more information. For the more technically inclined, the entire schema (zipped XML files, 754KB) is available.
Natural Heritage New Mexico, a division of MSB, developed its own databasing solution for maintaining information on the status and localities for New Mexico's rare and endangered species. Their information is based on the NatureServe model, but extends it to hold more information concerning observations or sources of information documenting populations. The Natural Heritage information System is integrated with an ArcGIS geospatial data entry protocol, a Microsoft Access front end for textual entry and an SQL Server backend.

Imaging specimens

The UNM herbarium has taken a lead in creating digital images of specimens for electronic access. The herbarium, in conjunction with INRAM developed a cost-effective imaging system and a simple, rapid protocol for imaging. Electronic images are currently available online for the UNM herbarium type specimens at two different levels of resolution. The herbarium is currently imaging specimens for rare and sensitive species and for specimens prior to going out on loan.


One of the strengths of the BdIP program is in the area of "georeferencing" or converting text based localities into geographic coordinates with an extent. Georeferenced collection information makes the data available for mapping species distributions, biodiversity hotspots, and areas in need of collection, modelling distribution changes in response to climate change and other academic research efforts.

The MSB mammal division was an original participant in the Mammal Networked Information System (MaNIS), a groundbreaking effort to georeference mammal collection information from several US collections. MSB personnel took the experience learned from that project and developed a second generation georeferencing effort codified in the INRAM Georeferencing Protocol. This methodology combined with a unique hardware/ software solution allowed INRAM and MSB to georeference the MSB Amphibian & Reptile collection and the UNM Herbarium collection information with a greater degree of precision and accuracy than with the MaNIS protocol.

MSB personnel are now taking the development of georeferencing tools and protocol to the next level with the BioGeomancer project, an international effort to rapidly develop online georeferencing tools and new standards for georeferencing natural history collections. In addition, MSB divisions are involved in the extension of the MaNIS project to new taxonomic groups. The Division of Amphibians & Reptiles is participating in the Herpetological Network (HerpNet) and the Bird Division is a member of the Ornithological Information System (OrnIS)

Making our information available electronically

For many years, the MSB Division of Mammals has provided online access to its specimen information using an in-house system. Currently, they, the Division of Genomic Resources and the Division of Birds are migrating to a new system based on the Arctos program developed by the University of Alaska. The specimen data from these collections is available here. The mammal division specimen data is also available from the MaNIS portal.

Natural Heritage New Mexico provides data from their web site concerning the 600 or so sensitive plant and animal species they track in New Mexico. Their output includes county, ecoregion, or watershed species lists and information concerning the federal and state status of taxa and their global and state Heritage ranks.

Information concerning the New Mexico specimens from all MSB divisions (and other collections from New Mexico Universities) is available through NMBCC's Gateway to New Mexico Biodiversity. Basic and simple query modes allow for table output of specimen data and give access to county-level maps of the query results. Registration allows access to the advanced pages with more query options, the option to download data, and the ability to map non-sensitive species using point-level data. INRAM data is also accessible via the DiGR protocol. The GBIF advanced search is an alternative to the NMBCC portal that uses the DiGR protocol to access the NMBCC data.

Web site hosting and development

The MSB BdIP maintains a bank of over a dozen servers that support MSB activities including the development and/or hosting of web sites or information delivery systems that are not related specifically to our collections. Some of the activities we are involved with include: