Donat Agosti’s group has launched Plazi, a set of tools that translates flat paper taxonomy into dynamic web content. This technology is significant: it means the content of old literature can be extracted automatically into databases. Taxonomic names are tracked and linked to external information, and collecting locations are linked to maps. This will be a valuable time-saver for taxonomic research.
As an example, my doctoral thesis was a fairly traditional piece of work: a book length taxonomic revision, all done in flat text on a word processor. Plazi has turned it into a hyper-linked bonanza of information. If you’re having difficulty appreciating the coolness here, scroll down to the “Material examined” section and click through the localities to view them on Google maps.
Incidentally, I never appreciated the leadership that myrmecology has shown in the emerging field of bioinformatics until I switched from ant research to beetles. I’d grown accustomed to having all our taxonomic literature online, a comprehensive catalogue of species, and a first-rate database of specimen images. Most groups of organisms have nothing of the sort. Many beetle taxonomists still have to sort through file cabinets looking for this paper or that paper, often without an organized catalogue of species to guide them. We’re really quite spoiled.