Scientific Names and Descriptions for Organisms on the Semantic Web

An efficient process for creating precise, accurate, machine-interpretable morpho- logical descriptions of groups of organisms is needed to more effectively gather observations of the world’s biodiversity. While morphological descriptions are required for the publication of modern scientific names, it is common for these descriptions to get revised after the initial pub- lication which can lead to data loss. A system for creating and naming machine-interpretable descriptions of groups of organisms, the Semantic Vernacular System, is proposed as a solu- tion for creating such descriptions and managing their relationship to formal scientific names while improving the collection of observational data.

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Fungi are typically referred to by either scientific or common names. Neither of these terminologies meets the need for well-defined, persistent definitions of groups of fungi who exhibit similar macroscopic qualities, but may be dissimilar genetically. We propose a community-developed vocabulary that can be used to identify mushrooms based on properties that can be observed in the field (without microscopic or genomic examination). We show how an ontology can be used to develop and organize the terms and definitions and to enable applications based on the vocabulary.

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