Glossary of Botanical Terms
The Plant Information Center
IMLS GRANT # LL 90145
University of North Carolina, Chapel
October 1, 1999 – September 30,
2000 (combined report)
The Plant Information Center is
a partnership of the North Carolina Botanical Garden, the UNC Herbarium,
the UNC School of Information and Library Science, the McDougle Middle
School, and the Orange County Public Library. The current phase is funded
by the Institute for Museum and Library Services (October 1999 to September
The intent of the project is to
connect the research community and the general public (including school
children) to make greater use of primary research material and to nurture
the public interest and enthusiasm in the study of trees, plants, and natural
history. Four objectives include:
1) Demonstrate a successful cooperation
between the university, the public school system, and the public library;
2) Create and test an interactive
Plant Information Center for the general public, libraries, and public
3) Develop educational experiences
using primary research materials from the herbarium for 6th grade students;
4) Test the usefulness of digital
images of herbarium specimens for plant identification and for inspiring
the public and public school children with the aims and methods of professional
Project partners are working together
to meet these objectives and to incorporate PIC into Middle School curriculum
activities that involve plant identification and larger questions about
man’s relationship to the natural world. PIC’s long-term goals include
making museum specimens and expert knowledge more widely available through
the World Wide Web and promoting the flow of scientific information to
researchers, amateur botanists, students (elementary through higher education),
and other scientific communities interested in botanical science.
Project goals and objectives are
being met in accordance with the timeline outlined in the Gantt chart listed
in our proposal with some deviation due to student hiring and academic
scheduling. Accomplishments to date are listed below.
At the core of PIC is a relational
database created to link specimens and metadata. The database was
created fall 2000. The database structure includes fifteen major
entities that identify specimen nomenclature, link specimens to the classification
authority (organization or individual), identify the specimen collection
locale, document taxonomic changes in plant classification, and record
digital processing information pertinent to archival images of each specimen.
The database permits a user to query using a variety of criteria, such
as collector name, specimen genus, common name, locale where specimen was
collected and so forth. The database also links to White Cards, additional
information about each species and the USDA database (see http://dbserv.ils.unc.edu/projects/botnet/asp/plantsearch.asp).
The database currently contains 500
images representing 50 taxa of gymnosperms (pines, spruces, firs, cedars,
cypress) found in the Southeast. The Project team is currently pulling
specimens for native North Carolina angiosperms (approximately 275 taxa
including oaks, maples, beech, dogwood). Approximately 1/3 of the
total amount of specimens has been pulled. Most species require 2-3
specimens to capture fine detail about leave, flower and fruit structures.
Once the specimens are pulled, they are imaged at 1497x1160 resolution
and archived as TIFF files. We are archiving on CDs (each file is
saved on 2 different CDs). Each image is displayed on the web as
a JPEG file with a thumbnail. After imaging, specimen data for each
specimen is entered into the ACCESS database.
Once the database was created, preliminary
evaluation began summer 2000. A survey was sent out to the Advisory
Board in July 2000 to review the BOTNET searchable database. Out
of the 25 surveys sent, we only received 9 responses. Many faculty
members were out of town during the summer months. Instead of compiling
the data, comments and suggestions were reviewed and changes were made
to the search tool as deemed necessary.
2. SPECIMEN IMAGING
The system for capturing images
of herbarium specimens in the UNC Herbarium employs a ProgRes 3012 digital
camera (Kontron Elektronik GmbH) mounted on a Bogen System 800 copy stand.
To capture good images, the camera and lighting had to be calibrated correctly.
The camera, or Piezo, calibration causes the camera to make minute adjustments
to the devices that control its light sensors in order to minimize certain
types of distortion in captured images. The computer monitor was
calibrated as well as the settings within Photoshop, so that the images
taken are sharp and accurate. We originally had a problem adjusting
the Photoshop gamma settings. The video card in our Dell computer
was bad, so we had to replace it. A digital photography expert, one
of our Advisory Board members, helped us get on track.
3. ADVISORY BOARD
An advisory board was created in
February 2000. The advisory board consists of 31 members. Fifteen
of the advisory board members represent local teachers, botanist, librarians,
technical experts, and gardeners. The Plant Information Center
Staff is also included. The group met in February to discuss how
each member can help with the project. Small groups were created;
each group was asked to answer questions that would help us make decisions
throughout the year. Since then, we have called upon advisory board
members individually for help and consultation (i.e., digital photographer,
botanists, education specialists). An electronic discussion board
(listserv) was also created to discuss issues and to update members about
4. SUMMER WORKSHOP
Our original plan was to hold a
2-week workshop summer 2000 with the local Middle School teachers (4 teachers
total). We met for a one-day intensive workshop to begin design of
lesson plans for our website. The teachers plan to continue lesson
plan design throughout the year and want to meet Summer 2001.
5. PIC WEBSITE
PIC maintains a public website for
students and visitors: http://www.ibiblio.org/pic/, and a work and documentation
website for project staff: http://ils.unc.edu/daniel/PIC/PIC.html).
The public website was developed using the tools and components available
to date (October 2000). It was created in Dreamweaver using frames.
Several tools are still in the development stage (glossary, dichotomous
key, Ask the Expert tool, and Contributory Module—see table below).
As these tools are refined and tested, they will be made web accessible.
We felt it important to post information along the way (recommended by
the McDougle Middle School teachers). Also, recommendations from
the usability test (see below) will be incorporated into design and functionality
to create a site friendly to students and professionals.
When complete, the Plant Information
Center will have seven main components incorporated into the PIC website
(http://www.ibiblio.org/pic). Descriptions of each component are found
in the following table.
1. Tree Identification Keys:
PIC provides access to a collection of web-based dichotomous and polyclave
plant keys that guide plant identification. A simple dichotomous
key (including pictures) is under development for the native trees of North
Carolina. An example of what we are trying to accomplish can be found at
2. BOTNET: BOTNET (Botanical
Information Network), a virtual herbarium, is ongoing and provides a major
research base for PIC. BOTNET was initially constructed with funds from
the University of North Carolina’s Technology Development Program.
3. BOTNET searchable database:
The database was developed in Microsoft ACCESS. It permits a user to query
using a variety of criteria, such as collector name, specimen genus, common
name, etc. Working with database forms, data-imputers transcribe specimen
metadata from digitized copies of the original specimen labels. Imputers
are assisted by drop down menus and the UNC Herbarium Code Book (2000).
). The creation of Active Server Pages permits the database to be
accessed from the World Wide Web platform. Searching activities are
supported by a series of Standard Query Language (SQL) constructed queries,
which can easily be enhanced, modified, or developed as needed (completed).
4. Glossary : The glossary
is a list if botanical terms with links to illustrations to help understand
botanical terms. We already have an extensive list of terms, but
need to add illustrations (under construction)
5. Frequently Asked Questions:
PIC recognizes the usefulness of FAQs and has created an electronic bulletin
board that has derived its content from question/answer logs documenting
patron inquiries at the North Carolina Botanical Garden Library (NCBGL).The
metadata model for this component is a PIC-specific schema comprised of
three elements: general topic, question, and answer. This schema,
while simpler than the other schemas used in PIC because of the small number
of elements, is very powerful because it supports knowledge discovery for
visitors. FAQs are organic and will continue to derive contents from
the NCBGL logs and correspondence gathered via the "Ask the Expert” application
that is discussed directly below.
6. Ask the Expert: The
"Ask the Expert" application facilitates communication between PIC users
and botanical experts. This component, currently under development,
will be stored in an ACCESS database that is enhanced via JAVA programming.
A web-based form will permit users to submit botanical queries, which will
be distributed to and answered by NCBG staff. The PIC-specific schema
designed for this component is comprised of metadata elements commonly
found in correspondence and includes to, carbon copy (CC), subject, date,
time, and reply to (when appropriate). Some of these metadata elements
will be author generated (e.g., subject), while others will be automatically
supplied at the time the message is created and sent (e.g., date and time).
Access to this information will be provided via SQL, and it will be incorporated
into the FAQs when appropriate. The long-term plan is to link this
application to the FAQs so that queries are first searched against the
FAQs for an immediate answer before being distributed to NCBG staff.
7. Interactive Contributory Module
(Botanical Pride): The Interactive Contributory Module will be designed
so that PIC users can submit additional resources to a community store.
This module is under construction and consists of an HTML form, an Extensible
Markup Language (XML) Document Type Definition (DTD) for a metadata schema,
and an XML database. The HTML form permits the contributor to upload the
resource with accompanying metadata. The metadata schema used in
this project is based on the Dublin Core Metadata Element Set (http://purl.org/dc),
an international and interdisciplinary schema designed to facilitate resource
discovery of electronic resources on the World Wide Web. Once uploaded
through the HTML form, a CGI (Common Gateway Interface) script processes
the metadata and the resource for inclusion in the XML structured database.
This module will allow teachers to build lesson plans by integrating specimens
from PIC's central database and resources from the XML database (under
Website Content Development
Other information that has been
collected and converted to html for our website is found below.
Herbarium Information: Create
a page that defines the following: 1) What is a herbarium, 2) What
is the UNC herbarium, 3) The importance of natural history museums.
Classification: Create a page
that indicates the following: 1) What is biological classification,
2) What are natural and artificial classifications, 3) Define Kingdom,
Division, Class, Order, Family, Genus, Species and subcategories, 4) Report
that vascular tissue, seeds, flowers and fruits are successive adaptations
to land of the major groups: Ferns, Gymnosperms, and Angiosperms.
Finding/Pressing a specimen: Create
a web page that explains 1) How to observe a plant- what to notice in the
field, what to photograph or draw, with data sheet to print out and check
off, variation in trees in the field, and 2) How to make a plant specimen-closely
related to what to observe is how to make a good specimen, complete with
how to fill out a label
6. SCIENCE EDUCATION
September 29 –December 1, 2000,
a science Cluster was taught by Priscilla Dennison, McDougle Middle School
teacher, and Michelle Fox, PIC coordinator. The Cluster was titled
“Leaf it to me” and met every Friday afternoon. Students were taught
how to identify a specimen using books, nature walks and the PIC website.
The students assisted in our usability study. Priscilla Dennison
was the only teacher we used to test our website this year. We hope
to incorporate more schools next fall.
7. USABILITY TESTING
A usability test was completed on
a group of 8 Middle School students on October 27, 2000. The test
was designed to seek answers pertaining to top-level navigation of the
PIC website including:
a. Can users identify the correct
tool to use for a given task?
b. How efficiently can users locate
information within a tool to correctly answer the given question?
c. Can users find and interpret
the site’s information to correctly answer the given question?
The test focused on how well test
subjects completed twelve benchmark tasks associated with the system categories
and the functions present in each. No student answered every question
during the testing duration. It was determined that only half of
the test group was able to successfully identify and/or locate the correct
tool for each question, but overall most student found the correct answer.
A post-test survey was administered.
The test subjects did not find the site intuitive. Several subjects
found the BOTNET Search page confusing. Presently, the website does
not provide adequate navigational aids for returning to the home page or
for moving directly to another tool. This was due to a lack of time
to finish the site before testing. All recommendations from the study
are being reviewed.
8. DUBLIC CORE FOR BOTANICAL
Although not part of the formal
PIC architecture, the Dublin Core’s applicability for botanical documentation
was explored, particularly because of the schemas goal to support resource
sharing and interoperability. The Database Administrator developed
BotDC (Botanical-Dublin Core), an XML DTD, as part of an independent research
project. BotDC differs from the Dublin Core in that it includes elements
specific to the identification of botanical resources, such as family,
genus, and species name. PIC would like to test the usefulness of
BotDC schema for specimen documentation by botanists and herbarium staff.
December 18-21, 1999: Evelyn Daniel
and Peter White visited the Missouri Botanical Garden and discussed its
Preserving and Digitizing Collections Images Project to see how we might
collaborate in the future.
March 18, 2000: Evelyn Daniel
attended and presented at a conference on libraries and museums in the
digital world (titled Web-wise). The conference was sponsored by
the Institute of Museum and Library Services and the University of Missouri-Columbia
and held in Washington D.C. from March 15-17, 2000.
May 10-11, 2000: Evelyn Daniel,
Jane Greenberg and Michelle Fox attended the conference titled Z39.50 in
Museums: A workshop for Florida’s Collections. Evelyn and Jane presented
June 12-13, 2000: Jane Greenberg
attended the NSF: Digital Libraries Initiative 2nd Meeting at Moat House
Hotel, Stratford upon Avon, U.K. She presented at the IMLS session.
October 30– November 4, 2000:
Jane Greenberg attended and presented at the WebNet 2000 at San Antonio,
Texas (see citation below)
Daniel, Evelyn, Peter White, Jane Greenberg
and James Massey, “The Plant Information Center,” First Monday; Peer Reviewed
Journal on the Internet. Vol.5, No.6 (June 5th, 2000).
Greenberg, J., Daniel, E., Massey, J.
and White, P. “The Plant Information Center (PIC): A Web-based
Learning Center for Botanical Study,” WebNet 2000.