Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Ozymandias in Canberra

On Tuesday I was in Canberra to visit the Australian National Insect Collection at CSIRO and give a talk on knowledge graphs. David Yeates, who was a post doc at the AMNH at the same time I was (more years ago than I care to remember), played host and provided lots of stimulating conversation on the state of taxonomy and systematics, the Atlas of Living Australia (ALA), the bias against small organisms (see the wonderful essay A Dream of Invertebrate Utopia), and the joys of code compliance and modern publishing (see "Are taxonomic publications involving nomenclatural acts on Early View Code compliant?"

My talk discussed the Ozymandias knowledge graph, and also show cased the demos Nicole Kearney and I had put together to show the ways we think the ALA could be enhanced using knowledge graphs. One of these (linking names to the literature) has already been discussed here (see Messages from Melbourne: Towards linking all the things). The second demo (Hero images) gives examples of taxa for which ALA has no images, despite such images being available in the published literature via the Biodiversity Literature Repository. For example, the weevil genus Trigonopterus Fauvel, 1862 is richly illustrated in "Revision of the Australian species of the weevil genus Trigonopterus Fauvel" With a SPARQL query we can link these images to the associated taxa and provide a richer user experience.

The third demo makes use of Wikidata queries to display information on authors of taxonomic work on Australian species. This is very much a work in progress, but could be extended into a directory of Australian taxonomists.

One application of such a directory could be to determine to what extent Australian taxonomy depends on international researchers. Initial results ( show that researchers from multiple countries have contribute to knowledge about Australian animal taxonomy and systematics.

There is still a frighteningly large amount of data cleaning and linking to do, but I think we've only scratched the surface of how knowledge graphs can be used to enrich biodiversity databases.