INRAM CONSORTIUM CREATES A BIODIVERSITY ELECTRONIC DATABASE

INRAMThe New Mexico Institute for Natural Resources and Analysis (INRAM) Biodiversity Program, a consortium of the four New Mexico universities housing major natural history museum collections of New Mexico flora and fauna, has created the New Mexico Biodiversity Electronic Database and made it available on the internet at: http://biodiversity.inram.org

A major goal of the INRAM Biodiversity Program is to make information about New Mexico's biodiversity readily available to the general, professional and scientific public throughout the world. Funded by the National Science Foundation since 2002, INRAM Biodiversity has constructed the database of natural history specimen information from the collections of the consortium partners. The database contains information on more than 300,000 specimens from 25 collections held by the consortium.

“The natural history database of New Mexico plants and animals now ranks among the best in the world and has the capability to add other groups of organisms as the information become available,” says Dr. Tim Lowrey, Director, NM INRAM Biodiversity Program, The University of New Mexico.

The database took three years of collaborative effort by faculty, staff members and students at the participating institutions including the Museum of Southwestern Biology (MSB) at the University of New Mexico (UNM), the Natural History Collection at Eastern New Mexico University (ENMU), the Gila Center for Natural History at Western New Mexico University (WNMU), and New Mexico State University (NMSU) Natural History Collections.

The INRAM Biodiversity project was conceived and directed by Lowrey, and Dr. Brook Milligan, Department of Biology, New Mexico State University, who developed and implemented the database model and software in collaboration with Chris Frazier, INRAM Biodiversity Program Manager at UNM.

The database integrates plant and animal information into an easily searchable format. A user anywhere in the world can obtain information on the occurrence of particular species in New Mexico, collection dates, habitat information and county-level maps of species distributions. The completion of the database is of major importance to land managers, governmental agencies, researchers, private industry and agriculture.

New Mexico is enormously rich in biodiversity. Among the United States, New Mexico has the fourth-highest diversity of plants, third-highest diversity of mammals and reptiles, and the second-highest diversity of birds. The arthropod fauna is similarly diverse, but very poorly understood. A new source of biodiversity with mostly negative impacts is the tremendous influx of non-native species into New Mexico. The online database provides desktop computer access for anyone to obtain information about indigenous and invasive plants, mammals, reptiles and amphibians, insects, spiders and mites, fishes and birds.

In addition to the online integrated database, Frazier also developed a computer software program for individual collections to use as a museum Information Management System, which is optimized for rapid, accurate and complete data entry. Called "Maii'tsoh," the Dine' word for wolf, it is now being used by collections at UNM, WNMU and NMSU to enter and manage their specimen data. It also has features to support museum tasks such as creating specimen labels and keeping track of loans.

The labor-intensive data entry process in the Museum of Southwestern Biology at UNM involved three faculty members, nine professionals, two technicians, three temporary employees, 12 graduate students and 39 undergraduate students. Supported graduate students came from the Biology, Computer Sciences, Geography and Anthropology departments. Supported undergraduates had majors in Biology, Computer Sciences, Geography, Engineering, Fine Arts and English.

The New Mexico Biodiversity Electronic Database is one of only a few electronic databases in the world that contains plant and animal specimen information. It is dynamic with new specimen information being added on a regular basis. INRAM provides information for the Global Biodiversity Information Facility based in Copenhagen, Denmark and is currently among the top biodiversity information providers in the world.

This article was originally published in "UNM Today: Campus News and Information" (http://www.unm.edu/~market/cgi-bin/) on June 1, 2005 by Steve Carr (505/277-1821).