Visualisation techniques have been recognised as one of the major directions in future research when handling and querying biological data, offering the ability to find patterns and outliers in data which traditional query interfaces cannot match. A case in point is the multitude of species-referenced databases covering data from genomic to biodiversity data linked by taxonomic classifications that hold geographic and temporal-faceted data alongside other data. Many online databases hold collections of such data, often in archive format, but visual querying tools are invariably limited to a map interface of spatial distribution, neglecting the fact that biologists may wish to query or explore other facets of the data such as the classification or temporal distribution. Add onto this the problem of many complementary databases using different taxonomic classifications to reference their specimens and we have a situation where much of the potential utility of this data remains unused.
We therefore propose to develop a suite of web-based visualisation components for taxonomic, temporal and geographic aspects of these data sets that can be placed directly into the workflow of biologists who use such data. These components will be co-ordinated such that selections and actions in one component will be reflected in the data shown in other components. Further we will build a novel cross-taxonomy viewer that will allow users to crosswalk different classifications, allowing them to accurately match specimens between data from different sources. These components will allow biologists to perform tasks such as sanity checking of data, view patterns in geographical, taxonomic or temporal aspects in an interrelated context, and accurately view data even when it spans conflicting taxonomic classifications. This work will thus make a significant contribution to the efficiency and usability of online catalogues for both the providers and end-users of the data they hold.
The design and implementation of web-based visual interaction tools which sit within the workflow of biologists accessing species-referenced databases which will take data from a wide range of data sources to support biologists explore, compare and clean their data. this will be achieved by:
1. Identify an appropriate visualisation model and techniques to display and interact with large biological data sets via the web.
2. User-centred design and implementation of:
a. a scalable web-based visualisation component to interact with a reference taxonomy.
b. a scalable web-based visualisation component to provide summary overviews of the content of the databases.
c. a web-based visual component to allow comparison of a taxonomy to a reference taxonomy and note mappings between these.
d. a web-based visual component to allow exploration of spatio-temporal data.
e. a web-based application that effectively combines and links the visualisation components into the biologists' workflow.
3. A case study with biologists to evaluate the effectiveness of the tool.