TaxVis: Visualisation Tools for Integrating Large Alternative Linnaean Taxonomies

01/05/2006 - 30/04/2008

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The TaxViz project is developing visualisation techniques for comparing multiple taxonomic hierarchies.

Biological taxonomy involves the classification and naming of plants, animals and all the other living organisms on earth, however taxonomists often disagree over how the organisms should be classified, so we end up with many different taxonomies. Generally, individual taxonomists can only manage to classify a small group of organisms, and so many taxonomists' work is joined together to form larger taxonomies. When we have many alternative taxonomies, combining them into one large hierarchy to picture the relationships between organisms is difficult and problems also arise when the taxonomies get too large to comprehend. To compound these problems, different classifications often result in different names for what some people may consider the same organism. This results in one name in one classification meaning something else in another classification, so taxonomists also have to handle and process this information if they are to understand the overall relationship between taxonomies.

This project aims to help taxonomy users through 'Information Visualization', a technique which allows data to be displayed and manipulated graphically, rather than as pages of raw text. This approach is effective because people perceive information and relationships more easily when they are displayed diagrammatically, in terms of shapes, sizes, colours and positions. In this project we will create and develop techniques that graphically show taxonomic hierarchies and their associated relationships, to allow taxonomists to intuitively interact with and query the data.

This should allow taxonomists to focus on the questions they need to ask of the data and the answers that are returned, rather than the process of how to ask the questions or how to cope with untangling the relationships of the information that they are faced with.

Not only will the project result in effective tools for the taxonomists but we will advance data visualisation techniques applicable to any area where it is important to compare large alternative hierarchies of information.

The project blog records current thoughts on issues associated with the project, details of progress, demo software and the latest reports.

TaxVis: Visualisation Tools for Integrating Large Alternative Linnaean Taxonomies is a Research Councils project funded by EPSRC. Carried out in collaboration with and others. For further information please refer to
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Project Team

Alan Cannon
Research Fellow
+44 131 455 2437
Jessie Kennedy
Dean of Research and Innovation
+44 131 455 2772
Dr Martin Graham
(not currently an institute member)

Associated Publications

Graham, M., Kennedy, J. (2010). A Survey of Multiple Tree Visualisation. Information Visualization, 9, (4), 235-252.

Graham, M., Kennedy, J. (2008). Multiform Views of Multiple Trees. In: (Ed.) Proceedings of IV2008, , () ( ed.). (pp. 252-257). London, UK: . IEEE Computer Society Press.

Graham, M., Kennedy, J. (2007). Exploring Multiple Trees through DAG Representations. IEEE Transactions on Visualization and Computer Graphics, 13, (6), 1294-1301.

Graham, M., Kennedy, J. (2007). Visual Exploration of Alternative Taxonomies through Concepts. Ecological Informatics, 2, (3), 248-261.

Graham, M., Kennedy, J., Downey, L. (2006). Visual Comparison and Exploration of Natural History Collections. In: Celentano, A., Mussio, P. (Eds.) Advanced Visual Interfaces (AVI) 2006, , () ( ed.). (pp. 310-313). Venice, Italy: . ACM Press.