Day 1 - Database Concepts

Introduction and Background

Denné Reed - University of Texas at Austin, Dept. of Anthropology

TDWG - Biodiversity Information Standards
The acronym reflects the earlier name of the group, Taxonomic Database Working Group

Exerciese 1 - Use Cases

1. Introduce yourself
2. What questions would you like to ask of your database? e.g. How many specimens of Aethomys hindei are in our collections?


1. The locality from which a specimen was collected?
2. What species is a specimen? What sex is a specimen?
3. Is a specimen rare?
4. What species come from a given locality? 
5. How does one site/locality differ from another in terms of specimens? species? etc.
6. What analyses have been conducted on a specimen? or sample?
7. How much data can we collect during field work?
8. How many bovid specimens come from East Turkana in the KNM collections?
9. What data are there on indigenous and introduced fish species in Lake Victoria?
10. What data (generally) are there from Olduvai Gorge? 
11. How many primate specimens have been published from the lower Omo Valley?
12. For a specific specimen/item, where is it located in the collection? What is its disposition?
13. For a given unit, e.g. paleontology, what is the size of that units collections?
14. How many specimens represent a specific anatomical element, e.g. "femur", "skin and skull"
15. How many specimen represent a specific preparation, "tissue", "photograph", "osteological" etc.
16. Where do all examples of Narosura pottery come from geogrpahically? Where are those items in the collection?
17. What specimens are suitable for a particular type of analysis e.g. aDNA, stable isotope etc.
18. How many specimens have been collected in the last 6 months
19. How many new species have been discovered this year?
20 How many collectors are involved in a collection? How are they? Where do they come from?
21. What is the provenience (archaeological/taphonomic context) of an item? What is the provenence of an item (what is its history of use, analysis etc.)?


Concept Mapping

Based on the questions from the Use Cases exercise what are the main concepts or pieces of information that we need to keep track of in our database?

Consider Question 1 "What is the locality from which a specimen was collected?"
To answer this question we need to keep track of localities and specimens...
If we continue this for each question we get the following list of concepts or classes of information:
1. Location/Locality
2. Specimens/Items/Finds
3. Collection
4. People/Agents/Projects/Institutions/Roles
5. Publications
6. Anatomical Elements
7. Taxon/Species
8. Geological Context

A rough depiction of these concepts appears in the concept map below.

Exercise Concept Map

Similar exercises at other PaleoCore workshps have resulted in a provisional PaleoCore concpet map

Provisional PaleoCore Conecpt Map

Exercise 2 - Assigning Attributes to Concepts

1. Break into groups of 5 people based on shared background, e.g. archaeology, paleontology, biology. 
2. Round 1 - Introduce yourselves.
3. Round 2 - What are the attributes you would record for a specimen/item in your collection management system?

The core concepts are often referred to as "classes" and these classes have "attributes". It is helpful to standardize the terms used for the attributes.  Paleocore maintains a listing of standard terms derived from Darwin Core and Dublin Core terms.