BioSynC 2011 - Goals

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There were seven goals laid out in the original project, to be addressed by a combination of regional and global experts. Some of those goals will happen in the course of the meeting (just by us meeting as a group), or really fall on the organizers (Andrew Hipp and Bil Alverson) to make sure happen. I’m copying out the seven goals here verbatim, and assigned to group. I realize that many people are working across groups, so this is not meant to be a set of strict boundaries of who is working on what, but just a start at organizing our work. The goals are in bold; text following each goal is a set of tasks or ideas we have about getting the item done.


Global working group

Synthesize and publish online (through LifeDesks) a synonymized checklist of the estimated 2,100 species of Carex worldwide (e.g., and, organized by traditional sections and major clades identified in recent phylogenetic studies.

One of the important goals for our group is to come up with a systematic arrangement of species for Carex worldwide. At this point, of course, sectional affiliations and relationships are still being worked out, so the checklist is provisional. We are looking into how we can best accommodate alternative taxonomies in our work: ideally, we would want to be able to access species information via a phylogenetic framework as readily as we can via alternate sectional classifications. For the time being, we need to focus our goals on placing species into some sort of framework so that we have an organized framework for both future work in classification of the genus worldwide and for providing access to species-level content we are creating.
We have already drafted a sectional species list in our Vignea lifedesk (, which we can edit as a group to come to some reasonable consensus. (You’ll note that Carex baldensis shows up in this group even though it doesn’t belong in the Vignea clade -- we’ve left it in just as a placeholder.) We also started putting the remainder of the North American taxa into their sections according to Flora of North America (FNA), uncritically ( One way to organize the work might be for a team or single group leader to take responsibility for each of the major Carex clades, then to have that person assemble a group to help her / him. Andrew Hipp (myself) and Tony Reznicek have agreed to take the lead on Vignea, and Julian Starr has agreed to take on the “Core Unispicate clade.” (Please note that our project formally includes the genera that are embedded within Carex.) We still need to come up with leads for the remainder of the genus (this is about 1400 species). Our first big topic for the group is how to divvy up this work so that we can start making progress.

Create a five-year plan for the creation of LifeDesks species pages for Carex worldwide.

We are not on the hook for creating species pages for Carex worldwide as part of this project. We have, however, agreed to make a plan for how we could create species pages for the genus worldwide by sharing the work across our respective labs / work groups. Ideally, we should (1) agree on species pages standards that we will adhere to as a group; (2) identify sets of species / higher level groups that we agree to take on as a group, and target dates for species pages to be put online by each group; (3) set an ongoing schedule for adjusting goals and redistributing effort as needed to achieve them; and (4) bring together photographs, literature references, and other resoures that we can utilize for creating species pages (more on this in the paragraphs below on Literature references and Photos). As with the checklist, we should have our plan on this set before we meet in September, and consider our September meeting a place to revise our plans.

Regional group

Publish online species pages for the ca. 200 Carex species of the Western Great Lakes Region through creation of new content and migration of existing content written for the Chicago region, as well as a representative sample of global Carex species.

A few years back, Andrew had volunteers start putting together species pages for the Chicago region Carex species, based on descriptions in the Field Guide to Wisconsin Sedges and Flora of North America. I would propose putting these up as a starting point for creating a set of species pages that the regional group can edit as a group. If others have drafted species pages already for other purposes and want to utilize that text, we can also use this as a starting place. Please contact Andrew about this.
We'll have two decisions to make early on as a group with respect to these species pages. The first is what our species page format and style will be; this is discussed above under goal 1.2. The second is divvying up the work of editing / writing species pages.

Create online keys for the ca. 200 Carex species of the Great Lakes region, emphasizing common and ecologically significant taxa relevant to Chicago Wilderness's conservation and education efforts, utilizing the Field Museum’s Keys to Nature system (

Tony Reznicek has donated his Michigan Carex key to start the process of creating online keys, and a volunteer at the Arboretum will be working on entering these in in the coming weeks. One of the tasks for the regional group early on will be to decide what the priorities are for illustrating the keys, and trying them out / editing for usability on the web.

Organizers / Entire group

Create a set of online portals to global Carex taxonomy, literature, species pages, images, and identification keys, and evaluate alternative technologies for serving biodiversity data to conservation professionals.

We initially planned to use the LifeDesks system to bring together our Carex data. However, since writing this proposal, EOL has decided that they will not be continuing to develop LifeDesks. Instead, they are going with an older and very well established system called Scratchpads, which is also partnering with the eMonocot project. (If all this sounds new to you, don't worry... it was new to us, too, just a few months ago!). Our goal is still the same: to create a set of online portals to Carex worldwide, we will just be doing so through an alternate technology.
At the outset of our project, we will be working through our Carex and Vignea LifeDesks to update nomenclature and write species pages. Sometime this summer, the Scratchpads crew will notify us that they are ready to migrate all these data to a customized Carex Scratchpad. They are going to be providing us with a great deal of support, because the Carex group is their test case for migrating existing content from LifeDesks to Scratchpads.

Collaborate in enhancing the functionality of eMonocot / Scratchpads, allowing for more flexible online publication of versioned, citable checklists.

We are now working with eMonocot and Scratchpads on this goal.

Provide sufficient training and buy-in for participants so that they and their students will contine to add and modify content for Carex in the on-line checklist, EOL species pages, and Keys to Nature online keys.

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