This page provides background and introduction to the NRE WG's interaction with the Taxonomic Database Working Group (TDWG), an international organization concerned with developing standards for the exchange of information about biological collections. Some material garnered from email discussion prior to development of these TWiki pages is provided below.

Some topics touched on below provide a basis for continuing the dialog, and we expect them to appear here or on related pages in the days ahead.


Introduction and Motivation:

  • TDWG is exploring spatial data standards for managing the spatial components of taxonomic data sets. Organism occurrence records are primary data for determining the distributions of organisms. Moreover, they are THE primary data for linking geography and biodiversity.

  • The OGC, and the Natural Resources and Environment Working Group (NRE WG) in particular, are looking into the development of application schemas for natural resource monitoring and management, and in particular, a schema for biological field observations. A TDWG schema might provide the basis for an Observables Dictionary to be associated with such observations, per the Observations and Measurements (O&M) Recommendation Paper (, or download It could also help test and exercise the O&M Recommendation itself.

Thus there seems to be plenty of motivation for exchanging information and exploring how OGC and TDWG (in particular, the TDWG Spatial Data Standards Subgroup) might collaborate.

Notes and Details:

The TDWG Spatial Data Standards Subgroup is developing criteria for applying current geographic/geospatial standards to taxonomy. They are also mandated to help users employ appropriate spatial standards.

TDWG also has a Subgroup on Biological Collections Data, which in turn contains two subgroups. One, the schema group, is developing a schema for describing taxonomic entities: the Access to Biological Collection Data (ABCD) schema. The other, the protocol group, has developed a schema-independent protocol for Distributed Generic Information Retrieval (DiGIR) for searching multiple, distributed collections databases.

At this point, ABCD has not yet incorporated any external schema for representing spatial data. They have considered the Alexandria Digital Library (ADL) spatial schema, but are waiting on the Spatial Data Standards Subgroup for recommendations. There is no resolution yet, but current thinking is that ADL, which is currently limited to the WGS84 SRS, may be too simple, but a full implementation of GML may be too complex or heavyweight for ABCD to incorporate wholesale. (Another note: ADL has been implemented in GML. Perhaps this rendering, which includes points, lines, and polygons, using lat/lon coordinates in the WGS84 SRS, could be extended to meet TDWG's full set of requirements.)

Note that a "full" implementation of GML is not necessary. GML subsets can be constructed using (for example) the tool provided in the GML spec, which allows a community to limit the amount of GML that they use to only the bits they need! -- SimonCox - 19 Apr 2004

TDWG has recently created a new Names Subgroup, which among other things, is exploring how to accommodate multiple classification systems in the same conceptual framework. This could be very relevant to practical applications envisioned by the NRE WG.

TDWG's requirements for the precision of locational information are variable, and include a need to specify location vaguely, even anecdotally, or by place name. Thus, there's an interest in gazetteers.

There's also an interest at TDWG in geoparsing, to automate the addition of spatial data to old records. There's a language that goes into geoparsing for biological collections that is unique, and not compliant with GML or other OGC standards. (This is a point of interest : can and should we strengthen/extend the standards?)

Interest is being rekindled at OGC in the realm of geospatial fusion, which includes gazetteers and geoparsing (as well as geocoding). Thus, there may be a common interest in these technologies that could motivate some collaboration.

The Spatial Data Subgroup held a georeferencing workshop in September, at which they developed some use cases for natural history applications.

Other items of interest:

The Global Biodiversity Information Facility (GBIF) and TDWG have an excellent relationship. GBIF may be interested in any progress OGC and TDWG make towards collaboration.

Another project of interest to the OGC NRE WG is the Science Environment for Ecological Knowledge (SEEK) project. The SEEK Classification and Taxonomy Working Group is also relevant to this discussion.

Virtually all active TDWG standards development efforts are using XML Schema as the language for specifying data structures. This is another point in common with current OGC practice.

-- PhillipDibner - 08 Jan 2004
Topic revision: r6 - 28 Jul 2006, KevinStegemoller

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