In the face of global ocean change, corals are thought to be one of the most at-risk groups of organisms, facing combined threats of sea level rise, increases in temperature, ocean acidification, and coastal development. Resources that facilitate worldwide communication regarding research on and status of corals and related groups are increasingly important to the conservation and management of marine ecosystems, because marine organisms range well beyond national borders.
Hexacorallians of the World is the authority database on the group of cnidarians that includes true corals and sea anemones. Launched in 1995, the site is an online relational database containing information on the taxonomic status and distribution of all described species of corals, sea anemones, and allied taxa. The 20,000 records of names for 2,500 species, and 4,000 images in the database are a critical reference for ecological and taxonomic research on this group. The database was built and maintained in collaboration with the Kansas Geological Survey (KGS) through the University of Kansas, but support is no longer available for software or data. To save the Hexacorals database from extinction, the team at the Ohio State University Museum of Biological Diversity plans to migrate and update the data to their system, securing a sustainable repository for a valuable dataset assembled from diverse literatures (ecological, taxonomic, experimental).
Key Objectives and Activities
To safeguard these data, and ensure they continue to be served to the public, the project will migrate the data currently hosted by KGS to an xBio:D, a system built by staff at Ohio State, and augment with database with new species and taxonomic data that have accumulated since the lapse of prior funding (2013).
Existing data on the 2,500 Hexacorallian species included in the database will be available via new web portal hosted by OSU. This will be a durable home for the database requiring minimal additional funding to maintain.
Securing a stable future for this platform will ensure that researchers and managers worldwide have access to the most current and complete information on Hexacorallians, and that this database continues to be an invaluable resource for the group.
Results to Date:
The team at Ohio State University was successful in preserving the Hexacorallians of the World robust database and hosting it through the XBio:D system. The data (and relationships between data) of 50,000 records from Hexacorallians of the World has been preserved. Taxonomic advances in Hexacorallia from 2013 to 2018 have also been incorporated into the XBio:D, and the World Register of Marine Species (WoRMS) is now the name server for Hexacorallians. The global checklists and names servers are now current in terms of the taxonomy and published diversity of Hexacorallia. Although the JRS grant has ended, the team is still working to refine the research tool and interface for the website.
Primary Software Platforms
The XBio:D platform is cyberinfrastructure developed by colleagues at OSU and underlies the databases of several other collections at the university, as well as the Royal Ontario Museum holdings for entomology. The database model for all XBio:D projects is available online, and there is extensive documentation of the applications, structure, and relations among the tables. The database is Oracle-based, with mapping functions that use Google Maps. XBio:D is Darwin Core and ABCD-aligned, and all interactions with it are executed through the OJ_Break v.2 API.
Project Director Biography
Dr. Meg Daly studies the diversification and diversity of marine invertebrates. She earned her Ph.D. at George Washington University in 2001 and served as a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Kansas before becoming a faculty member at the Ohio State University in 2004. Although Dr. Daly has spent most of her professional career in landlocked locations, her research interest in sea anemones has taken her around the world and to the bottom of the ocean.
Notes from JRS
JRS is pleased to make a small contribution to the ‘rescue’ of the hexacorals database. From time to time, the Foundation may make small awards where our contributions have high returns for creating access to biodiversity data and information services.