BEN # 157
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No. 157 February 15, 1997
email@example.com Victoria, B.C.
Dr. A. Ceska, P.O.Box 8546, Victoria, B.C. Canada V8W 3S2
From: M. J. Dallwitz, T. A. Paine, and E. J. Zurcher
Computer-based multi-access keys, also known as interactive
keys, can offer several advantages over conventional keys:
A correct identification can be made in spite of errors by
the user or in the data.
Characters can be used, and their values changed, in any
Numeric characters can be used directly, without being
divided into ranges.
The user can express uncertainty by entering more than one
state value, or a range of numerical values.
Other desirable features include:
Advice on the most suitable characters to use at any stage
of an identification.
Character dependencies: certain character values making
other characters inapplicable.
Provision for gaps in the values recorded for integer
Storing, searching, and displaying free-text information.
Locating errors which were circumvented by the
Use of probabilities.
Provision for restricting any operations to subsets of the
characters and taxa.
Glossaries and notes on interpretation of characters.
Illustrations of characters and taxa.
Provision for information retrieval.
Finding the differences and similarities between taxa.
Finding diagnostic descriptions.
The ability to handle large data sets efficiently.
Data sharing with other description-based applications:
description writing, generation of conventional keys, and
phenetic and cladistic analysis.
It is an inevitable consequence of the flexibility of interac-
tive keys that much of the strategy involved in carrying out an
identification is left to the user. Good strategies must be
learnt if the keys are to be used to the best advantage.
M. J. Dallwitz, T. A. Paine, and E. J. Zurcher
Division of Entomology, CSIRO, GPO Box 1700, Canberra, ACT 2601,
Australia. Fax +61 6 246 4000. Email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Home Page http://www.keil.ukans.edu/delta/
RANDOM ACCESS PLANT IDENTIFICATION (RAPID)
From: Alex Inselberg <email@example.com>
[This is an abbreviated abstract of the Forest Renewal of
British Columbia funding proposal.]
RAPID will be an interactive plant identification computer
program which will greatly accelerate the process of identifying
vascular plants, bryophytes and lichens within B.C. The program
and its database will continue to grow and evolve, and will
possibly become our most valuable and readily accessible
resource for plant identification. Images and line drawings will
be an integral part of RAPID. In addition to the program's
primary function, it will also be a useful teaching aid.
The random access approach to plant identification is dynamic
compared with the restrictive dichotomous key approach used in
traditional paper-based methods. This will allow greater ex-
ploration of the rich descriptive attributes of plants, in
addition to their ecological characteristics. RAPID will be
constructed as a relational database, which is a sophisticated
and efficient way to store and quickly retrieve information.
Plant identification will begin with the selection of any of a
variety of characteristics from an introductory menu. For ex-
ample, identification will involve decisions on the following:
location in the province, type of site, plant life form, physi-
cal size features, and a variety of properties associated with
stems, leaves, inflorescence types, flowers, fruits, and roots.
If you have an idea of the plant family or genus, you will be
able to begin your search from that point. With each selection
of a characteristic feature the list of likely candidate species
is potentially shortened. The program will also advise on those
characters most likely to discriminate amongst the species
remaining. For example, if the type of leaf margin is able to
discriminate amongst the remaining species in your candidate
list, it will automatically move to the top of your list of
In the event a given plant characteristic cannot be clearly
defined, e.g. a leaf is pubescent or possibly tomentose, you can
ask the program to include all species with either description.
Likewise if you are unsure your sample is considered a tree or a
shrub, you can include both trees and shrubs in your selection.
For those species which may be indistinguishable without exper-
tise and access to materials such as a microscope or special
chemicals, the user will be notified with a warning message.
Likewise if a crucial plant component must be present in order
to make a positive identification, the user will be notified.
Plant names may be displayed in either common or scientific
names, along with the correct Latin code used to enter species
names on field data forms. Explanation of any of the terminology
used in the menus and keys will also be readily available in the
form of text, diagrams and images.
Approach: Efforts are being made to learn about similar systems
and initiatives in other parts of the world. RAPID's features
will be carefully selected to ensure it meets the needs of field
personnel here in B.C., as well as the broader goals and stand-
ards of international data exchange. RAPID will ultimately be
the property of the B.C. Government. Wherever possible, RAPID
will be a cooperative effort with other developers of similar
initiatives and databases within and outside of the province.
When this project goes ahead, a web page will be constructed for
the purpose of information exchange and updates.
For more information on interactive plant identification see the
[For interactive identification programs see also BEN # 96,
March 25, 1995.]
INTERNET ACCESS TO DELTA PROGRAMS AND DATA
From: Mike Dallwitz <firstname.lastname@example.org>
The DELTA programs, and several data sets, are available via
anonymous ftp from
ftp.keil.ukans.edu (directory: /pub/delta) and via WWW from
The file Index.txt (note the upper-case I) contains a list of
the available programs and data. Most of the subdirectories of
delta contain text files *.1st which contain information about
downloading and installing the programs or data in that sub-
directory. When using ftp, always enter the command `binary' at
the start of the session.
When downloading the program distribution files, place them in a
directory \DELTA. To install the programs, follow the instruc-
tions in Delta.1st.
The programs are supplied with documentation files, sample data,
and a list of references. The conditions of use are in a file
delta.use, and the prices in delta.reg. These files are within
both of the self-extracting archive files delta1@.exe (MS-DOS
INTKEY) and deltaw@.exe (MS-Windows INTKEY).
There is a mailing list, DELTA-L, for discussion of DELTA and
announcements of updates. To subscribe, send the message
SUBSCRIBE DELTA-L your-first-name your-last-name by email to
Submissions, subscriptions, etc.: email@example.com
BEN is archived on gopher freenet.victoria.bc.ca. The URL is:
Also archived at http://www.ou.edu/cas/botany-micro/ben/