Background and visions statements

Nominations for Executive Committee Officers, 2020-2021

Image by Nathan Dumlao


William Ulate Rodriguez, Missouri Botanical Garden, St. Louis


I am Costa Rican, father of one, project manager at the Center for Biodiversity Informatics in the IT Division of the Missouri Botanical Garden. My background is in Computer Science and Informatics, and I was a software developer for 7 years, before becoming an analyst/programmer first, then DBA and then Coordinator of the Informatics Development Unit at INBio in Costa Rica. For 11 years I worked with information on specimens, species, ecosystems, collections, digitization, conservation, education, tourism, and project management. In 2007, as Data Node Manager for Latin America at The Nature Conservancy I got involved with GIS and geographic information layers on Protected Areas, Threats and Biodiversity to determine Conservation Priorities. Since 2011, I've worked first as Global Coordinator for BHL, later as Technical Director for the BHL US/UK node and now as Data Administrator for the WorldFloraOnline project.

While at INBio, I was part of the Executive Committee of the Employee Association, also involved in GBIF as Science Committee Chair and Node Manager and later in TDWG, starting as an ex officio member and then elected Treasurer for the last 5 years. During this time, TDWG has consolidated the Coordinator position, established our own Journal, formed a welldefined Conference procedure and formalized its Standards definition process, thanks to a shared Institutional memory and an up-to-date documentation of its activities, now in Github as part of a new website. We also obtained our not-for-profit tax status and established TDWGEurope to support EU projects.


As Treasurer, I envision my role these next 2 years supporting an active standards organization that requires the opportune planned investment to support our different activities, provisioning the work of the Task Groups and Functional Subcommittees and assisting with the activation of the established CSF Travel Fund for IG and TG as well as the EC Meeting Attendance Fund. Additionally, I see myself as Treasurer with an active role helping the Executive Committee advance the new business model according to the upcoming Strategic Plan announced by our current Chair and also assisting the strong pursuit of Funders and Sponsors to maintain our BISS Journal and achieve the goal of publications established, as well as covering the operative and program expenses recently approved by the Executive Committee.

As a personal conviction, I’ll be always looking to promote the participation and involvement of colleagues from Latin American countries and low-income economies and the promotion of multi-language approaches.

Chair of the Technical Architecture Group

Simon Checksfield, CSIRO, Canberra


I have significant experience in main stream IT in the development, maintenance and implementation of Architectural Frameworks in various enterprises. I feel I can bring these skills to bear in chairing the TDWG TAG. Additionally I have 25+ years experience as a developer, data manager and solution architect. In my current role as the manager of NRCA's Digital Collections and Informatics Group, I maintain daily contact with all the aspects TDWG/DwC encompass.


With 2 years experience behind me as the TDWG Oceania representative on the executive, I feel I am in the position to understand the strategic direction of TDWG as well as the operational environment in which the TAG needs to work. While I will not pretend to have an in depth knowledge of TDWG's technical aspects, I feel the strength of the TAG's members can make up for this, and I will be free to provide operational direction and strategic advice on the issues faced in the TAG. While I have many ideas on how the TAG could / should work, the initial term as chair should focus on how it works now, and what may be done to improve that. I am more than happy at a later time to outline other ideas that will come out of that period.

Chair of the Functional Subcommittee for Infrastructure

Tim Robertson, Global Biodiversity Information Facility Secretariat, Copenhagen


I currently act as the chair for the FS for Infrastructure and – along with the members of the group – wrote the current mission and responsibilities of the group which I believe are still relevant.

During my time leading this group we have reworked the TDWG website and assisted TDWG in reorganizing its activities to make maximum use of GitHub.

I oversee the informatics activities of the GBIF Secretariat, and we accommodate TDWG needs within the role of our team which includes the operation and updating of mailing lists, websites etc.

A (deliberately modest) vision:

The TDWG community require a stable and simple infrastructure that is intuitive to use. The recent adoption of GitHub for the working groups and website content, along with the mailing lists, tools for conference registration and our journal partnership are – in my opinion – the correct level of infrastructure for TDWG to operate effectively. I see the current role of the committee to continue ensuring the existing processes operate smoothly and be ready to explore emerging needs, but do not see it necessary to make significant changes at this point.

Chair of the Functional Subcommittee for Time and Place

Patricia Mergen -- Botanical Garden, Meise; Royal Museum of Central Africa, Tervuren

As a member of the Association of International Associations based in Belgium and many contacts with the "Meet in" or "visit" or "Tourism" (town, country) I am happy to have TDWG continue to benefit from those connections to find support for venues. Additionally the contacts with the local scientific, technical potential hosts is very important within our network.

If elected, I would continue to act as a relay between potential hosts and TDWG executive. The goal remains to have venues identified on a 3 to 5 years horizon. I would also continue to push regional representatives to play a bigger role in this committee and other TDWG members to mobilise participation to TDWG in their regions and participate to the annual conference and also to become active in the TG and IG.

Latin America Representative

Paula Zermoglio, VertNet, Bariloche, Argentina


I am a biologist, and my scientific background is in insect ecology and physiology. I got my masters degree in biological sciences at the University of Buenos Aires (Argentina), and a dual PhD in biological sciences at the University of Buenos Aires (Argentina) and the University of Tours (France). For the last ten years, aside from my scientific research activities, I have been involved in biodiversity informatics. My first steps were at the Museo Argentino de Ciencias Naturales, first as an intern and then coordinator of a collections digitization initiative. Back then, realizing the importance and necessity of data sharing using standards, pushed me to get involved in the biodiversity informatics community. I had a lot to learn (still have!), but more importantly, I had a will to share what I was learning. Since then, I have participated in data mobilization initiatives and I have provided training on data mobilization, data standards, data quality and georeferencing, nationally and internationally. I am currently part of the VertNet team and I have been involved with the GBIF community in mentoring and capacity building in Africa, Europe, South America, the Caribbean, and the Pacific regions. In the last years I have been increasingly involved in the biodiversity data standards community. Currently, at TDWG, I am a member of the Data Quality Interest Group, where I convene the “Vocabularies” task group (officially “Best practices for development of vocabularies of values”), and of the Darwin Core Maintenance Interest Group.


I firmly believe that progress towards better standards and their better use depends on a two-way relationship: TDWG reaching out to the broad community and the community reaching out to TDWG.

As TDWG Latin America representative, my focus will be on closing the gap between TDWG and the local community, fomenting TDWG adoption of regional-friendly approaches, encouraging greater participation of the region in the development and enhancement of TDWG standards and promoting their use. My approach will be centered on improving communication between regional stakeholders and TDWG. For instance, considering the diversity of backgrounds, understanding and needs in the region, I will create opportunities for the region to engage with TDWG by fostering dissemination of TDWG contents in the local languages.

More broadly, as member of the Executive, I will work towards a better integration of TDWG standards across the global community, both from the technical and the social points of view.

Oceania Representative

Elycia Wallis, Atlas of Living Australia, CSIRO, Melbourne


My original background was in neurophysiology of crustaceans, studying fascinating critters in Australia and Canada. Crustaceans, but not neurophysiology, led me to a role as Collection Manager at Museums Victoria in Melbourne, Australia, where I continued to work for over 20 years. During those years I discovered interests in collection management, database management, libraries and public information, and online collections. I broadened my knowledge from natural sciences to social history and material culture. I discovered passions in open access, digitisation, and openly sharing collections and research information. I led projects including the development of Museum Victoria’s Collections Online website and the Field Guide apps for Australia

I have now joined the Atlas of Living Australia team as the Collections Community Engagement Manager and leader of the Projects team. As Engagement Manager, I work with the Museums and Herbaria around Australia and New Zealand to share knowledge and work to continuously improve data standards, data pipelines, and data quality.

My other passion is for the Biodiversity Heritage Library and I led the Australian project for a number of years. The Australian BHL has always been proud of the amount it has achieved with a small staff and a number of fabulous volunteers and continues to go from strength to strength.


The advantages of technology are many, but one that we haven’t yet fully overcome is the challenge of timezones and distance. I am often amazed at being able to talk with – and see – colleagues on the other side of the world and think that we are all the richer for being able to communicate in a way that would have been unthinkable just a few years ago. Timezones being what they are that communication does come at a price – which is usually a very early morning for some, and a late night for others. My initial focus will be on communication within the Oceania region; and I will work hard to ensure that the work of TDWG is disseminated widely and that I can represent the interests of the region back to the TDWG Executive.