Background and vision statements

Executive Committee officers, 2021

Image by Nathan Dumlao

Managing officers

Chair

Deb Paul

ORCID

Prairie Research Institute, University of Illinois, Champaign-Urbana, IL, USA

Background:

I am passionate about working to build bridges between groups and creating environments where all feel welcome. For more than twelve years, I have participated in various biodiversity initiatives. Examples include digitization in the FSU R.K. Godfrey Herbarium, mobilizing data and images for Morphbank, leading digitization and capacity development efforts at iDigBio, collaborating worldwide to develop symposia and workshops, and networking and mentoring to foster biodiversity informatics skills in the collections and research communities. I am an active participant in the Society for the Preservation of Natural History Collections (SPNHC), Biodiversity Information Standards (TDWG), the Entomological Collections Network (ECN), ICEDIG, the Research Data Alliance (RDA), and The Carpentries.

Vision:

As Deputy and then Chair, I would continue to strengthen TDWG’s role as a community leader and partner in biodiversity standards development and implementation. Initiating and continuing work with key organizations like ECN, RDA, CODATA, and The Carpentries, helps TDWG develop natural communities to use and contribute to biodiversity standards. Collaboration with GBIF, ALA, VertNet, iDigBio and others is key for testing and implementing TDWG ideas and products. Moreover, we need to work with other standards organizations to learn from them and share our expertise.

We can work together to further the relationship between SPNHC and TDWG started by our first joint meeting. SPNHC and TDWG both publish journals, so a periodic joint issue might help expand the reach of each organization. I envision a TDWG 5-10+ year plan that seeks to include relevant industry/manufacturers as partners and collaborators (e.g. 3D, AI, Google).

Additionally, it would be great to examine membership and choose some strategic goals (e.g. diversity, sustained membership, etc.). Evidence suggests training helps sustain membership, so this could be a potential role for TDWG, beginning by suggesting course/training content through the BDI IG and Community and Outreach group. Other ideas based on prior TDWG meetings and recent conversations center around meeting structure and the working group process. We could (re)incorporate introductory sessions for new / first time attendees. Others suggest: 1) allowing dedicated work time at future conferences, 2) offering training, 3) bringing back lightning talks, 4) developing a strategy for TDWG IGs and TGs to meet between yearly meetings, and 5) developing a webinar series parallel to Darwin Core Hour to support and facilitate effective community outreach for TDWG groups.

As a TDWG member myself, I most want to support the development of your ideas, and your vision for TDWG.

Deputy Chair

Elycia Wallis

ORCID

Atlas of Living Australia, CSIRO, Melbourne, Australia

Background:

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 https://collections.museumvictoria.com.au/ and the Field Guide apps for Australia https://museumsvictoria.com.au/apps/

I have now joined the Atlas of Living Australia team https://www.ala.org.au/ 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 https://www.biodiversitylibrary.org/ 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.

Vision:

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.

Secretary

Visotheary Ung

ORCID

Muséum National d'Histoire Naturelle, Paris, France

Treasurer

William Ulate Rodriguez

ORCID

Missouri Botanical Garden, St. Louis, MO, USA

Background:

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.

Vision:

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.

Subcommittee chairs

Technical Architecture Group

Nicky Nicolson

TAG co-chair

ORCID

James Macklin

TAG co-chair

ORCID

Infrastructure

Tim Robertson

ORCID

Global Biodiversity Information Facility Secretariat, Copenhagen, Denmark

Background:

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.

Communications and Outreach

Mareike Petersen

Museum für Naturkunde Berlin

ORCID

Background:

For the past six years, I have been involved in various national and international research projects to improve access to and use of natural science collections. I am interested in advancing data linkage mechanisms and optimizing the management of research and collection data and its open access. I am a biologist by training with a scientific background in herpetology (amphibian ecology and taxonomy). At the Museum für Naturkunde Berlin (MfN), I work on the mobilization of content to subject-specific and cross-domain portals (e.g. GBIF or Europeana), open access to research data, and on the application and further development of data standards (e.g. in the context of TDWG). Recently, I am strongly involved in the multifaceted information management linked to the digitization project of MfNs’ collections and in the development and establishment of the European research infrastructure DiSSCo (e.g. leading Work package and tasks in DiSSCo Prepare, contributing to Synthesys+).

In order to open up information from research processes and information about objects in research collections, to enrich it semantically, and to make it accessible for further use, I bridge the gap between the requirements of research, management of research collections, and the technical implementation by developers. Solving these tasks in an interdisciplinary team is often challenging, but at the same time, it enriches my daily work.

Vision:

I am enthusiastic about TDWG complexity and member several Interest and Task Groups. Some of them are regularly crossing the border of biodiversity informatics and reach out to the managers and users of natural science collections. Outreach and communication thus being usual tasks for my work in TDWG.

As a chair of the subcommittee ‘Communications and Outreach’, I will work on a better visibility of TDWG, its standards and their application, importantly also beyond the biodiversity informatics and natural science domain. Together with the whole subcommittee, I will prepare new communication material and use innovative tools to transport TDWGs’ key messages and achievements to stakeholders and potential new user groups around the world. This will help us to reach out to new members, even in in current times, where travelling and meetings in person are limited or impossible at all.

Fundraising and Partnernships

Connie Rinaldo

ORCID

Librarian of the Ernst Mayr Library of the Museum of Comparative Zoology (MCZ), Harvard University, Cambridge, MA, USA

Background

I have a BA in Biology and Anthropology from the University of Massachusetts, Boston, an MSc in Zoology from the University of Connecticut and an MLS from the University of Maryland. I began studying for a PhD in Zoology but after a number of twists and turns I ended up as a Systems Analyst for EG&G, Washington Analytical Services, Inc. From there I become a librarian by completing my MLS at the University of Maryland. I worked on the National Text Digitizing Project, an early digitization program, at the National Agricultural Library and then moved to Dartmouth College as the Head of Collections in the Biomedical Libraries. I also worked with the Digital Library for Earth Systems Education, analyzing collections. After Dartmouth, I became the Librarian of the Ernst Mayr Library of the Museum of Comparative Zoology (MCZ), Harvard University, combining my skills as a librarian with opportunities for research partnerships in the MCZ and Biodiversity Heritage Library. As a founding member of the BHL (now Chair of the Executive Committee), I have been instrumental in digitizing the Ernst Mayr Library collections for open access and developing innovative strategic plans for the BHL. I first attended TDWG in St. Louis in 2006. I am passionate about natural history and working with local, national and global partners to ensure that biodiversity data in library collections are connected, open and accessible for all.

Vision statement

The mission for this subcommittee states that “FPFS will work together with TDWG executive committee as well as TDWG task and interest groups to submit and implement competitive funding bids and improve the position of TDWG in the international landscape through strategic partnerships at international, regional, or national level.” These complex and important tasks will require an engaged globally diverse committee from the TDWG membership that can find international opportunities for funding and partnerships. The 2018 New Zealand joint meeting with SPNHC and the upcoming 2019 joint meeting alongside GBIF, CETAF and DiSSCo are excellent examples of the types of partnerships that should be continued and pursued. Engaging European organizations and funders was key. These collaborations with GBIF, CETAF and DiSSCo will present more prospects for shared funding but the FPFS will need to identify and assess new strategic partners and funding opportunities, looking beyond the expected biodiversity organizations, pursuing more corporate partnerships, donors and foundations.

A long-term vision is to reinforce the visibility of TDWG across the globe, establish strong new alliances and nurture current relationships to secure funding and support. My key goal for the upcoming year is to establish a strong committee to work with the Executive Committee to reach this vision.

Time and Place

Patricia Mergen

ORCID

Botanical Garden, Meise; Royal Museum of Central Africa, Tervuren, Belgium

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.

Regional representatives

Africa representative

Lawrence Monda

ORCID

National Museums of Kenya, Kenya

Background

Joining the museum community has since cultivated a love for biodiversity and cultural Heritage informatics. At the National Museums of Kenya, fusing Information technology with science has been a great challenging experience where I work as the chief information officer. I am involved in various digitization initiatives within the institution and advocate for data sharing, attribution while also building capacity on various areas of biodiversity informatics with emphasis on data quality assurance. I am currently the technical advisor for Biodiversity Heritage Library Africa, promoting digitization of biodiversity heritage literature in the region, and the Node manager for GBIF Kenya

Vision Statement

TDWG plays a vital role in the development and maintenance of standards. As a TDWG member, through my engagement as Node Manager and a technical advisor for BHL Africa, I will focus on building capacity on greater understanding and use of the standards, its implementation and support the interests of partners and collaborators in the African region within TDWG.

Asia representative

Takeru Nakazato

ORCID

Database Center for Life Science, Mishima, Japan

Background

I work as a researcher at the Database Center for Life Science (DBCLS) in Japan. DBCLS is a sister institute of DNA Data Bank of Japan (DDBJ), the International Nucleotide Sequence Database Collaboration (INSDC) member. The mission of DBCLS is to increase the accessibility of data related to DNA sequences. We develop web services using Semantic Web techonology, create tutorial movies, and organize an annual hackathon. I am involved in the development of a search engine for public next-generation sequencing (NGS) data collected by INSDC. These data related to DNA sequences are becoming important in biodiversity, such as DNA barcoding and genome sequence, and I will contribute to the TDWG to the collaboration with these data. My original background was molecular biology. I earned my master's degree by studying physiology and molecular mechanisms of fishes that can live in both freshwater and seawater. I also obtained my Ph.D. in information science with the development of methods for interpreting a large amount of gene expression data from biological aspects. And I am also a citizen scientist. I collect, raise, and mount butterflies and beetles on my own. I am also deeply involved in the community to promote biodiversity informatics in Japan, working with researchers in bioinformatics and natural history museums.

Vision

The activities of TDWG are open to the world. Unfortunately, however, only a small number of participants from Asia attended the annual meeting in recent years. As TDWG Asia Representative, I will increase the number of people in Asia who are interested in TDWG's activities and enhance the presence of Asia's rich biodiversity. Currently, I specialize in bioinformatics and work to improve the accessibility of data related to DNA sequences. Bioinformatics and biodiversity informatics face the same challenges of standardization of data but have tried to solve them individually. By acting as a bridge between these, I will contribute to making it easier for researchers to approach life science data from various aspects.

Europe representative

Wouter Addink

ORCID

Naturalis Biodiversity Center, Leiden, The Netherlands

Background:

For about 15 years I have been participating in TDWG in different roles. I have actively participated in several interest groups and task groups and I recently assisted with setting up the new task groups for Collections Descriptions (CD) and Minimum Information about a Digital Specimen (MIDS). As Europe representative I co-founded TDWG Europe, a stichting to enable participation of TDWG in EC funded projects. I also contributed to the organisation of Biodiversity_Next, development of the TDWG standards ratification process and a slide deck for presentations about TDWG and the standardisation process.

I am employed as Coordinator Research-data and E-infrastructure at Naturalis Biodiversity Center, with a background in plant systematics and agricultural biology.

In my current position I am leading the technical development of DiSSCo (Distributed System of Scientific Collections), a new research infrastructure in Europe. I am participating as stream coordinator or work package leader in several related European projects: SYNTHESYS+, MOBILISE, DiSSCo Prepare and the former ICEDIG project. I participated in several other EC funded projects for biodiversity data in the past: e.g. Fauna Europea, ENBI, MarBEF, EuroCat, KeyToNature, 4D4Life, i4Life and OpenUp! I have also been working as IT systems manager for Species2000/Catalogue of Life.

Besides my work for DiSSCo I am also active in the GBIF community as DiSSCo node manager and GBIF ambassador. I organised several GBIF mentoring projects and a GBIF species checklist hackathon and I have been 2nd vice chair in the GBIF Nodes Committee.

As Chair of the RDA Biodiversity Data Integration interest group (with support from RDA Europe as RDA Ambassador), I have re-activated the RDA Biodiversity Data Integration interest group with new goals described in an updated charter and created a RDA discipline page for biodiversity.

Vision:

TDWG has many active participants in Europe and as such Europe plays a major role in development, maintenance and use of the TDWG standards.

It is my vision that TDWG and the development and support of TDWG standards can be strengthened through EC funded projects in Europe like SYNTHESYS+, DiSSCo Prepare and BiCIKL. The foundation of TDWG Europe has made it possible to now participate as TDWG in such projects and through my role in DiSSCo I am well connected with these projects which enables me to position TDWG well.

Latin America representative

Paula Zermoglio

ORCID

VertNet, Bariloche, Argentina

Background:

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.

Vision:

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.

North America representative

Holly Little

ORCID

Dept of Paleobiology, National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution, Washington DC, USA

Background:

As the Informatics Specialist for the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History Department of Paleobiology, I am responsible for all aspects of our digital collections, from designing and managing digitization projects to long term preservation and stewardship of our data. This work requires me to maintain a core focus of designing extensible and replicable methods integrated with and based upon the standards of the global community, but adapted to local needs.

In addition, I am a member of community efforts including Darwin Core Hour, Data Carpentries, the Society for the Preservation of Natural History Collections (SPNHC), multiple National Science Foundation Advancing the Digitization of Biological Collections program Thematic Collections Networks, Community Standards for 3D Data Preservation (CS3DP), TDWG Paleo Interest Group and Collections Description Interest Group, the iDigBio Paleo Digitization Working Group, and a number of collaborative projects spanning institutional boundaries across North America and the globe.

My current research is focused on evaluating the landscape of data sharing practices in the paleo community through analysis of occurrence records and datasets in GBIF. I participate in and facilitate discussion on best practices for use of established standards for fossil occurrence data and on development of new terms, vocabularies, and additional tools that may be needed.

Vision:

It is vital that TDWG actively engage with the individuals, projects, and institutions that utilize and contribute to the standards, best practices, and tools developed and maintained by TDWG. The North American Representative acts as a facilitator of that effort. I look forward to the opportunity to bring TDWG to the community and to bring the community to TDWG. In this role, I will highlight discussions of discipline specific and broader biodiversity community needs, and work towards implementation of TDWG standards and tools across the many projects and initiatives in North America.

A great example of this effort was a workshop I co-convened, at the SPNHC 2017 meeting titled “Biodiversity Informatics 101”. Through community engagement and education we sought to sow the seeds of a grassroots effort to bridge collections community practitioners and standards developers into the same conversation and to provide an opportunity for common knowledge and language, encouraging participation in this work. With these efforts (e.g., workshops, webinars, reaching out to engage in discipline and community discussions), we can engage practitioners, along with members of the community affected by the work of the practitioners or that provide the building blocks from which biodiversity informatics develops.

My experience within the community and engagement in efforts to establish an environment of collaboration and understanding sits within an important intersection of projects and people. As the North America Representative, I will bring new people into TDWG by informing the relevance that they have for TDWG and that TDWG has for them. I will also help to encourage continued progress and innovation for TDWG that remains engaged with, and informed of, the local implementation of our global efforts.

Oceania representative

To be Appointed