Earth Sciences and Paleobiology

The ESP interest group addresses data standards and best practices concerning information about material samples that support earth science and paleobiology research. Our work will apply emerging methods in data integration, linked open data, and geographic information systems to long established, collection-based disciplines in earth sciences, such as paleontology, chronostratigraphy, and mineralogy.


Image by Justyn Warner


Core members

  • Falko Glöckler - Museum für Naturkunde, Berlin, Germany
  • Holly Little - National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution, Washington DC, USA
  • Mareike Petersen - Museum für Naturkunde, Berlin, Germany


  • The motivation of this interest group is to facilitate the use of standards such as Darwin Core and Access to Biological Collection Data (ABCD) for taxonomic, geographic and temporal data that are interconnected with related domains of knowledge including geology, paleontology, paleobiology, zooarchaeology and paleoanthropology. The group will establish best practices and appropriate application of standards in these scientific domains by improving documentation, providing examples, and where necessary developing new terms or extensions to address areas where existing standards are insufficient.
  • Another motivation of the interest group is to maintain liaisons and where appropriate to coordinate with standardization efforts in these related areas.
  • The group is also interested in developing vocabularies and ontologies to promote the consistent applications of concepts and relationships in standards.

Becoming involved

  • All members of the BIS TDWG community are invited to participate in the activities of the ESP interest group by contributing ideas for new terms, comments on proposed terms, ideas for ontology development and conceptual frameworks for data sharing.
  • The working group seeks input from domain specialists across the varied areas of prehistory, paleobiology and earth sciences including, vertebrate and invertebrate paleontology, palaeobotony, palynology, micropalaeontology, zooarchaeology, paleoanthropology, geochronology, minerology, petrology, stratigraphy, geochemistry, biogeography, systematics and paleoclimate.
  • The group further seeks the expertise of ontologists and information scientists in the activity of data modelling and developing formal ontologies.
  • The group meets online twice annually and those interested in participating should contact the interest group convener or one of the core members.

History and context

  • The ESP interest group formed from the union of the Paleobiology interest group and the EFG task group, initially formed under the umbrella of the Access to Biological Collection Data interest Group. The former was focused on expanding the implementation of Darwin Core for paleobiology and the latter with the maintenance and representation of the the ABCD standard Extension For Geosciences (EFG).
  • Earlier efforts to incorporate paleosciences into the activities of the TDWG included the efforts of the DarwinCope project. DarwinCope generated useful extensions that allow Darwin Core to be applied by paleobiology data interchange projects including the GeologicalContext class that was formally adopted as part of the Darwin Core standard.
  • EFG was developed for palaeontological, mineralogical, and petrological specimens. These objects are also common in natural history collections, but not covered by the ABCD standard itself. The development of EFG started in 2006 and has since been used by a couple of institutions and data portals. The BIS TDWG ratification process was only initiated in 2017.
  • The past decade has seen burgeoning efforts toward data integration and synthesis, many linked to NSF funded cyber-infrastructure initiatives such as Earth Cube. ABCD(EFG), Darwin Core and the BIS TDWG are a natural fit for the further development of data standards in the geo- and paleo-sciences. This interest group seeks to leverage the existing infrastructure of BIS TDWG for the study of paleobiodiversity and earth science alongside extant biodiversity.


  • Existing biodiversity standards such as ABCD and Darwin Core play a critical role in standardizing paleobiological and earth sciences data, but there remain many aspects of these standards, in their current instantiation, that do not capture the breadth of information involved in fossil and mineralogical collections. The ESP interest group within TDWG is established to address the particular needs of mineralogical and fossil data by developing extensions and refinements to existing standards. A beneficial by-product of this effort is greater intellectual exchange and collaboration between paleontologists and neontologists.


Task groups