Working Session Descriptions, September 21-25


INTRO: Introduction to TDWG

Session Type: Plenary overview & discussion

Organizers: Holly Little, National Museum of Natural History, Washington DC, USA; Deborah Paul, iDigBio, Florida State University, Tallahassee, FL, USA; Paula Zermoglio, VertNet, Bariloche, Argentina; James Macklin, Agriculture & Agri-Food Canada, Ottawa, Canada

Description: Ever wonder what Biodiversity Information Standards (TDWG) is or does? How can you become involved? Come join us to find out, get a bit of background about both the working group meetings coming up the week of 21–25 September, as well as the Symposia and Discussion sessions planned for the 19–23 October.

Video: INTRO a and INTRO b

BOF01: Converging Digital Specimens and Extended Specimens - Towards a global specification

Session Type: Birds of a Feather

Organizers: Alex Hardisty, Cardiff University, Cardiff, UK; Andrew Bentley, University of Kansas, Lawrence, Kansas, USA

Description: Digital Specimens (DS) are the transformative mechanism necessary to link natural science specimens with other artifacts and data about them. They are the means by which information about specimens may be found, processed and used on the Internet; by which specimens may be unambiguously attributed; and by which usage and discoveries associated with specimens can be tracked (e.g., for repatriating the benefits of specific discoveries back to the country of origin of the specimen). DS implement the ‘extended specimen’ concept (Webster et al., 2017) and provide the means by which ‘Next Generation Collections’ (Schindel and Cook, 2018) can be managed. In Europe, a workshop in Warsaw, February 2020 organised by the COST action ‘MOBILISE’ ( as part of the DiSSCo programme ( demonstrated a wide measure of interest in pursuing a specification for open Digital Specimens, with the intention to improve findability, accessibility, interoperability and reusability of the digitized rich data derived from physical specimens in natural science collections as mutable digital objects on the Internet (Hardisty et al. 2020 - In October 2018 at a workshop in Upperville, VA (USA), the Biodiversity Collections Network (BCoN), proposed an initiative for an Extended Specimen Network (ESN) to enhance the research potential of specimens through further digitization and linking with associated extended data. (Lendemer et al. 2019 - ESN requires development of new data integration mechanisms necessary to link the dynamic components together across collections, data types, and existing and evolving databases. DS/ES embody the idea of a curated and authoritative package (or container) of links to data about the physical specimen that is a more efficient and reliable/trusted source of data for scientific work, with potential to save time spent by a scientist finding and collating data about specimens they are interested in. With new freedoms and opportunities for the use and exploitation of collection objects coming from digital transformations taking place in institutions worldwide, a specification for open Digital Specimens has potential to enhance and change the lives of professionals working with natural science objects. There is an eventual need to introduce such work into TDWG, perhaps jointly with the Research Data Alliance (RDA) Biodiversity Data Integration Interest Group (BDI IG). This BoF session will introduce the notions of Digital and Extended Specimens, provide for an initial exchange of information and views, and identify next steps towards a common global specification.

Video: BoF01 DS/ES

HACK01: Hack4Nature

Session Type: Hackathon

Organizers: Rovellotti Olivier, Natural Solutions Marseille, France; Aurelie Jambon, Natural Solutions Marseille, France

Description: HackForNature is a BarCamp (type of unconference) event to identify subjects that could be tackled during the Hack4Nature event in January 2021 in Marseille (during the IUCN World Conservation Congress). It is an open session where we will list out and document potential challenges that will be worked on by remote and local teams.

Video: ITG01 TNC

ITG01: Taxon Names and Concepts

Session Type: Interest/Task Group

Organizers: Niels Klazenga, Royal Botanic Gardens Victoria, Melbourne, Australia

Description: The Taxon Names and Concepts Interest Group has undertaken the production of a new version of the Taxon Concept Schema (TCS), which is compliant with the Vocabulary Maintenance Specification and Standards Documentation Standard and provides for users and use cases by establishing a robust mechanism for exchanging biodiversity data with accurate and precise taxonomic and nomenclatural context with long-term resolvability.

The goal of the meeting is to discuss the activities of the committee and engage a broader base of stakeholders. Topics that will be discussed include:

  • Activities of the Interest Group
  • A draft proposal to replace the TCS Taxon Concept with Taxonomic Name Usage
  • Properties of a good data standard
  • Use cases for a standard supporting taxonomic names and concepts
  • How to deal with bibliographic references.

We are especially interested in engaging with people we do not hear from so often. Those with other topics they would like to see discussed, are encouraged to open an issue in our GitHub repository or send an email to the organizer.

Video: ITG01 TNC

ITG02: Darwin Core Maintenance Group

Session Type: Interest/Task Group

Organizers: John Wieczorek, VertNet/TDWG, Bariloche, Argentina; Steve Baskauf, Vanderbilt University Heard Libraries, Nashville, Tennessee

Description: The Darwin Core Maintenance Group has been active in the past year to bring Darwin Core (est. 2009) up to date with the TDWG Standards Documentation Standard and making clear what parts of the standard are normative, and which are considered commentaries. This makes documentation on the use of the standard much more flexible since the commentaries and examples can be driven by community participation without having to invoke the rigorous standards process for changes. We hope this will ultimately engage the community more broadly and result in User Guides, such as the Quick Reference Guide, but for distinct data sharing communities and purposes. In this working session we will answer questions about maintaining Darwin Core and endeavor to tackle pending issues, including advancing (or rejecting) requests for term definition changes and additional terms.

Video: ITG02 DwC

ITG03: Collections Descriptions Task Group

Session Type: Interest/Task Group

Organizers: Matt Woodburn, Natural History Museum, London, UK; Deborah Paul, iDigBio, Florida State University, Tallahassee, USA

Description: As a global community of scientific collections, we need a core vocabulary that describes the collections themselves, not the published datasets. We need to be able to use the published dataset metrics together with collections-level metadata and metrics in order to make meaningful comparisons across collections (e.g., what’s unique about a particular collection, or where are the taxonomic and geographical gaps). These data are especially critical for discovering collections that are not yet publishing their specimen data anywhere. There are valuable collections that have no information stored in a database and many do not have a presence on the Internet. The TDWG Collections Descriptions (CD) Data Standard Task Group aims to provide a data standard for describing natural scientific collections, which enables the ability to provide 1) automated metrics using standardised collection descriptions and/or data derived from specimen datasets (e.g. counts of specimens) and 2) a global registry of physical collections (either digitised or non-digitised). Some current stakeholders asking for such a standard include The Field Museum, GBIF, DiSSCo, CETAF, SYNTHESYS+, MOBILISE, and iDigBio. At the time of the TDWG meeting, the first draft of the CD standard will be approaching completion and community review. This working session provides an excellent opportunity for the group to summarize the standard and data model, demonstrate some early adoptions and proofs of concept in action, and discuss final steps and pathways to adoption with the stakeholders.

Video: ITG03 CD

ITG04: Best Practices for the Development of Vocabularies of Values (“Vocabularies”)

Session Type: Interest/Task Group

Organizers: Paula Zermoglio, VertNet/TDWG, Bariloche, Argentina

Description: During the session we will discuss the advances in the work of the Vocabularies of Values Task Group and tackle pending issues.

Video: ITG04 Vocab

ITG05: Machine Observations Interest Group

Session Type: Interest/Task Group

Organizers: Peggy Newman, Atlas of Living Australia, Melbourne, Australia; Peter Desmet, LifeWatch, INBO, Brussels, Belgium

Description: The agenda of the Machine Observations Interest Group is to document common guidelines for applying Darwin Core to biologging data such that it can be made discoverable and open via biodiversity repositories such as GBIF, the Living Atlases and OBIS. On the data modelling journey, we have found similar patterns to other forms of sensor-based biodiversity data such as camera traps and bioacoustics. The group will use this meeting time to discuss the progress of work in our Github repository (, and other related initiatives that members have been involved in during the year. All are welcome to attend.

Video: ITG05 MachObs

ITG06: Audubon Core Maintenance Group Annual Meeting

Session Type: Interest/Task Group

Organizers: Steve Baskauf, Vanderbilt University Heard Libraries, Nashville, Tennessee

Description: This is an opportunity to learn about the ongoing work of the Audubon Core Maintenance Group and to provide input into setting the future priorities of the group. At the meeting, we will review the major work that was done over the past year to develop new terms and best practices recommendations for sound metadata. We will also review issues that remain in the tracker and solicit suggestions for how we should focus our work in the coming year. One topic of current interest is how to structure annotations (such as segments of audio or parts of other media items), so we anticipate some discussion around that topic.

Video: ITG06 AC

ITG07: How Did It Die?

Session Type: Interest/Task Group

Organizers: Sophia Ratcliffe, NBN Trust, Nottingham, UK; Quentin Groom, Meise Botanic Garden, Meise, Belgium

Description: The vitality of the organism at the time of the observation or collection is an important attribute of a species record, which currently cannot be expressed in a machine-readable manner. The 'How did it die?' task group has been convened to propose the addition of terms, and associated controlled vocabularies, to Darwin Core to enable the interoperability of datasets that hold information on the vitality of the organism and any cause of death (e.g. roadkill, beach stranding, hunting, window strikes and disease monitoring).

We have suggested two additional terms: vitality and causeOfDeath. In this working session we will further develop use cases to support the addition of each term and begin exploring a vocabulary for cause of death. New members, who were not included in the initial charter, are very welcome.

Video: ITG07 How did it die?

ITG08: Earth Science And Paleobiology Interest Group

Session Type: Interest/Task Group

Organizers: Denne Reed, University of Texas at Austin, Austin, Texas, USA; Holly Little, National Museum of Natural History, Washington, DC USA

Description: In this meeting we will cover standard business of the Earth Science and Paleobiology interest group including: provide an orientation to the interest group for new attendees, share updates on activities of the interest group, gather reports from ESP members that are participating in parallel efforts in related groups (e.g. DiSSCo and iDigBio Paleo Data Working Group), and define action items for the coming year. In addition we will use this meeting of the interest group to hold a focused discussion on the use of standards for annotating stratigraphic and geological context data and to plan the publication of recommendations and best practices.

Video: ITG08 ESP

ITG09: People In Biodiversity Data Task Group

Session Type: Interest/Task Group

Organizers: David Shorthouse, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, Ottawa, Canada; Quentin Groom, Meise Botanic Garden, Meise, Belgium

Description: In this working meeting (see schedule), we will:

  • review the Attribution Interest Group and its contexts, tools, outputs, and services
  • demonstrate the Agent Actions extension to Darwin Core in an Integratated Publishing Toolkit in test mode and prepare a white paper for submission to BISS on its design and use
  • complete the tasks in our People in Biodiversity Data charter, including a plan to produce a best practice guide to the disambiguation of people’s names

Video: ITG09 People

ITG10: Task Group On Minimum Information About A Digital Specimen (MIDS)

Session Type: Interest/Task Group

Organizers: Alex Hardisty, Cardiff University, Cardiff, UK; Elspeth Haston, Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh, Edinburgh, UK

Description: Inaugural session of the Task Group on Minimum Information about a Digital Specimen (MIDS) will introduce the topic to TDWG members, set out the steps and working method towards a proposed TDWG standard, and engage participants. Note: At the time of responding to this call for sessions, the draft charter is sent to the Executive Committee for consideration and approval of the TG.

Video: ITG10 MIDS

ITG11: Species Information Interest Group

Session Type: Interest/Task Group

Organizers: Francisco Pando, Real Jardin Botanico-CSIC, Madrid, España; William Ulate, Missouri Botanical Garden, St. Louis, Missouri, USA

Description: Presentation of the current status of the activities of the Species Information Interest Group mostly related to the developments around the task group on Plinian Core: Documentation under the current TDWG Standards Documentation Specification, implementations for national checklists, SPARQL endpoints, etc. Capturing requirements for new developments and interconnection with other TDWG standards and interest groups. Proposals for new task groups, see

Video: ITG11 SpecInfo

ITG12: Annotations Interest Group

Session Type: Interest/Task Group

Organizers: Paul J. Morris, Museum of Comparative Zoology, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA USA

Description: The Annotations Interest Group will hold a working session to examine advances in annotation technologies over the last year including use of annotations in the wild in the biodiversity community, and annotation-related activities in the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C). Of particular interest are annotations as sets of assertions concerning quality of biodiversity data.

The agenda will include:

  • Reports on data annotation systems in production use in the biodiversity community.
  • Discussion of activities in the W3C Web Annotation Working Group
  • Annotations and data quality assertions resulting from the TDWG BDQ TG2 core tests for biodiversity data quality.

New participants in the Annotations Interest Group are welcomed.

Video: ITG12 Annotations

ITG13: Citizen Science Interest Group

Session Type: Interest/Task Group

Organizers: Rob Stevenson, University of Massachusetts, Boston, Massachusetts USA; Peter Brenton, Atlas of Living Australia, Canberra, Australia; Libby Ellwood, Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County, Los Angeles, California USA

Description: In this session, we will engage existing and new members of the Citizen Science Interest Group in discussion about standards as they pertain to citizen science. With nearly half of the data in GBIF coming from citizen science projects (the majority from eBird and some from iNaturalist), the role of citizen science data in the data landscape is significant. The legacy of apprehension towards citizen science data is fading as time and again the breadth and scope of these data are recognized as invaluable. This session will include updates about the PPSR-CORE Metadata Standard and updates on the continental Citizen Science Associations.

Discussion topics will include:

  • Current state of the PPSR-Core standard;
  • Uplifting data quality in citizen science with methods such as interacting with observers, digital documentation, artificial intelligence, expert review, and crowdsourcing;
  • Optimisation of effort through coordination and collaboration with continental Citizen Science Associations;
  • Finding our niche to maximise impact and uptake of standards in biodiversity citizen science.

Video: ITG13 CitiSci

ITG14: Genomic Biodiversity Interest Group

Session Type: Interest Group

Organizers: Ramona L. Walls, University of Arizona, Tucson USA; John Deck,

University of California Berkeley, Berkeley USA

Description This is a working session of the joint TDWG and Genomic Standards Consortium (GSC) Biodiversity Genomics Working Group (aka GBWG). The session will begin with an overview of GBWG activities over the past year and plans for the coming year. Three working sessions of ~45 minutes each will cover the following topics: 1) Managing environmental samples, e-DNA, and relationships among organisms, particularly among microorganisms or between micro- and macro-organisms. 2) Coordination between GSC, TDWG, and GGBN. We will begin by reviewing the history of GSC and TDWG interactions, then compare MIxS and Darwin Core to determine what terms might need to be added to each list for compatibility. GGBN is under review as an official TDWG and GSC standard, and their mappings can provide a guide for this. We can discuss if/how ABCD should also map to MIxS and new work on MIXS as RDF. 3) Based on common needs from GSC/TDWG coordination (topic 2) and requirements for linking organism and samples (topic 1), discuss an overall data model for biodiversity that could be shared among groups including GBIF, GGBN, and INSDC. The goal is not to come up with a model at this workshop, but to pinpoint common needs and examine existing models that may be useful such as PROV, the BioCollection Ontology, and ABCD.

Video: ITG43 Genomics

WS01: Capturing Ideas for the Future of BioCASe Provider Software and the GBIF Integrated Publishing Toolkit (IPT)

Session Type: Workshop

Organizers: Jörg Holetschek, Botanic Garden & Botanical Museum, Berlin; Tim Robertson, GBIF, Copenhagen, Denmark

Description: The BioCASe Provider Software (BPS) and the GBIF Integrated Publishing Toolkit (IPT) have been fundamental components used to build open biodiversity data infrastructure. Closely following the TDWG standards, these tools have been used for more than a decade across several data networks and have an established community of users. This has led to a good understanding of the limitations. Understanding these issues and considering the upward trend of using open data repositories, we believe it is a good time to start discussion around the future needs of these tools.

In this session we will present ideas for directions that the tools could adopt, propose a way to identify the features in current widespread use and invite discussion around ideas from users.

This will touch on questions and topics such as:

  • Should the BPS and IPT be merged into a combined tool, and which specific functions can possibly be dropped?
  • Should the components for data mapping, metadata authoring, registration in e.g. GBIF/OBIS be separated and available in separate modules?
  • Should the tool allow you to push data to an open repository, rather than requiring running a server on the internet?
  • What are the institutional needs? Access to a local database? Data served from your own servers?
  • What enrichment to metadata is required; aspects of the Collections Descriptions work?
  • Would support for RDF, FrictionlessData and more complete EML Data mapping enable wider use of these data?
  • What level of data validation should be included in the data mapping process?
  • What technologies should be used for the next generation of tools?
  • How can these be deployed with minimal disruption to existing users?
  • Are there developments in other areas that can be used and adapted instead of a new development?

More detail around these topics is given in an ideas paper, which may help guide the discussion.

The outputs and key points from the discussion will be captured to help contribute to the roadmap for these tools.

Video: WS01 BioCASe+IPT

WS02: ABCD/DwC Alignment Working Group

Session Type: Workshop

Organizers: David Fichtmüller, Freie Universität, Berlin, Germany; Anton Güntsch, Freie Universität, Berlin, Germany

Description: ABCD (Access to Biological Collection Data) and DwC (Darwin Core) are TDWG standards for unit-level biodiversity data that are used for a wide range of applications. Since 2019, the working group has been investigating ways to enable a closer link and integration of the standards. In the run-up to the workshop we will collect use cases for the application of the standards, which will be analysed and discussed in the workshop itself. On this basis, working groups will be formed to address technical, organisational, and sociological aspects relevant for an alignment and future maintenance of ABCD and DwC. The results will be presented in the TDWG 2020 Symposium SYM01 Standards Alignment: Which and how?.

Video: WS02 ABCD/DwC

WS03: Living Atlases Workshop For End Users

Session Type: Workshop

Organizers: Marie-Elise Lecoq, VertNet, San Francisco, California USA; Anders Telenius/Manash Shah/Veronika Johansson, Swedish Museum of Natural History, Stockholm, Sweden

Description: This workshop will focus on end-users. We will propose exercises to use different types of live data portals. Participants will be able to choose a data portal and will do the exercises based on the chosen platform. This workshop will help Living Atlases participants to promote their data portal, but also for people interested in the tools to discover the possibility given by a platform based on the Atlas of Living Australia toolset.

Video: WS03 LivingAtlas

Last updated: 25 September 2020