Where the Wild Things Are (and How They’re Related)

Read the full post from the USGS Science Features Blog. To view demo videos and download the apps, visit http://www.usgs.gov/core_science_systems/csas/challenge.html.

The U.S. Geological Survey is pleased to announce the winners of the “App-lifying USGS Earth Science Data” Challenge. USGS invited developers, information scientists, biologists/ecologists, and scientific data visualization specialists to create applications for selected USGS datasets, presenting them in innovative and informative new ways. The Challenge was open January 9, 2013, to April 1, 2013. Entries spanned a cross-section of topics including taxonomic classification, conservation status of species, the range and distribution of animals, and one innovative app integrating social media with species occurrence records.

And the Winners Are…

The winner for Best Overall App is “TaxaViewer” by the rOpenSci group. TaxaViewer is a Web interface to a mashup of data from the USGS-sponsored interagency Integrated Taxonomic Information System (ITIS), the Phylotastic taxonomic Name service, the Global Invasive Species Database, Phylomatic, and the Global Biodiversity Information Facility. TaxaViewer allows the user to view species-specific taxonomic data, invasive status, phylogenetic relationships, and species occurrence records. TaxaViewer innovatively combines these datasets using the statistical package R that many scientists are already using for data analysis. Additionally, rOpenSci has made all of the source code available via Github. The combination of innovative use of data and technologies along with the applicability of the name resolution functionality made this the winning application.

The Popular Choice App award goes to the “Species Comparison Tool” by Kimberly Sparks of Raleigh, N.C., which allows users to explore the USGS Gap Analysis Program habitat distribution and/or range of two species concurrently. In addition, the application’s “swipe tool” provides the ability to make visual comparisons of the maps. The application also incorporates ITIS data and provides external links to NatureServe species information. Fun and easy to use, the Species Comparison Tool provides an intuitive way to determine where species might be located as well taxonomic status and life history characteristics. The sleek design and engaging quality of the swipe tool makes this an application that is useful for the public and scientists alike.

“These applications provide us and, more importantly, the public with easy-to-use tools for accessing and viewing taxonomic and biogeographic data,” said Kevin Gallagher, USGS Associate Director of Core Science Systems. “The innovative and thoughtful ideas represented in these applications are great examples of how complex data can be made more accessible.”

Winners were selected based on relevance to the USGS mission, innovation in design, and overall ease of use of the application. Utilizing the Challege.gov platform, the general public chose the winner of the Popular Choice App award. Both applications will be available for at least one year for viewing and use by the public.

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