Short Name:

Interactive Database for Cenozoic Antarctic Diatoms

Diatoms are considered by many to be the most important microfossil group used today in the study of Antarctic Cenozoic marine deposits south of the Polar Front, from the near shore to deep sea. These microfossils, with walls of silica called frustules, are produced by single-celled plants (algae of the Class Bacillariophyceae) in a great variety of forms. Consequently, they have great biostratigraphic importance in the Southern Ocean and elsewhere for determining the age of marine sediments. Also, paleoclimatic and paleoceanographic studies increasingly rely on fossil diatom data. Changing biogeographic distributions of given taxa indicate shifting paleoecological conditions and provide evidence of the surface productivity and temperatures of ancient oceans. The generality of conclusions, though, is limited by variation in species concepts among workers. The broad research community relies, directly or indirectly, on the accurate identification of diatom species. Current technology can be used to greatly improve upon the standard references that have been used in making these identifications. This project will develop an interactive digital-image catalog of modern and Cenozoic fossil diatoms of the Southern Ocean called "DiatomWare" for use by specialists and educators as an aid in rapid, accurate, and consistent species identification. As such, this will be a researcher's resource. It will be especially useful where it is not possible to maintain standard library resources such as onboard research vessels or at remote stations such as McMurdo Station. Major Antarctic geological drilling initiatives such as the new SHALDRIL project and the pending ANDRILL project will benefit from this product because they will rely heavily on diatom biostratigraphy to achieve their research objectives. The DiatomWare image database will be modeled on NannoWare, which was released in October 2002 on CD-ROM as a publication of the International Nannoplankton Association. BugCam will be adapted and modified as necessary to run the DiatomWare database, which can then be run from desktop or laptop computers. Images and text for the database will be scanned from the literature or captured in digital form from light or scanning electron microscopes. The software interface will include a number of data fields that can be accessed by the click of a mouse button. Primary information will be the images and descriptions of the holotypes. In addition, representative images of paratypes or hypotypes will be included whenever possible in plain transmitted, differential interference contrast light and, when available, as drawings and SEM images. Also included will be a 35-word or less English diagnosis ("mini-description"), the biostratigraphic range in terms of zones and linear time, bibliographic references, lists of species considered junior synonyms, and similar species. The list of similar species will be cross-referenced with their respective image files to enable quick access for direct visual comparison on the viewing screen. Multiple images can be brought to the viewing screen simultaneously, and a zoom feature will permit image examination at a wide range of magnifications. Buttons will allow range charts, a bibliography, and key public-domain publications from the literature to be called up from within the program. The DiatomWare/BugCam package will be distributed at a nominal cost through a major nonprofit society via CD-ROM and free to Internet users on the Worldwide Web. Quality control measures will include critical review of the finalized database by a network of qualified specialists. The completed database will include descriptions and images of between 350 and 400 species, including fossil as well as modern forms that have no fossil record. The development of the proposed diatom image database will be important to all research fields that depend on accurate biostratigraphic dating and paleoenvironmental interpretation of Antarctic marine sediments and plankton. The database will also serve as a valuable teaching tool for micropaleontology students and their professors, will provide a rapid means of keying down species for micropaleontologists of varying experience and background, and will promote a uniformity of taxonomic concepts since it will be developed and continuously updated with the advice of a community of nannofossil fossil experts. Broad use of the database is anticipated since it will be widely available through the Internet and on CD-ROM for use on personal computers that do not require large amounts of memory, costly specialized programs, or additional hardware.

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