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"Bee" a taxonomist!
Iliyana Kuzmova

I am working as a postdoctoral researcher at the Naturalis Biodiversity Center on bee systematics and bee identification. At present, my morphological studies focus on wing shape analyses using geometric morphometrics. During the pro-iBiosphere workshop and training on "e-platforms and e-tools for taxonomy" ( that took place in February 2013 (Leiden, the Netherlands) I gained information about state-of-the-art platforms & tools that I could use for my work and learnt how to use them.

In bees, wing shape is a reliable diagnostic trait at different taxonomical levels: from families to species and sometimes even populations. This encouraged me to develop an identification tool for bee species based on wing venation patterns. During the session on "Developing organism identification apps for Android devices", given by Dr. Alexander Krings, I developed a prototype of an android app that includes morphological keys, tips for rapid identification, and general information about most common bees. This app can be a handy tool for taxonomists and naturalists to obtain information while doing field work. Of course, the thousands of published keys, papers, and books are very precious, but they are mainly available in the lab or at home. e-tools bring us highly valuable published information everywhere we go, where we need it, and where we find the bees.

My PhD research on bee systematics  included description and taxonomic revision of several bee fossils. For these studies, wing shape allowed for quantitative assessment of taxonomic affinities of bee fossils with extant taxa. One of the best examples of the power of this method was the identification of a fossil bee wing (which was all that was available) as a Bombus randeckensis specimen from the Miocene. Bee fossils are rare, and until recently a comprehensive list was not available. e-platforms such as "scratchpads" (funded by the EU FP7 ViBRANT project) are an easy-to-use tool that allows sharing knowledge among taxonomists. As a result of the pro-iBiosphere training, I managed to upload the complete bee fossil list, including general information on each fossil and on the main deposits into a scratchpad. This platform facilitates open access and provides a significant help for my scientific work: the website makes available a fast search tool for taxonomical names, and allows easy publication of the new updates of our research activities.

e-tools and e-platforms for taxonomy help to diffuse and share scientific knowledge among taxonomists and the  general public. Training on these tools and platforms invites taxonomists to change their way of thinking about the design of their projects and on how to effectively disseminate their results to a wider audience. With continuously updated information, collaborative platforms, interactive keys, and android apps, taxonomy can hardly be considered an ‘old-fashioned’ field!. If scientists want to increase their impact on society, they have to follow the evolution of our knowledge-hungry society.

pro-iBiosphere is helping to close the gap between  technology and taxonomists!.

* The bee identification app and the bee fossil scratchpad are under construction and will be available very soon

Thibaut DeMeulemeester, Postdoctoral researcher (Naturalis Biodiversity Center, Leiden, the Netherlands). Contact: [email protected]; [email protected]

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This project has received funding from the European Union’s Seventh Programme for research, technological development and demonstration under grant agreement No 312848