Database management with Open Source software

    Seth Tyler, Steve Schilling, Matt Hooge
    University of Maine

Phylogeny of Lower Worms of the Meiofauna
PEET project 0118804

For our research on the lower-worm goups Acoela, Nemertodermatida, Catenulida, and Gnathostomulida, we maintain databases linked to Web-serving software for displaying information through commonly used Web browsers. We run these databases entirely with Open Source software, namely MySQL for the databases themselves, PHP and PEAR for dynamically creating Web pages from the data, and Apache-AdvancedExtranetServer/2, all running under Linux. Interactive maps from allow us to graphically display data on the distribution of species. As with any Open Source software, this setup allows us complete control of the system and does not require any of our users to have client-side software or site licenses. Because Open Source software is updated more frequently than commercial software, we can easily opt for the latest versions of programs we use.

While the database is fully searchable, all data is displayed through hyperlinks on straightforward Web pages, not requiring the user to have knowledge of what might be in the database. True to its roots, the database even shows images of the original index cards from which it emerged (from the pre-computer era, courtesy of deceased taxonomists). The databases are fully editable via password-protected Web pages. Because MySQL itself provides for secure remote access, interoperation with other databases is straightforward.

The databases include tables for establishing systematic hierarchy, tracking synonymy, registering systematic characters (for keys, etc.), diagnoses, types, geographic distribution, literature, free-form notes on taxa, and linking diagnostic images.

Web site for the PEET project,
including the taxonomic displays for turbellarians and gnathostomulids.

Specific Web page for taxonomic display

This research is supported by the National Science Foundation, grant DEB-0118804

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data display