Developing a vocabulary and ontology for modeling insect natural history data: Example data, use cases, and competency questions

Brian J. Stucky, James P. Balhoff, Narayani Barve, Vijay Barve, Laura Brenskelle, Matthew H. Brush, Gregory A. Dahlem, James D.J. Gilbert, Akito Y. Kawahara, Oliver Keller, Andrea Lucky, Peter J. Mayhew, David Plotkin, Katja C. Seltmann, Elijah Talamas, Gaurav Vaidya, Ramona Walls, Matt Yoder, Guanyang Zhang, Rob Guralnick

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Insects are possibly the most taxonomically and ecologically diverse class of multicellular organisms on Earth. Consequently, they provide nearly unlimited opportunities to develop and test ecological and evolutionary hypotheses. Currently, however, large-scale studies of insect ecology, behavior, and trait evolution are impeded by the difficulty in obtaining and analyzing data derived from natural history observations of insects. These data are typically highly heterogeneous and widely scattered among many sources, which makes developing robust information systems to aggregate and disseminate them a significant challenge. As a step towards this goal, we report initial results of a new effort to develop a standardized vocabulary and ontology for insect natural history data. In particular, we describe a new database of representative insect natural history data derived from multiple sources (but focused on data from specimens in biological collections), an analysis of the abstract conceptual areas required for a comprehensive ontology of insect natural history data, and a database of use cases and competency questions to guide the development of data systems for insect natural history data. We also discuss data modeling and technology-related challenges that must be overcome to implement robust integration of insect natural history data.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere33303
JournalBiodiversity Data Journal
StatePublished - 2019


  • Biodiversity informatics
  • Data modeling
  • Insects
  • Natural history
  • Ontology

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Insect Science
  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Animal Science and Zoology
  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Plant Science
  • Ecology


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