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Gardens Collaborate on Collections Database

8 September 2006
 PlantCollections integrates the data from many gardens

The Chicago Botanic Garden, in collaboration with APGA, the University of Kansas, and 15 public gardens nationwide, is developing PlantCollections, a distributed database system for web-based querying that will allow information from multiple institutions currently in a variety of incompatible database formats to be accessed and integrated into comprehensive inventories. The results can then be analyzed to identify gaps and redundancies within the combined holdings, a first step in coordinating a continent-wide approach to plant germplasm preservation.

This 3-year project will strengthen relationships among the participating institutions and foster the sharing of information with the public.

Landis Arboretum, located in the Albany, N.Y., area, is one of 15 public gardens nationwide chosen to participate with The Chicago Botanic Garden in the development of a database system for people asking about plant collections online.

Fred Breglia, director of horticulture and operations at the Landis Arboretum in Esperance, N.Y., said being part of the project "is a point of tremendous pride to us, our community, and to those who support us."

"Being selected for this prestigious grant means that over the next two years we will receive funding critical to the acquisition of leading-edge computer equipment which is sorely needed by the arboretum to track our collections," he said. "It also means that we will further expand the influence of the arboretum and its collections nationwide."

PlantCollections will enable each data provider to maintain control of its own information and will link databases.

The system will be designed to allow each data provider to maintain control of its own data. It will link databases using a protocol called Distributed Generic Information Retrieval (DiGIR), the most widely used data sharing software for biological collections. The application of this open-source web-based software with an active user community will ensure support for forward mobility to new technology in the future. The decentralized structure of the network places data updates directly in the hands of plant records managers at each institution, ensuring accurate, current information.

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