Visualizing and interacting with large-volume biodiversity data using client–server web-mapping applications: The design and implementation of antmaps.org
The rise of informatics has presented new opportunities for analyzing, visualizing, and interacting with data across the sciences, and biodiversity science is no exception. Recently, comprehensive datasets on the geographic distributions of species have been assembled that represent a thorough accounting of a given taxonomic group of species (e.g. birds, mammals, etc.), and which form critical tools for both basic biology and conservation. However, these databases present several challenges for
... eral challenges for visualization, interaction, and participation for users across a broad range of scientists and the public. In support of the development of a new comprehensive ant biodiversity database containing over 1.7 million records, we developed a new client-server web-mapping application, antmaps.org, to visualize and interact with the geographic distributions of all 15,050 ant species and aggregate patterns of their diversity and biogeography. Our application development approach was based on usercentered design principles of usability engineering, human-computer interaction, and cartography. The resulting application is highly focused on providing efficient and intuitive access to geographic biodiversity data using a client-server interaction that allows users to query and retrieve data on the fly. This is achieved with a backend solution to efficiently work with large volumes of geospatial data. The usability and utility of the final version of the application was measured based on effectiveness, efficiency and user satisfaction, and assessed using questionnaires, usability lab studies and surveys. While the development of antmaps.org was motivated by a particular ant biodiversity dataset, the basic framework, design, and functionality are not specific to ants and could be used to interact with biodiversity data of any taxonomic group.