About the Atlas - Introductions

INTRODUCTION

The idea of the Alabama Plant Atlas arose out of the Flora of Alabama Checklist Committee. The checklist committee was formed in 2001 at Auburn University and was comprised of several botanists mainly working in Alabama. The goal of the committee was to create a document listing all species of vascular plants that occur or have been known to occur in Alabama. The major criterion for each species to be "checked" on the list was the existence of a herbarium specimen to serve as a voucher for that species occurring in the state. Through this process, it became apparent that several state herbaria have excellent collections especially in local proximity, however the sheer number of collections in each herbarium remained somewhat modest compared with some herbaria in other surrounding states.  As the checklist was nearing completion, a hard copy Atlas was proposed in order to pool all of the data from the state herbaria in the form of county "dot maps" for each species. While historically this has been done many times for other states or regions, the major drawback has always been a hardcopy atlas is a snapshot of a particular time that is quickly out of date as inevitable botanical discoveries will continually be made.  Members of the checklist committee became interested in finding a way to consolidate all herbarium data in a virtual environment which could be updated as flora data for Alabama is continually gathered and compiled. Quick searches on the internet revealed other states were undertaking similar projects as in Florida and New York. The Alabama Herbarium Consortium (AHC) was created to proceed in the development of an online plant atlas.  The Alabama Plant Atlas project joined the University of South Florida family of Plantatlas.org sites which provided the web development for this site. All Alabama plant data is curated by the membership herbaria of the Alabama Herbarium Consortium.
 

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

We are very thankful for the funding and infrastructure provided by The University of West Alabama and further funding by Legacy Inc., Partners in Environmental Education both of which made the Atlas possible.  The Huntsville Chapter of the Alabama Wildflower Society is also greatly appreciated for monetary support.
 

TECHNOLOGY

Distribution information compiled from herbarium specimens and the nomenclature are entered into a Microsoft SQL Server database management system (PlantDB).  Specimen data, including distribution information compiled from herbarium specimens, are entered into a Microsoft SQL Server database management system (PlantDB).  Atlas web pages are generated directly from the PlantDB database using the ASP program language served from Microsoft's Internet Information Server.  Maps are generated directly from PlantDB using ESRI MapObjects 2.0 technology residing on a Microsoft NT server.  Because the Atlas web site is generated directly from PlantDB, all web pages and maps are as up to date as the information entered into the database.  All data is maintained on servers the University of West Alabama.  The PlantDB database management system was designed by Shawn Landry of the Florida Center for Community Design and Research (FCCDR) with the help of Jeb Holub (Axis Technologies, Inc.) and Bruce Hansen of Institute of Systematic Botany (ISB).  All ASP programming was developed by Jeb Holub under the direction of the FCCDR and ISB.  Web page graphic design was created by Kristin Parker (FCCDR) with assistance from Kevin Kerrigan.  Questions regarding the technology behind the Alabama Plant Atlas can be directed to Shawn Landry at the Florida Center for Community Design and Research at the University of South Florida.

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