TDWG standards

Biodiversity Information Standards development

Since 2010 I’ve been an active participant in Biodiversity Information Standards (TDWG), the international organization that develops standards to enable more effective sharing of knowledge about biodiversity. I’ve had leadership roles in several initiatives within the organization.

Audubon Core

Audubon Core parrot
Image by Mikhail Vasilyev

Audubon Core is the TDWG standard for describing biodiversity-related multimedia. During ratification of the standard in 2013, I served as the review manager. I was responsible for recruiting expert reviewers, running the public review, and working with the authors to revise the standard in light of the reviews. From 2018 to 2021, I was the inagural convener of the Audubon Core Maintenance Group. In that role, I recruited members for the group, carried out a cleanup of the documentation, led the development of the first three controlled vocabularies used with the core vocabulary, and led the effort to create terms for describing regions of interest within a media item. From 2019 to 2023, I’ve was the convener of a task group charged with developing controlled vocabularies to describe the subject part and orientation of images.

Darwin Core

organism occurrence map
Map of organism occurrences recorded by GBIF 31 Dec 2021

Darwin Core is the flagship TDWG vocubulary for describing the distribution of organisms around the earth and is used to describe over a billion occurrences. My first major contribution to Darwin Core was as the lead author of the Darwin Core RDF Guide in 2015. I’ve been a part of the Darwin Core Maintenance Group since its organization in 2017. In that role, I’ve developed a lot of the organizational and technical infrastructure used to manage the standard. In particular, I was the lead author of the TDWG Vocabulary Maintenance Specification, which describes how all TDWG vocabularies should be managed.

Technical Architecture

In 2017, I was the lead author of the TDWG Standards Documentation Specification (SDS), which describes how human- and machine-readable standards documents should be structured in TDWG standards. Following its adoption, I lead the ongoing effort to develop the technical infrastructure necessary to implement the specification. I created a system where standards metadata are archived as CSV files in a GitHub repository. Those data are loaded into a server application that I designed that can serve dynamically generated machine-readable RDF representations when requested through content negotiation, or redirect to human-readable “list of terms” documents that are also generated from the same CSV tables. I wrote the Python scripts to generate those list of terms documents as well as other scripts used in the pipeline for processing changes to vocabularies.

In 2021, I was elected to a two-year term on the TDWG Executive Committee, serving as the chair of the Technical Architecture Group (TAG) from 2022-2023.