Category: Blog


Published: November 23, 2013

Ecoregions of Nearctic erigonines

Nina Sandlin, Associate


Here is a map of the locations where specimens imaged in LinEpig have been collected. And some words of background...

As you may know, I started the LinEpig gallery — back in 2007 — as a Google "Picasa Web Album," at a time when that was readily available to anyone with a Gmail account. Picasa was really meant for pictures of people's honeymoon and dogs (the name was a mashup of the famous painter and the Spanish phrase for "my house") — not a taxonomic cross-reference — but it had some nice features. One of them was geocoding. You could put in the information from your specimen's locality label, and it would — in typical Googlish fashion — make it a mark on a map.

But like so many of Google's high-spirited digital experiments, Picasaweb is becoming deprecated, in favor of Google Plus. Now, it must be said that Google Plus presents much clearer images. (No less an arthropod photo guru than Alex Wild has crowed about how nice they look.) But on the new platform, the Picasa fields are not visible — the tagging, the comments where I would put the species author, year and lending institution, and note any disputes and discussions going on (that I knew of) regarding the species' taxonomic status. And the map locations. All gone.

Sometimes you can still get to the old Picasa web gallery, and sometimes you can't. Some days the old links work, but take you to the Google Plus version, and then there will be days at a stretch where they deliver a bright Crayola-blue server error. If you're lucky, adding "?banner=pwa" to the Google Plus address lets you see a link back to the gallery at Picasa Web Albums. But one just has the feeling that, even on good days, this is all just a little grace note of borrowed time.

So, as a stopgap, I have made this ESRI map at ArcGIS Online, as a way for LinEpig users to see locality data. A nice thing is that this lets me overlay collection location on their ecoregions, informing at least in a general way what types of biogeography a particular specimen was known from. And, although the default ArcGIS popup only says "more info," in fact it will click through to the image of the epigynum.

The caveat is that I have shamelessly scraped these locations from Picasa — which means that, even though they are very precise, they may not be all that accurate. A label from the 1940s or 50s that just said "Warren Woods, Mich." or "Seattle" would get six decimal places of latitude and longitude, just like all the others. And the Picasa interface did not provide a way to input geolocation, so even when I had exact GIS data from the collector, I ended up with an approximation (although this, at least, will be corrected when LinEpig is imported into the museum's KE EMu database and can be displayed as a taxonomically rich, cross-indexed resource). 

I hope to have LinEpig living at the Field Museum this year. In the meantime, enjoy the map. View map.

Nina Sandlin

Nina created and continues to expand an online visual reference gallery that helps museum curators identify some of the most difficult spiders in North America – the minute female Linyphiidae.