Contemporary collections of sponges in the Indo-west Pacific have escalated substantially due to pharmaceutical discovery, national bioregional planning, and compliance with international conventions on the seabed and its marine genetic resources beyond national jurisdictions. These partially processed operational taxonomic unit (OTU) collections now vastly outweigh the expertise available to make them better 'known' via complete taxonomy, yet for for many bioregions they represent the most significant body of current available knowledge. Increasing numbers of cryptic species, previously undetected morphologically, are now being discovered by molecular and chemical analyses. The uncoordinated and fragmented nature of many collections, however, means the knowledge and expertise gained from a particular project are often lost to future projects without a biodiversity informatics legacy.
This is the first part of the abstract of a paper that was recently published in Integrative and Comparative Biology. The SpongeMaps Project represents a legacy of the Marine Barcoding project (MarBOL) which I led over the four year of its existence. While the DNA Barcoding activities will carry on as part of iBOL other sub-projects have been finished. The SpongeMaps project was intended to provide an online collaborative platform to integrate morphometric data with DNA Barcodes and other DNA fragments that were generated as part of the Porifera Tree of Life (PorTol). Over time it evolved into a workspace focusing on specimen data that are aggregated into OTUs. It contains all infrastructure to compare images, descriptions, distribution, and chemical components. The approach has some similarities to the BOLD BIN pages (sponge example here) but is certainly more specialized and detailed when it comes to the peculiarities of sponges. By June 2013, 50 000 georeferenced specimens will be online together with 60 000 images (photos in situ, on deck, of preserved specimens, light micrographs, SEMs, line drawings, and sketches). All that will be connected to geographical and genetic data.
SpongeMaps can generate output data in a format that is useful for the Encyclopedia of Life (EOL) and the Atlas of living Australia (ALA) by producing individual ‘‘species-pages’’ that are published directly to both online portals.