Staying at the forefront of marine taxonomy: An innovative software solution
Posted on May 11, 2020

Staying at the forefront of marine taxonomy: An innovative software solution

It may come as a surprise to many that taxonomy is a dynamic, evolving field. Changes in climate and trade patterns have led to a steady flow of exotic marine species in to British waters, and standards for identifying specimens in marine samples are at an all-time high.

Diligent research and novel biochemical techniques have led to new discoveries and challenged our assumptions of how creatures are related to each other. So, with a busy marine laboratory identifying tens of thousands of specimens each year, we had to find a way to best support our biologists in making correct identifications when the taxonomic ground is shifting under their feet. The solution? The development of a flexible new software application that could keep pace with the ebb and flow of taxonomic opinion.

Marine Laboratory Supervisor, Jo Gordon, and a biologist turned-software developer, brought their two worlds together to create the solution specifically tailored to our laboratory team’s needs. The brief was for an intuitive application to improve the accuracy of sample analysis, whilst at the same time making the whole process more efficient. It also had to be capable of keeping taxonomically bang up to date for the foreseeable future. No pressure, then. The result is “Mudskipper”, our new, online, benthic sample analysis application built with taxonomic flexibility at its heart. Streamlined to our own sample analysis process, all data is captured directly into the system. And with all specimen identification labels and customer output produced from the application itself, we have simplified the process whilst reducing input errors.

Along with storing biological data and ensuring standardisation in the naming of fauna, we have the entire WoRMS (World Register of Marine Species) data list in the system, enabling us to search for and identify around 300,000 species, including those from non-UK waters. This is great for us as we go from working on samples from Newquay one day to samples from Nicaragua the next.

With the flexibility to respond quickly to changing business conditions, as well as a shifting taxonomic framework, we
are confident we are on-course to remain at the forefront of benthic sample analysis.

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