Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Using Tableau to Explore the Flora of Michigan

One of the first things I worked at UM on was using Tableau to dynamically explore the Flora of Michigan. The example shown below uses a connection to an MS Access database that has been complied by folks at the UM Herbarium. The database shown here represents transcribed records of accessions in the UM Herbarium that have contributed to our knowledge of the Flora of Michigan.

This video is a few months old now but I just wanted to see if I can embed video on the Google Blog platform. I have since transferred these interface to other views that would allow for direct access to the database to workers in the field. For example you could now use your mobile phone to report where you are, a javascript will convert this data to county locality and then show you the accessions that are in the flora for that county using a Tableau interface. That way while in the field you can know that yes, I should collect that stupid common oak because it would actually represent a county record for that species.

The university has recently purchased a site license to Tableau, and will be rolling out a public interface to Tableau early next year. Even more exiting is that I am currently a Beta tester for the v8.1 version of Tableau that allows for direct interaction with the R statistical programming language. This will allow for direct interaction with biodiversity analysis tools like Vegan to be directly available for analysis against live biodiversity databases.

Getting Started

Hopefully this blog will serve as a place for me to post some notes regarding my work in museum informatics. Since July of 2013 I have been  employed as Senior Business Systems Analyst working in the Management Information Systems Group in the College of Literature,Science and the Arts at the University of Michigan. The goal of my position is to serve as a museum informatician working with the various museums within LS&A. The specific museums I will be engaged with over the next few years include the Kelsey Museum of Archaeology, the Herbarium, Museum of AnthropologyMuseum of Paleontology and the Museum of Zoology.

My current day-to-day activities involve working with the library to add tools to the Digital Library Extension Service (DLXS) that is used to host archives of digital media derived from museum objects. Recently I have been modifying the DLXS source code to be able to support microdata tags from to faciliate web indexing of digital media by web search tools such as Google, Yahoo and Bing. The DLXS system is currently used to host over 250 collections of digital media hosted by the UM Digital Library Production Services including many digital media archives from LS&A Museums. I am also working on developing new visualization tools for museum collections using tools such as Tableau to facilitate interacting with the information stored in current museum databases, and I am working to help transition existing collections to the KE EMu database system.

Most of my experiences to date have been in plant genomics, and I look forward to bringing genome scale views of databases and information to the needs in museum informatics at UM.