Research and conservation efforts in the Neotropics (South and Central America) are dependent upon access to information on the organisms inhabiting this particular region. Many areas within the Neotropics are undergoing rapid environmental deterioration, eliminating biological diversity and ultimately affecting our ability to understand the biology and history of the natural resources of this part of the world. Research programs in diverse fields such as population and community ecology, biogeography, systematics and evolution, and conservation efforts to protect and manage these resources are often hampered by our inability to obtain access to the kind of information already available on these organisms in the research collections of universities and major museums. Recent achievements in computer-aided collection information management have reached a level of sophistication which permit efforts to inventory and enhance this biodiversity information and make these resources more available to the research and conservation community. This project will produce an international, inter-institutional inventory database of collections information on the freshwater fishes of South and Central America. Three major research institutions will cooperate to build a centralized database of biodiversity information on fishes now held in several widely-scattered institutions. Such information includes species identification and taxonomic information, geographic locality and associated collection, habitat and environmental data. Data from several North American and Latin American institutions will be combined into a single database. The project will enhance access to and provide additional research tools for this centralized database. The Academy of Natural Sciences of Philadelphia will coordinate building of the database and development of new research tools. The University of Michigan will serve as the liaison to the Latin American participants, providing technical support and remote access to the database. Cornell University will provide support for developing the interface between the central database and MUSE, the NSF-sponsored collection management system. The results of this project will greatly improve the ability of researchers to gain access to Neotropical fish biodiversity information for use in ecological, biogeographic, evolutionary, and conservation initiatives. This work will also stimulate new lines of research on the fish fauna that otherwise would not be possible nor feasible. Access to the information facilitated by this project will likely stimulate local economies by means of new economic initiatives on the commercial exploitation and management of renewable fisheries resources. Finally, this project will directly assist cooperative research land efforts to stimulate continued interchange between North American scientists and their Latin American counterparts.

National Science Foundation (NSF)
Division of Environmental Biology (DEB)
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Leonard Krishtalka
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Academy of Natural Sciences Philadelphia
United States
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