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By Leonard A. Hindus
The Knowledge Base
The knowledge base is the core of the system. "Right now we keep the knowledge base on a Microsoft Sequel Server," says Schlining, "but we are not wedded to it. The knowledge base constrains the annotators to a set of terms that can later be used to retrieve the data."
The system employs a knowledge base of taxonomic and litho logic terms, equipment, behaviors and other descriptive elements, so that the context and spelling of ideas are consistent. This same knowledge base is employed later by the samples database, so that specimens can be queried for by keywords derived from the same body of terms.
MBARI's knowledge base is a lexicon of more than 3,500 biological, geological and technical terms used to describe deep-sea research conducted by the institute. This database is comprised of objects, which are identifiable things such as Atolla wyvillei jelly, fault, myctophid fish, gas vent and suction sampler. The knowledge base also contains associations, which serve as descriptors, such as blue, large, juvenile or active. The descriptors can be associated with the objects being analyzed. The taxonomic data can be viewed in alphabetic or hierarchical order and is accompanied by descriptive information that serves as a marine-reference guide for system users.
The knowledge base ensures that the data can be accessed by a variety of equivalent terms. For example, the genus Sabastes includes rock cods that are also commonly called rock fish, rock cod or rosefish. The knowledge base recognizes any of those terms for fish of the genus Sabastes.
The Query System
A key to the reference system is its accessibility. "The VARS system is unique in that it is designed to be accessible by anyone anywhere who has access to the Internet," says Stout.