Software Tools

Project ALAS has come to play an important role as innovator not only in inventory design, but also in the development of new tools for biodiversity informatics. In addition to their crucial roles in Project ALAS for data management, inventory assessment and planning, and analysis of results, these software applications have been made publicly available to the biodiversity research and resource management community.

Biota: The Biodiversity Database Manager

In addition to its daily use in Project ALAS since 1993, Biota now manages specimen-based biodiversity and collections data for biodiversity inventories, collections managers, and ecologists in 40 countries and 47 U.S. states. In 2004, Biota Version 2 was published by Sinauer Associates and simultaneously made available on the Biota website as a full-featured demo version. A comprehensive, 860-page manual accompanies the application..

Biota runs native under Windows XP or Mac OS X with either standalone or client-server architecture. Its easy-to-use graphical interface harnesses the power of a fully relational database powered by an industrial-grade engine (4th Dimension). Biota 2 offers onboard web server capability for internet or intranet database publication. The Project ALAS Specimen Database is published on the web running under the Biota 2 onboard web server.

Other key features include intuitive menus and screens with clear, contextual instruction and error messages; powerful import and export tools; image archiving with transparent links to from external image files to Biota records; literature reference table (easy import from EndNote) with links to Biota records; a picklist system with easy import for authority files; flexible field customization and unlimited auxiliary fields; species synonymy, determination history, and specimen loan systems; and many other tools and features.

EstimateS: Specimen-based, biodiversity statistics software for individuals, institutions, and projects

EstimateS, another product of Project ALAS, provides tools for statistical estimation of species richness and shared species from both incidence and abundance-based sample data. EstimateS 7.5 computes analytical, sample-based rarefaction curves (randomized, sample-based species accumulation curves), with confidence intervals, along with progressive values of nearly 40 statistics (richness, diversity, and related estimators) for increasing re-sample sizes. In addition, EstimateS computes Chao’s shared species estimator and several similarity indices, including Chao’s, estimator-based Jaccard and Sørensen similarity indices. EstimateS is a stand-alone, freeware application available, with User’s Guide, at the EstimateS website. Since first posting in 1996, more than 12,000 users more than 100 countries have downloaded EstimateS. It is widely cited in publications, including 250 citations indexed by ISI.

RangeModel: Monte Carlo simulation tools for visualizing and assessing geometric constraints on species richness

RangeModel is a set of tools for exploring and assessing the “mid-domain effect” (MDE) in linear domains. MDE is the increasing overlap of species ranges towards the center of a shared geographic domain, caused by geometric boundary constraints in relation to the distribution of species' range sizes and midpoints. RangeModel includes several theoretical range/midpoint distributions as built-in options. In addition, the program can be used as an analytical tool to produce the expected distribution of species richness, given random placement of empirical range distributions and range midpoints. Users can import their own empirical or theoretical data into RangeModel from plain text files and export results, including 95% confidence intervals for empirical sampling points, for analysis in spreadsheet or statistical applications. RangeModel is a stand-alone, freeware application available with a User’s Guide at the RangeModel website. Since first posting in 2000, more than 1000 copies of RangeModel have been downloaded, and it is cited in the growing literature on MDE.