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  • A Virtual Museum on the State's Fish Biodiversity

    Frequently Asked Questions

    I found a record from a location in Mexico and another from Oklahoma. Why are there records from outside the state of Texas?

    The database contains ALL records that we received from our donors upon our request for Texas records. Donors often gave more than requested to be absolutely sure that we received all of their Texas records including those on the opposite banks of border rivers. Thus we have many records from the Gulf of Mexico and Texas’ US and Mexican border states. We provide these records that are beyond our geographic scope since some will in fact contain locality errors and actually be from Texas (we hope users will help us correct those) and many are located in basins shared with Texas and thus of ecological significance in relation to Texas fishes. Thus many users will be interested in such records despite the fact that they have not been georeferenced or processed to the extent in-state records have. Since these records have not been georeferenced they are not available via queries on geographic fields. Users interested in these will achieve best results by querying on verbatim data fields.

    I am looking for a collection of specimens that I made and donated to one of your donors and don’t see it here. Why might that be?

    If your record was georeferenced by us it should be easily found and if not georeferenced it may be harder to find. It is possible that your query could use some fine tuning. Try searching by using other fields (i.e. if you know the year of collection try that, try searching by institution) and if it still cannot be found try using the verbatim data fields. In the verbatim fields search for common spelling variants of collector names, taxon names or locations - data are often entered incorrectly at the donor or have changed since the time of collection. Sometimes errors in locality descriptions (bad spellings or internal conflicts) are significant enough to prevent georeferencing thus they cannot pulled in queries on geographic fields. We encourage users to inform us of errors either by using the comment fields or e-mailing us (FishesofTexas@gmail.com).

    Some data are not yet in our database. Before data become visible in our online database several steps must occur. Specimens must be cataloged at the donor institution. This typically requires proper identification of the specimens and entry into their database. For many institutions this can take some time (depending on funding and staff time) and some have backlogs of uncataloged specimens from as long ago as the 1950’s. Our own collection (Texas Natural History Collections) recently completed cataloging of our backlog and all of those data are included or soon will be included in the Fishes of Texas Project database. After cataloging we must receive the data from our donors, which is typically only upon our request. We have no control over cataloging operations at other institutions; however, our intent (at TNHC) is to reduce the time from specimen donation to appearance in the database significantly so that users can quickly see their data online. This will improve donation rates and data quality since users can verify how their data were entered into our database and contact us if they find errors. Furthermore users may be inclined to supplement their data by uploading scanned field notes or photographs related to the collection.

    I disagree with some of your data.

    Users should feel free to comment using our online comment features regarding any data in the website that they are dubious of or have specific knowledge that could correct an error. We will address user comments in a timely manner.

    Ichthyologists and biologists in general understand the difficulty in assigning identifications to specimens. This can be made more difficult with preserved specimens which often lack pigmentation and in some cases are degraded or missing critical diagnostic features. In some cases small specimens can be difficult to manipulate to count scales or fin rays. Users who disagree with our or our donors’ determinations are encouraged to share that information via comment forms or by e-mailing us (FishesofTexas@gmail.com). Preferably users doing so have examined those specimens in person and provide details explaining the basis of their identification.

    I want to contribute to this project in some way. How can I help?

    One of our goals is to get the public, students and researchers involved in contributing and improving our data (so called “citizen science”). There are many ways to contribute to our project. One of the easiest ways is to help improve our data by using our online comment forms or contacting us directly by e-mail. Users can also upload scanned field notes or photographs. Attachments can be assigned to specific records (specimen level) in our database or at the taxon level. You must register to be able to do so and all content will be vetted first by our staff. Users with many images to contribute may send them to us by e-mail for uploading.

    Users with specimens (either personal or institutional collections) or occurrence data that would be appropriate for this database should contact us about donating specimens to the Texas Natural History Collections and/or data to the Fishes of Texas Project. We strongly encourage anyone collecting fish in Texas to deposit voucher specimens in a natural history collection.

    Private collectors, fishermen and the public are encouraged to upload images of their catches and collections at the taxon level or send them to us via e-mail. These images will eventually become photo-vouchered records in our database, provided we can identify the specimen from the image and sufficient data are also included (date of collection, location of collection). We expect that records for some important species may be gained from the public.

    We are also looking for enthusiastic volunteers to assist with numerous tasks related to this ongoing project. If you are interested in volunteering and can do so on a regular weekly schedule please contact us.

    Why can’t I download data? Do I need to register?

    Yes, you need to register in order to download data (both KML and CSV files). Registering will also allow you to make comments and contribute images and field notes. All comments and uploads will be vetted by our staff before being made visible to the public. If you've already registered and have the proper permissions you may be trying to download files that contain over 10,000 records. Try reducing your query size by making two or more sub-queries - you can then recombine results outside of the website. See Data Downloads for more details.

    Why are there two or more records of what I (and I think most people) would call a single museum lot?

    Typically our records represent specimen(s) of a single species collected during a single collecting event (date and place) and database records represent a jar on a museum’s shelf. See Instances of Record Duplication for exceptions.

    Why are there point coordinates that are not on waterbodies? Don’t fish always live in water?

    We attempted to georeference our localities as accurately as possible. Due to vague locality descriptions, we were in many cases not able to place points on specific waterbodies. However, our error estimate should be inclusive of all the possible waterbodies where the collection may have truly occurred. See Georeferencing and Geographic Units and Geographic Methods for more details.

    I see discrepancies between some of the field notes and the data in your database.

    This might be a result of errors related to data entry or transfer between database systems at our donors over the lifetime of the record from the day it was first entered into a handwritten ledger or digital database. Most errors are minor, but others are important and can justify changing our database accordingly. Often species ID’s written in field notes are incorrect and have since been corrected in the lab (and now our database as well) where specimens can be examined much more carefully. Field ID’s should be considered with this understanding. We are currently aware of some minor discrepancies and are working to correct those. Users should make us aware of any significant discrepancies using the online comment forms.

    Some of your species accounts conflict with your data base.

    We are aware that many conflicts exist. Our species accounts are independently authored and come from the TexasFreshwater Fishes Website based mostly on published literature. We are working to address conflicts between the two.

    I queried the database for records from one county, but didn’t get some that I know should be there.

    The most likely reason for this is that those records have coordinates that we placed on a neighboring county, probably with an error radius that overlaps your queried county. Those records likely are on a stream that is the border between two counties and are assigned to a county neighboring the one you are interested in. Users should query neighboring counties as well as their county of interest and also check the verbatim data if records can still not be found. Future improvements to our website will allow “smart” queries that pull all records with error radii overlapping geographic search criteria. See Georeferencing and Geographic Units and Geographic Methods for more details regarding our georeferencing.

    Some data looks to have changed since last time I looked. How could this happen?

    This may happen time to time, although we will never change the donor’s verbatim data unless they do and pass it on to us. Our data editing process is ongoing and will probably never truly end. We continue to examine specimens that we are suspicious of, usually geographic outliers. And we have recently begun an intensive verification project at the Texas Natural History Collection looking at species pairs which are often confused. Many other errors are brought to our attention from our users. We will make edits to our data in batches, creating new versions of the database each time, which can be tracked in our Version Tracking section. Users should also look at our What’s New Section to learn about other events relevant to our project.

    How do I query for hybrids?

    At this time hybrids can be found by searching the donor's verbatim data or see the Hybrids section of our documentation for another work around.