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  • A Virtual Museum on the State's Fish Biodiversity

    History

    University of Texas at Austin professor Dr. Clark Hubbs worked, starting at least as early as the 1970’s, toward the vision of producing a book on the Fishes of Texas. He relied for content primarily on his field notes and personal knowledge of the state's fish fauna that stemmed from his extensive statewide fish collecting activities for his diverse research projects. Those projects began in 1949 when he first came to UT and the preserved specimen collection produced later became the fish collection of UT’s Texas Natural Science Center's (Formerly Texas Memorial Museum)Texas Natural History Collection (TNHC). Much more information on Dr. Hubbs is available from the Hubbs Ichthyological Society pages that we created and maintain.

    In the last decades of Dr. Hubbs' life he was joined in this book project by his former graduate students, Dr. Gary Garrett of Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) and Dr. Robert Edwards, professor at University of Texas Pan-American (UTPA).

    In the late-1990's Dr. Dean Hendrickson, Curator of the Fish Collection at the TNHC, formally joined the effort and began to focus on compiling and standardizing all museum specimen-based collections data on the state's fish fauna. From the start, the vision for this database was to provide data for the book as well as to serve it via the Worldwide Web in a way that would complement the hardcopy book. Such a hardbound book may eventually be produced, but since 2006, Hendrickson and his colleagues and assistants have focused on the database and a web interface for it.

    Funding from TPWD and Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) allowed the project to begin to grow to involve more paid and volunteer workers at TNHC. Mr. Adam Cohen started work on the project in 2006 as primary database manager, georeferencer, and general project assistant. Later, Ben Labay, F. Doug Martin, Melissa Casarez, Jeremy Harrison and Blake Sissel joined the team at TNHC, the last working primarily in the lab of one of our primary research collaborators, Dr. Sahotra Sarkar in UT's Section of Integrative Biology. Dr. Gary Garrett, formerly at Texas Parks and Wildlife, joined the team in 2015. In addition, a long list of volunteers and students has been involved in various aspects of the project from its inception.

    In 2009 Dr. Timothy Bonner of Texas State University at San Marcos joined the collaboration by making his group's independently authored species accounts available for inclusion in our web offerings. More recently the University of Texas’ Texas Advanced Computing Center (TACC) has been included as part of the team serving our data to the web, and offering cutting edge digital data maintenance and management as well as super computer processing power for our research that utilizes the now relatively mature database.

    This online database is thus the product of a growing, multi-institutional, and multi-year collaborative effort to consolidate, standardize and fully georeference all of the known scientific information on the freshwater fishes of Texas. All of the collaborators' institutions have provided support by at least allowing the collaborators to dedicate their time to this endeavor, but in some cases they have contributed much more by sponsoring specific sub-projects.

    Now that our data are provided on the web they are available to more people than ever before and our website is designed to accept user comments and contributions, making the world-wide community of researchers, professionals, and public all at least potential collaborators. We hope that many of our users will be collectors who contributed data via specimens they deposited in museums and other users with any kind of expertise and experience that make them uniquely qualified to comment on, and help improve, our data. Please take the opportunity to collaborate on this project. Once vetted by project staff, your contributions will be forever included in our database and digital library.