A Virtual Museum on the State's Fish Biodiversity

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Starting over a century and half ago museum collectors, determiners, curators, and data managers began what FoTX continues. FoTX aims to bring their contributions together in a single standardized online database.
Our mission includes compiling, extensively processing and serving high quality specimen-based occurrence data and related resources from many museums.
The initial data set includes only museum specimen-based data - the highest quality, and only verifiable source of occurrence records available.
We've visited or received specimens on loan from most of our donor institutions to verify and correct (if needed) thousands of suspicious specimen identifications. This work is ongoing and our database is updated periodically with new determinations.
Museum data initially recorded in bound paper ledgers have been independently digitized at many institutions. Now projects like ours are needed to take full advantage of the huge amounts of data that exist but have never before been readily available in a standardized format.
FoTX’s extensive and meticulous data improvement efforts make it the most reliable source for Texas fish occurrence data.
Occurrence maps showing stepwise improvement via via our methodical data processing to eventually allow production of species distribution models.
The >123,000 occurrence records are from >7,500 sites covering the state and beyond.
Example of an occurrence map from the website. Suspect records are never discarded, but clearly flagged until specimens can be examined and identifications and other data confirmed.
Our specimen pages show FoTX edits (left) and the verbatim data (right). Records are mapped and associated images and field notes provided. Users can comment and upload relevant documentation.
The text for our species accounts is from Texas Freshwater Fishes Project, now a collaborator on this project.
We provide an interactive version of a published key to the identification of Texas fishes, as well as new types of experimental, interactive and fully illustrated keys and species accounts in our Sandbox.
A goal of the project is preservation of deteriorating specimens and associated data found in specimen jars. At TNHC we also have accepted many “orphaned” specimens from various institutions no longer able to care for them.
We have digitized original collectors' field notes and other archived records, many not examined since deposition at donor museums, thus archiving these valuable data verification documents permanently here and making them accessible to new users.
We also serve thousands of photographs of specimens and their original museum, collector, and determiner labels and notes.
Hundreds of illustrations of Texas fish species by Joe Tomelleri are available on our species account pages.
We also have hundreds of photographs of live specimens in their natural habitats taken by Garold Sneegas and others.
We also provide hundreds of other images, including x-rays and details of diagnostic specimen anatomy.
Collectors’ field photographs are also available, including images of habitat, collectors, and specimens at the time of collection.
Our own research has used the data served here to create species distribution models that convert occurrence points to statewide probabilities of occurrence that have diverse applications.
Example of a species distribution model for the Red River Pupfish, Cyprinodon rubrofluviatilis.
We assembled a modeled fish community for a never-before collected Central Texas stream, then surveyed it and found the models to be good predictors of the community (with explainable differences). Now we are testing and developing methods for using models in stream bioassessment.
Data and models are being used to experiment with predicting how changing climatic conditions might affect species distributions over time.
We are also experimenting, in conjunction with our partners, with using our data and models to define priority areas for conservation.
FoTX is an ambitious project with big plans for the future. Monitor our progress via our "What's New" page.

A product of the
Ichthyology Collection of the
Texas Natural History Collections

Texas Natural History Collections
in the Biodiversity Collections of the Department of Integrative Biology at

The University of Texas at Austin

In collaboration with, and support from

Texas Parks and Wildlife Department Texas Commission on Environmental Quality

and others