ADW Technology

ADW's system architecture

Our system involves several parts. (Figure 1 from the manuscript mentioned below)

Mousetrap is our development environment, providing online tools to allow contributors and editors to manipulate content stored in an object-oriented database. TaxonDB is a relational database providing both a taxonomic authority for content developers in Mousetrap, and a means of browsing the public sites taxonomically. The public sites are the content-rich pages and searching and browsing tools available to the general public, each customized to different audiences but drawing from the same databases. As an example, the ADW site is expanded to show its subparts. The BioKIDS site is a special subset of our information tailored for 5th and 6th graders in southeastern Michigan who are using the BioKIDS:Kids Inquiry of Diverse Species curriculum.

ADW's taxonomic database

Eventually there will be a better way, but currently ADW uses a local relational database, constructed by integrating a number of publicly available sources. See our Authority lists for details of the sources, and ADW's taxonDB schema for the architecture of the relational database.

Creating and publishing content

Much of ADW's data is created by college students. If you teach a college course and want your students to contribute to ADW, please contact us.

Our data template allows contributors to provide content in a highly structured manner so that it can be searched effectively. This structuring also allows us to easily alter the presentation of the content, altering section headings or keyword vocabulary for example. A key aspect of our system is that when we update our template the legacy data remains searchable and displayable.

You can see a fully expanded sample of the template here, including embedded instructions:

ADW Sample template

In the real working version, this would be customized for the taxon that is being written about, and only one section is opened at a time. A full list of our keywords and data fields may also be useful to you.

Table of terms and definitions

If you are interested in machine-readable forms of the current template, we provide it here in a couple of different formats:

XML Data template


Protege project files, in OWL

Please note that the ontology is in draft form and is not yet directly used by our back-end. We welcome comments!

The process of developing content using MouseTrap is shown below (Figure 2 from manuscript below). On the left is how content is created from the perspective of a student contributor. The right side shows what happens from the point of view of the system.

Interested in more detail?

For more detail about our current back-end technology, see Parr et al., a manuscript we have submitted to the Data Science Journal.

You may also be interested in the presentation about this work given at the 19th International CODATA Conference: The Information Society: New Horizons for Science, Berlin, Germany, 9 November 2004.


Cynthia Parr (author).