Spotlight on Q-bank: Invasive plant keys for Europe

Q-Bank Plants

The Q-bank invasive plants database provides detailed species-level information on all plants species on the EU list of Union concern, associated with EU regulation 1143/2014. This includes fact sheets, look alike pages and DNA barcodes to facilitate identification during border inspection and verification of interceptions in support of the implementation of the EU regulation regarding invasive alien species.

Q-Bank chart

The first interactive key built for Q-bank was to deal with contaminants (weeds) of pot plants imported into Europe. Some of these weeds show invasive behaviour and proper identification is essential to track accidental introductions rapidly. The identification of the weeds in pot plants proved to be difficult as floras (the commonly used identification tools) generally only cover a limited geographical area. Moreover, “traditional” floras seldom include non-native weedy plants. The weeds to be identified originate from many different countries and continents and even include cultivated plants. This means that identification of these weed species using floras is falling short and, for that reason, an inspection tool for identification of these plants had to be developed.

The first species to be included in a key were based on an inventory of weeds found in bonsai plants imported from China. At a later stage more species were added as they were intercepted in pot plants imported from other production regions of the world. Currently the key covers 136 species.

We have chosen Lucid software since the resulting keys are extraordinarily user friendly and intuitive to use. They rely on a visual (‘image-driven’) mode of work, thereby avoiding as much as possible technical (or botanical) terms. The multiple entry keys do not require the user to select characters in a fixed sequence; the user scores characters in the order that suits him or her best. The results of characters selected are immediately shown on-screen. Another reason to choose Lucid is that the user only needs an internet browser and no other software.

The species in the keys are all illustrated by photographs showing the distinguishing characters and a link to species information on Q-bank is provided in the keys. Here users can find more information on the species, a selection of herbarium voucher specimens as well as molecular data. The links between the different databases on invasive plants within Q-bank are shown in the diagram below.

The keys on invasive plant species currently available are:

  1. Weeds in imported pot plants in Europe
  2. Invasive terrestrial plants in Europe
  3. Invasive aquatic plants
  4. Seedlings of invasive plants
  5. Seeds of invasive plants
  6. Pennisetum cultivars

WATTLE: Acacias of Australia Media Release

Identic Media Release Header

Wattle App IconWhat Wattle is that?

A new app – “WATTLE: Acacias of Australia” – will help provide an answer.
Wattles (botanically called Acacia) have great cultural, environmental, scientific and other significance in Australia. Golden Wattle (Acacia pycnantha) is our national floral emblem and 1 September is celebrated annually as our official Wattle Day. A Wattle species is incorporated into the Australian Coat of Arms and the design of The Order of Australia medals, which recognise achievement or meritorious service by citizens, is based on a single wattle blossom. And who isn’t familiar with the “Green and Gold”, our official national colours proudly worn by many Australian sporting teams; these colours are taken from the predominant colours of wattle foliage and flowers. Most recently, different species of wattle are featured on the new currency notes that are being released by the Reserve Bank of Australia.

Wattles are by far the largest group of woody plants in Australia with over 1000 species currently recognised. These species are important to the environment and represent a resource for both social and environmental utilisation. However, to be effectively managed and used, the species must first to be correctly identified. The naming of wattles was greatly simplified in 2001 with the publication on CD of an electronic identification key called WATTLE; this key was subsequently updated and made available on the web in 2014.

Now we have the WATTLE App, a revised electronic key that was released on Wattle Day this year. This key retains the best characteristics of earlier editions of WATTLE but includes more species and adds features that make species identification easier and more accurate. The WATTLE App can be downloaded to an Android/Apple smartphone or tablet. No phone or Wi-Fi connection is required to use the key, making it especially valuable for people working in the field. The WATTLE App is therefore a very useful tool for researchers, conservationists, amateur botanists, horticulturalists and indeed, for anyone interested in naming wattles, either within Australia or in other countries where wattles are found.

Like its predecessors the WATTLE App uses the powerful Lucid program that helps to make the naming process quick, simple and reliable. To name specimens users answer a few simple questions regarding morphological features of the plant they are trying to identify – its leaf form, flower details, etc. – or where the plant is found in Australia. Based on answers to questions Lucid progressively removes species from a list of 1270 different kinds of wattle, leaving just a few or a single wattle that the specimen is likely to be.

The WATTLE App incorporates images and text to help users understand and correctly interpret morphological features of their plant. Similarly, most of the 1270 different types of wattle included in the key are accompanied by line drawings, photographs, maps and the most recent descriptive information, all of which help users confirm the identity of the plant they are trying to name.

The WATTLE key has been developed over the past 20 years or more by Bruce Maslin, assisted by many other Australian botanists. Funding to support the development of the these keys, and the WATTLE App, has been provided by the Australian Biological Resources Study, IDENTIC, the Atlas of Living Australia and other agencies.

The Android and Apple versions of the WATTLE App can be downloaded from the Google Play and iTunes app stores respectively on payment of $9.95 to help fund further content updates and software upgrades.

Similar Lucid Mobile identification apps include “Rainforest Plants of Australia: Rockhampton to Victoria” (released) and “Snakes of Australia” (due for release later this year) [See www.lucidcentral.org].

Media note: To interview Bruce Maslin contact: Anthony Whalen (General Manager, Australian Biological Resources Study, Department of the Environment and Energy. m: 0411 512 248. e: Anthony.Whalen@environment.gov.au

Weeds of South-East Queensland and Northern NSW Media Release

Would you like help in identifying troublesome weeds – in your garden, on your farm, or in recreation or conservation areas?

Weeds of South-East Queensland and Northern NSW App home screen

Weeds of South-East Queensland and Northern NSW – an updated weed identification and information app – may be what you are looking for. This free app has recently been released on Google Play Store and Apple iTunes, through sponsorship from four South East Queensland councils.

The app includes over 700 weed species found in suburban, rural, environmental and agricultural situations. It is an invaluable resource for gardeners, Landcare and Bushcare volunteers, weed control officers, ecologists, researchers, students, and others interested in learning more about the weeds found in our region.

This latest version using the Lucid Mobile platform now includes:

  • An interactive, easy to use Lucid identification key
  • Best practice guide in using the key to identify weed species
  • Fact sheets with in-depth descriptions of specific weeds
  • Over 8,000 colour photographs of weeds and diagnostic features
  • Information about plants suitable for replacing suburban weeds
  • Details of Prohibited and Restricted weeds in Queensland
  • A glossary of commonly used botanical terms

The latest version of the app has a much-reduced storage footprint, allowing images associated with the identification tool to be downloaded as required, with the option to download all the images to your device for use offline in the field or when using the app with poor network connectivity.

The following Queensland councils supported this update of the content and upgrade of the Lucid Mobile platform, enabling the app to be freely available:

  • Brisbane City Council
  • Sunshine Coast Council
  • Gold Coast City Council
  • Bundaberg Regional Council

Weeds of South-East Queensland and Northern NSW sponsors

Download the app free from:

Android Lucid Mobile Apphttps://play.google.com/store/apps/details?d=com.lucidcentral.mobile.sew_full&hl=en_AU

 

Apple iOS Lucid Mobile Apphttps://itunes.apple.com/au/app/weeds-of-south-east-qld/id935518023?mt=8

 

Download screen shots:

App screen shots (ZIP – 1MB)

Spotlight on Lucid users – USDA’s Systematic Entomology Laboratory

USDA

Systematic Entomology Laboratory Beltsville

Introduction

The Systematic Entomology Laboratory (SEL), as part of the USDA’s in-house Agricultural Research Service, develops and transfers solutions to agricultural problems of high national priority and provides information access and dissemination. Located in Beltsville, Maryland and Washington, DC, SEL is involved in a range of entomological projects, including the development of a number of Lucid keys for insect and mite pests. A number of these projects have involved USDA’s Identification Technology Program (see previous Spotlight article) as well as other collaborators. Brief details of these keys are provided below.

Systematic Entomology Laboratory DC

Scale insect keys:

  • Since scale insects are among the most commonly encountered insects at ports of entry, a key to Scale Families (http://idtools.org/id/scales/key.php?families) was built to help identify all known families of scale insects. Despite some disagreement about the status of a few of these families, this list is consistent with the hypotheses of most coccidologists.
  • A key to Mealybug and Mealybug-like Families (http://idtools.org/id/scales/key.php?key=mealybugs) was built specifically to help identify species in three closely related scale insect families previously included in the Pseudococcidae, or mealybugs (Pseudococcidae, Putoidae, and Rhizoecidae).
  • The Soft Scales key (http://idtools.org/id/scales/key.php?key=soft) was built to help identify pest species (Coccidae). Many soft scales are serious pests, particularly as invasive species. In the United States there are 42 introduced species of soft scales and 41 of them are pests.
  • A fourth key deals with Other Scales (http://idtools.org/id/scales/key.php?key=other), pest scales in various families not treated elsewhere but which have been or thought likely to be intercepted at U.S. ports-of-entry.

A tool for identifying aphids:

  • AphID (http://aphid.aphidnet.org/index.php) allows users to key the 66 most polyphagous and cosmopolitan aphid species intercepted at U.S. ports of entry. In addition to a Lucid key, AphID offers users detailed descriptions of morphological features critical to identifying aphids along with annotated photographs to help illustrate each feature. This site benefits workers in aphid taxonomy and systematics worldwide, biological control workers, extension agents, and federal and state regulatory agencies.

Mite identification:

  • Flat Mites of the World (http://idtools.org/id/mites/flatmites/), the result of collaborative research with the University of Maryland and USDA-APHIS, provides detailed, interactive web based identification tools and a catalog for use internationally by identifiers, regulatory officials and other plant protection professionals. The citrus-tea-coffee flat mite complex of species is the most complicated and diverse group in the flat mite family as well as being the most commonly intercepted group of mites at U.S. ports-of-entry.
    Since three of the most economically important species in the family are consistently confused and misidentified, the tool helps to identify 36 genera of flat mites present throughout the world, including specific diagnostics for 13 species in the red palm mite group, 14 species in the common red flat mite complex, and mite species associated with orchid plants. Since its launch in March 2012 there have been over 123,800 visits to the website with inquiries from 180 countries.
  • Key to Bee mites (http://idtools.org/id/mites/beemites/)
    The purpose of this interactive web based identification tool, developed in collaboration with the University of Michigan and USDA-APHIS, is to help identify 117 mite species that may be found on various types of temperate and tropical bees and in their nests. The Lucid key and a searchable image gallery of over 850 mite images helps users to distinguish harmless mites from those that might harm bee colonies. This identification tool is useful to bee keepers, scientists, extension agents, and quarantine officers worldwide: since its launch in November 2016, there have been 8115 visits to the site from 133 countries.

Fruit fly keys:

SEL has been involved in the development of a number of fruit fly identification tools, including:

Leaf beetle tools:

  • Diabrotica ID (http://idtools.org/id/beetles/diabrotica/) is an identification tool for all 125 Diabrotica species known to occur in North and Central America. Diabrotica species feed on flowers, leaves and roots of a wide variety of herbaceous plants, including agricultural crops, vegetables, fruits and ornamentals, and are vectors of viral and other lethal plant diseases. A single species, D. virgifera, is estimated to cause one billion dollars damage annually. The tool provides species descriptions, detailed illustrations and keys to help identify pest and potentially invasive species from innocuous, native US species.

Spotlight on China

Lucid keys have been and are being developed by local authors in over 176 countries. One country that has developed a number of Lucid keys in the past few years is China; Lucid is used in over 50 organisations and government departments. One standout Lucid key developer is Dr Xiaobin Zhang at the Zhejiang Academy of Agricultural Sciences in Hangzhou (Zhejiang Province), who is providing support for the development of a range of Lucid keys on various agricultural topics within China.

Bamboo Pests Lucid App splash screenBamboo Pests Lucid App interface screen

One recent project that Dr Zhang has participated in involves collaboration with colleagues at Zhejiang Agriculture & Forestry University to develop a key for the identification of bamboo pests in China. This key has recently been released and is the first Lucid Mobile identification app that has been developed in China.

The free app is currently only available for Android smartphones and tablets and can be downloaded from Google Store. https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.lucidcentral.mobile.bamboo_pests&hl=en

Another, Lucid key that is available online has been developed by the Zhejiang Entry-Exit Inspection and Quarantine Bureau to provide quarantine staff with support in identifying intercepted wood borers (Pissodes spp).

Wood Borers ChinaWood borer fact sheet China

Other Lucid keys developed in China include –

  • The Identification of pests of Camellia sinensis, the seeds of which are used to produce Tea Seed Oil
    [Zhejiang Agriculture & Forestry University]
  • An identification tool for small fly species within the Genus Homoneura.
    [Inner Mongolia Agricultural University]
  • A Lucid key for the identification of mosquitos of medical importance at points of entry
    [Zhejiang Entry-Exit Inspection and Quarantine Bureau]
  • Identification of silkworm germplasm resources in China
    [Zhejiang Academy of Agricultural Sciences]

For further information about these Lucid keys or for details concerning the Chinese version of the Lucid Builder, please contact Dr Xiaobin Zhang:
Email: riceipm1@zju.edu.cn.
Mobile: 180-7280-8592

Pestnet Community reporting app

The Lucid team has been busy this year working on a project funded by the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR) to develop a reporting system and mobile app for the international PestNet community. This will enable the PestNet community help those in the South Pacific and others throughout the world obtain rapid advice and information on plant protection, including quarantine. It will eventually replace the Yahoo email group which has been operating for well over a decade.

Pestnet app workflow

Spotlight on Lucid users – Identification Technology Program – Invasive Bees

By USGS Bee Inventory and Monitoring Lab from Beltsville, Maryland, USA [Public domain], via Wikimedia CommonsIntroduction

As part of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) Plant Protection and Quarantine (PPQ) division, the role of the Identification Technology Program is to develop digital products to support efficient and accurate identification of plant pests. The process used by the ITP team to achieve this aim is shown below.

ITP Lucid key project development process

Developing an invasive bee key

A previous Lucid newsletter (November 2015) described some Lucid products developed by the ITP, this spotlight article focuses on the development of identification tools to invasive bees, and some of the activities involved in the early stages of the project.

With many studies suggesting that bee populations and species are declining, with a potentially devastating impact on American agriculture, President Obama in 2014 established a Federal strategy to better understand the factors that affect the health of honey bees and other pollinators.

Invasive bees are known to compete with and displace native pollinators but can also bring along harmful exotic pathogens and parasites. In this context, a project – Invasive Bee ID – has the objective of developing accessible, user-friendly resources, tailored to support off-shore, port-of-entry, state, and local personnel responsible for screening and identifying native, introduced, and potentially invasive bee species in the USA.

The Invasive Bee ID team includes several entomologists from Utah State University (USU), a USDA Agricultural Research Service entomologist, who also curates the National Pollinating Insects Collection at USU, and a USDA APHIS port identifier who specializes in bees. ITP has worked with the USU team to map out a three-year work plan that includes multiple keys to genera and species of agriculturally important native and invasive bees, fact sheets and images, and additional supporting web content.

To kick off the project, ITP provided the team with training in creating Lucid keys and using ITP’s tool building methods and support software. Through the entire project, ITP will help support the Invasive Bee ID and the release of ID tools in three stages; new keys and fact sheets will be added each year.

More information on the ITP can be found in an article in the online Newsletter – “Plant Protection Today” https://www.aphis.usda.gov/aphis/ourfocus/planthealth/ppq-program-overview/plant-protection-today/articles/id-tools

PPQ Pest Identification Article

Spotlight on Lucid users – Landcare Research in New Zealand

Introduction

Landcare Research NZ, a Crown Research Institute, has created nine online plant keys hosted at http://www.landcareresearch.co.nz/resources/identification/plants. Landcare Research New ZealandThese keys, mostly funded by the New Zealand Terrestrial & Freshwater Biodiversity Information System Programme (TFBIS), have been available since 2005 and will be updated to the Lucid JavaScript player edition in the near future.

The main Landcare Research authors, David Glenny, Murray Dawson, and Kerry Ford (at the Allan Herbarium), have collaborated with other colleagues, including Trevor James (weed scientist at AgResearch) and Jeremy Rolfe (Department of Conservation), to develop the following keys:

Key No#. taxa Brief Details
Key to flowering plant genera 1090 genera Native and naturalised genera (not cultivated-only)
NZ Weeds 667 taxa Similar to Environmental Weeds of Australia Lucid key – same architecture
NZ grasses 501 taxa Native and naturalised species
Native orchids 123 species Plus many tag-names
Coprosma spp. 53 species All native
Cotoneaster 26 species Wild or in cultivation
Weedy daisy 50 taxa Naturalised and weedy Asteraceae in the South Pacific region
  • Key to Australasian liverwort and hornwort generaA Lucid CD-ROM key to Australasian liverwort and hornwort genera, created by David Glenny and Bill Malcolm and including 181 New Zealand and Australian genera.
  • Two keys developed by two Teacher Fellows, hosted at Landcare Research:
    • Native plants for schools and marae (61 taxa)
    • Biodiversity assessment at Styx Mill Conservation Reserve (74 species of plants, birds, insects, etc.)
  • Two free Lucid Mobile apps available on Google Store and iTunes:
      • NZ Coprosma KeyCoprosma: a genus of native New Zealand woody plants. The app was created to help identify plants during ecological survey work, but is also useful to students, researchers, and others in the New Zealand botanical community.

     

     

     

Spotlight on Lucid users – Walter Reed Army Institute of Research

Introduction

Walter Reed Army Institute of ResearchMosquitoes have been important vectors of human pathogens for thousands of years, the recent outbreak of Zika virus being the latest evidence of the continuing risk they present. To address the problem of identifying different mosquito species, taxonomists at the Walter Reed Biosystematics Unit (WRBU – http://wrbu.si.edu/), within the National Museum of Natural History (NMNH), Smithsonian Institution, have been working since the early 1960s to provide taxonomic information on the various genera and species of mosquito that transmit malaria, dengue and other pathogens.

The WRBU has focussed on building up, curating, and publishing on a mosquito collection, which is now the largest in the world, comprising over 1.5 million specimens. A primary role of the WRBU is to provide support for military personnel and others at the front line who require help in mosquito identification as part of vector-borne disease prevention. To this end, the Unit has been involved for some time in developing online computer-based identification keys for various regions of the world.

While some of these interactive, diagnostic matrix keys are still in development, many keys (>150) can be accessed from a Lucid Server via the WRBU website at – http://wrbu.si.edu/aors/aors_keys.html.

As shown in the following image, users can click on the geographic command (COM) area of concern for a list of keys appropriate to that region.

Mosquito Key regions

Key to Central American Malaria VectorsA recent development is the creation of Lucid Mobile Apps to enable easier access to the keys in the field. The first app is for Central American Malaria Vectors.

iOS iOS App – Apple iTunes

Android Android – Google Play Store

Spotlight on Lucid users – Australian Museum

amlogo2_smlIn 1827 Australia’s first public museum, the Sydney Museum or Colonial Museum, was established with the initial purpose to procure ‘many rare and curious specimens of Natural History’. Subsequently named the Australian Museum in 1836, today the Museum plays a leading role in taxonomic and systematic research and education and over the years has developed an internationally recognised collection of over 18 million cultural and scientific objects.

A decade ago, as part of its educational role, the Museum started producing a series of Lucid keys for identifying specific groups of insects and reptiles present in New South Wales. Now that these keys can be more easily accessed across the Internet, they have recently been transferred to the Lucid Key Server Player.

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