New Features and Data in the Explorer

Last week, we released a new version of the Canadensys Explorer that has a number of new capabilities. Many of these enhancements were implemented in collaboration with Dr. James Macklin, Research Scientist, Botany and Biodiversity Informatics at Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada. The Canadian Biodiversity Information Facility (CBIF) in partnership with Canadensys intends to use the Explorer codebase to discover and visualize federal biodiversity data.

We will also be welcoming the Royal Ontario Museum (ROM)‘s openly licensed, digitized holdings into the Explorer. Four major collections from the ROM will add new richness and new taxonomic groups to the Explorer. Dr. Bob Murphy is the Senior Curator of the Herpetology Collection, Mr. Erling Holm is an Assistant Curator of the Ichthyology Collection, Dr. Burton Lim is an Associate Curator of the Mammalogy Collection, Dr. Alan Baker is the Senior Curator of the Ornithology Collection, and Brad Millen is the tireless Assistant Curator, Associate Curator, Database technician and Social Media superstar for these collections. We’ve been working with Brad to make sure the ROM data is accurately represented on the Explorer. Their Passeriformes Ornithology Collection and their Mammalogy Collection have been incorporated into the Explorer and other datasets are underway.

For Users

Filter By Type Specimens

A new filter option in the Explorer allows search for type specimens. To date, there are over 3,000 type specimens, just under half of which were collected in Canada. Many of these types are curated at the Lyman Entomological Museum, the Marie-Victorin Herbarium, the University of British Columbia Herbarium, and the Royal Ontario Museum’s Mammalogy Collection.

Reorganized Statistics

The earlier version of the Explorer put many statistics about the occurrence data on a single page. We now separate these summaries into themes and added a table view next to the dynamically-generated figures. This reorganization was important for the visually impaired who may require the use of screen readers and also important for us to better internationalize the content. It also now gives us the freedom to add new summary metrics.

Paging Through Results

An earlier version of the Explorer showed a limited number of records in the Table view. Now we permit paging through records.

Keyboard Navigation

The Table view for occurrence records recognizes your keyboard arrow keys and your enter/return key. So, you can now navigate up/down the rows of the table using your keyboard up/down arrows, you can open/close the fly-out view of a record by using your left/right arrow keys, and you can use your enter/return key to preview a row in the fly-out.

For Informatics Projects

Theming Framework

A major, behind-the-scenes upgrade to the Explorer permits flexible re-use of the MIT-licensed codebase with custom branding or look and feel. We now support the use of SiteMesh3, which affords better separation of content from presentation. SiteMesh has template “decorators” that are declared in a configuration file then stored in a folder. This means you can easily drop in different HTML fragments for headers, footers, or other design elements as well as alternate stylesheets without affecting the functionality of the Explorer while keeping the code up-to-date with new pulls from GitHub. If you’d like to learn more about how you could incorporate the Explorer code in your project, feel free to drop us a line.

Internationalized URLs

Part of our work with Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada required that the Explorer interpret internationalized URLs. We had to change our existing URLs a bit to accommodate this, but we’ve implemented automatic redirects. Please let us know if a previous link you used is now broken; we may not have captured all the permutations in URL redirects. By way of example, the Explorer homepage in English now has the path /en/search whereas in French it is /fr/rechercher. Other languages could be supported in the same way if you have a need to do so in your project.