About Informatics is a multi-disciplinary biology and software engineering unit of the Biodiversity Institute. Unlike academic departments and the collection divisions within the Institute, our exclusive focus is on the design, delivery, and support of hardware and software solutions for biological collections research.

Our integrative science "cyberinfrastructure" products include desktop workstation applications, network protocols, computational and analytical web services, as well as technical support.

Department members include biologists and professional software developers with competencies in user interface design, object-oriented software engineering, geospatial data processing, cluster computing, geospatial visualization, science workflow management tools, database programming, and geospatial web services.

The Specify and Lifemapper Projects anchor our research informatics activities. They each have several satellite projects, and both contribute significantly to the global cyberinfrastructure for biodiversity research.

Since our start in 1995, we have been actively engaged as a technology center within the biodiversity research collections community. We collaborate with software development partners and researchers in museums and herbaria around the world to accelerate the mobilization and research utilization of data associated with biological museum specimens.

History

The Informatics Department was founded by Biodiversity Institute Director Kris Krishtalka, in recognition of the potential of "Biodiversity Informatics" as an emerging discipline that would engage the systematics and biological collections research community in broader, interdisciplinary science initiatives to address "Grand Challenges" in environmental biology. The name 'Biodiversity Informatics' had not been coined then, but it has since become the moniker of a vibrant research discipline which applies the concepts and the tools of computer science, software engineering, and data network communications to create highly-integrative and innovative research methods for biodiversity science.

The Informatics Department received a major boost in 2004 when renovation of 2,000 square feet of Dyche Hall created a state-of-the art laboratory and office facility with workspace for 15 researchers, a teleconference/meeting room, and a dedicated server room. The renovation was underwritten by a generous grant from the Occidental Petroleum Charitable Foundation.  Facility and computer hardware grants from U.S. National Science Foundation laid the foundation for research activities.

Over its 15 year history, the Department has grown from two bioinformatics researchers to a staff of 13 which includes biologists, software architects and engineers, data managers, and technical support staff.  Department activities are largely grant-funded through competitive and collaborative research awards. Since its inception the Department of Informatics has earned more than $25M in grant funding and has established itself as an international center for the development and support of biodiversity research software.

Our work pays homage to the tens of thousands of field biologists around the world, who collectively for over 400 years, through determined and undaunted exploration of the planet's wild places, have strived to discover and document the diversity of life on earth.