As the manager of the Mammal Species of the World Project and editor (read: sucker) of what has been called the “bible of mammal taxonomy”, I naively sought out digital scholarship assistance to fill a specific need – to create a flexible database to house the evolving data on every living mammal in the world. The partnership that formed over several years of project development (read: we are all crazy busy) simply transformed my vision for the project. The new Mammal Species of the World data gateway is sophisticated, adaptable, of infinite utility, and quite frankly, beautiful.
As the digital portal has entered the final stages of development and refinement, I look forward to the weekly, semi-weekly, and even sometimes daily team meetings. The somewhat motley crew is a playful and creative group. Our brains think differently but synergistically. I have learned a lot about how data are managed, manipulated, and visualized – and about what is possible – more than I could have imagined. The digital scholarship team members have learned a lot about mammals, about myriad taxonomic rules and about how and why sometimes scientists sometimes can’t make up their minds (read: the need for a flexible and adaptable database). On many occasions – my frantic scrawling of the mammal tree of life on the giant glass walls of the digital scholarship center and harangue of those troublesome rabbits has generated “aha” moments for the team. Likewise, their scribbling of dendrograms on the wall and projection and tutorials of the web portal on the large screen have generated the same for me. We have all found our own favorite mammal – and even made up a few – all for the noble cause of testing the databases powers. I have even come to love a well-made Trello Board – google it!