Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History

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Carboniferous

The ETE Database

The ETE Database is a computerized database for research in terrestrial paleoecology. It is designed to allow broad-scale comparisons of the paleobiology and paleoecology of terrestrial ecosystems and their plant and animal communities. By allowing researchers rapid access to a large array of standardized information, it will facilitate detailed comparisons on a locality-by-locality basis of paleocommunity structure, paleovegetation, and paleoenvironments, and the tracing of patterns of in biological structural change in terrestrial ecosystems over geologic time. The Database allows direct analyses to be performed on its contents, and allows researchers interactive access for browsing the contents and formulating specific queries.

 

The basic entity in the ETE Database is a fossil locality -- a significant collection of fossil specimens from a particular geographic location. For each locality, besides its name, age, and location, there are a number of fields of sedimentological, taphonomic, and paleoecological data (including inferences about paleovegetation and paleoenvironment). In addition, for each locality there is a species list, and for each species in the Database a set of 25-30 morphological and ecological descriptors. These fields are all described in detail in The ETE Database Manual, 1997.

 

The ETE program has completed the initial period of database design, and data capture is underway. For a database of this kind, a number of the paleoecological data fields are inferential and in need of further research. In addition, existing data in the literature, in museum collections, and associated with in-progress research activities are unevenly documented and in need of updating. Work is being done to resolve as far as possible existing inconsistencies and ambiguities. In order to develop effective procedures for managing the research activity necessary for adequate data preparation, ETE is working on pilot data-entry projects that will allow us to tackle larger-scale projects in the future.

 

At present, the ETE program is reviewing its policies concerning on-line access to the original ETE Database (in addition to the version currently available through the Paleobiology Database). The professional paleontological research community can access the database through consultation with individual researchers.

 

For general contact information on researchers affiliated with the ETE Program at the National Museum of Natural History, see ETE People.

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