RMBR Zoological Specimen Databases
Status Report, 13 April 2002
Status report, 03 August 2006

N. Sivasothi
Database Manager,
Raffles Museum of Biodiversity Research, NUS

Note to researchers: How you can help

  1. If you have or are planning to deposit specimens, please provide me with a soft copy of your data. I can probably translate it into excel. Will reduce errors and save on manpower. Even if these are word labels.
  2. Please write student hire into grant proposals and liase with me.
  3. Source for funding opportunities; I will begin submitting grant proposals in June.


A. Migration path
B. Source of financing
C. Documentation developed since 1999
D. Curator migration since 1999
E. Status of curators
F. Catalogue book migration

G. Jobs Queue I - Hire of Biology undergraduates
H. Jobs Queue II - IT poly student attachment
I. Status of Databases - VERTEBRATES
J. Status of Databases - INVERTEBRATES
H. Future plans

A. Migration path

The zoological specimen databases is being migrated along these lines.

  1. Labels,
  2. Catalogue Books (introduced in the 1970's),
  3. MUSE (introduced in 1992 for birds)
  4. Excel (introduced in 1999),
  5. Excel verification,
  6. Access
  7. SQL - web ready version, restricted access to data (introduced 2002 in collaboration with SIBILL's Lim Yun Ping)


B. Source of financing

Intermittent, and is provided by:

  1. Undergraduate student hire (hired via RPs or Dept EOM),
  2. Polytechnic attachments (Dept EOM/now OOE), Note: Dept OOE will probably be withdrawn by April 2002 for this purpose. The Ford Grant for Biodiversity of Singapore Project will provide me with the hire of 2 x 2 months x 2nd year biology undergrads (training involved). They can probably complete the Fish database entry.
  3. Volunteers (rare, considered for special interest groups in the future).
  4. Polytechnic attachments, self-financed (paid for by Singapore Polytechnic via arrangement by Adrian Elangovan), 2001.
  5. RMBR OOE will be used to obtain at least two polytechnic student on attachment for other databasing tasks, not data entry. E.g. Developing a user interface for specimen labels from excel sheets.


C. Documentation developed since 1999

  1. Converting MUSE to EXCEL - Version 1.0 (2000). Version 2.0 (2002). *Note: all existing MUSE databases were converted by March 2002.
  2. Documentation for Amphibian and Reptile Specimen Database.
  3. Instruction Menu for using Amphibian Specimen Database.
  4. Instruction Menu for using Reptilian Specimen Database.
  5. Converting Marine Biology specimen word labels into Excel database.


D. Curator migration since 1999

Curator migration to immediate enrty of specimen data into computers has been advanced along these lines:

  1. Secure adequate computer for curator (non-shared unit).
  2. Provide template/standardisation
  3. Advise on excel data entry, standardisation codes, backup etc.
  4. Direct data entry (without catalogue book entry) from current specimens.
  5. Backlog of specimens is converted by data entry projects.


E. Status of curators


  1. Received second-hand computer 133MHz in 1999 (Dept allocation to SS).
  2. Initiated direct data entry for crab specimens in Excel.
  3. As of 2002, Second in line for upgraded computer system.


  1. Received second-hand computer 233MHz in 2002 (Dept allocation to DY).
  2. To be provided excel template and training for data entry.


  1. Received second-hand laptop in 2002 (presented to SS by HK Voris, 2001).
  2. Will convert to direct data entry into excel in May 2002, after training.
  3. As of 2002, next in line for upgraded computer system (desktop).


F. Catalogue book migration

  1. In Access and SQL = Amphibia, Reptiles. Try the web-interface (Version 1.0) prepared by Yun Ping for minimum (guest) recovery of data. E.g. Try using Species: salavator. Login: ****, Password: ******
  2. In Excel - Current Crustacea, Fish books 1-5.
  3. In Catalogue books: Invertebrates except current crustacea.
  4. In labels only: most of birds.


G. Jobs Queue I - Hire of Biology undergraduates

  1. Next in queue for data entry: Fish books 6-8, Mammals, Corals
  2. Pending major grant: Mollusca, Crabs, insects and other invertebrates.
  3. Pending major grant: Birds.


H. Jobs Queue II - IT poly student attachment

  1. Mollusca primer, from converting the Marine Biology Mollusca Word labels into excel data (*protocol already prepared, will be conducted during next polytechnic attachment*).
  2. Partially completed: Access Database-interactive system for specimen loan.
  3. Access/Excel Database system for generation of specimen labels.


I. Status of Databases - VERTEBRATES

  1. Amphibians, 2 catalogue books, EXCEL, SQL: OK.
  2. Reptiles, 3 catalogue books EXCEL, SQL: OK.
  3. Fish, 8 catalogue books 80% in EXCEL, NOT VERIFIED: BY END-2002.
  4. Birds, 1 catalogue book MOSTLY NOT CATALOGUED, PARTLY IN MUSE.
  5. Mammals, 6 catalogue books 0% EXCEL: TO BEGIN END-2002.


J. Status of Databases - INVERTEBRATES

  1. Other Invertebrates (Including Crustacea), 9 books
  2. Current Crustacea: in Excel
  3. Corals, 1 book
  4. Prawns, 1 book
  5. Mollusca, 3 books
  6. Insects, 5 books


H. Future plans

  1. Attempt securing grant from external agency to implement 3-5 year programme for RMBR databases. An MBA tutorial group is working on a project now and I will use their report to initiate the proposal preparation in May and June.
  2. Phase I will be migration of the remaining databases to Excel, and Phase II, migration to SQL. The verification part of this procedure for both data entry and physical specimens will be exhaustive if we are successful in obtaining a grant
  3. My intention for Phase III etc., includes integration of all databases on a server system within the museum and subsequent migration using holistic technologies. This will give rise to specimen ID programmes and make it effective in conservation efforts locally and regionally.