In April 1999, the Allegheny Institute of Natural History made a formal proposal to various Senators and Representatives in Pennsylvania to unite the efforts and to spearhead the development of an easily accessible, web-based, biodiversity database for the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.


AINH had determined that Pennsylvania lagged far behind other states such as Ohio, Missouri, West Virginia, and Hawaii in its development of a biodiversity database cataloging the state’s ecological communities, flora and fauna.


For efficiency of time, money, effort, and in the interests of biodiversity conservation and economic viability, AINH had determined that the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania needed to develop one uniform, comprehensive, easily usable biodiversity database that is widely available to state and local government, industry, consulting firms, environmental groups, educational and scientific institutions, and the general public. 


Consequently, AINH proposed to spearhead the effort to formulate a strategic plan and to develop a comprehensive, Web-accessible biological database, that would be available for general use by both the public and private sectors, of the ecological communities and flora and fauna of Pennsylvania.  The ultimate goal of the biodiversity database is to incorporate all known distribution records of PA plants and animals and ecological communities into one access site instead of having to search the hundred plus biological databases currently in use.


The proposal received initial funding in the form of a Office of Economic and Community Development Grant.


In the meantime, the Pennsylvania Biodiversity Partnership (PBP) was formed.  Dr. Thomas Pauley, Director of the Allegheny Institute of Natural History, was invited to join and serve on the board.  He continues to be active in PBP and is serving as vice-chair of the board and as a member of the Science Task Force.


Dr. Dessie Severson became the chair of the Bioinformatics Task Force which, at its November 17, 2000, meeting in Pittsburgh, determined that, in order to best fulfill the mission and goals of the Pennsylvania Biodiversity Partnership, a statewide, web-accessible, network of biotic databases be established.  Ownership of and the responsibility of maintenance of the databases will continue to reside with the current owners, but there would be one web address that would interconnect all the individual databases.  Those databases that are already web-accessible, would continue to maintain there own web pages, in addition to interfacing with the “new” Pennsylvania biodiversity web address.


Consequently the Bioinformatics Task Force asked the PBP board to issue a Request for Proposals (RFP) to “Develop a Directory of Biodiversity Databases in PA,” with the mission of compiling a directory of the biodiversity databases in the state; i.e. develop a database of biodiversity metadata.  The board awarded the RFP on 02-06-2001 to the Allegheny Institute of Natural History. 


Since AINH had already received PA funding in the form of a Office of Economic and Community Development Grant to begin work on a comprehensive directory of PA biodiversity databases, it provided the “database of biodiversity databases” free to PBP.


AINH developed a web-based questionnaire that individuals having biodiversity databases, either specimen-based or ecological, could complete and submit on line. Over 1200 individuals were contacted in PA, including members of PBP; biologists at all colleges and universities; museum curators; staff at governmental agencies at the county, state, and federal level; members of clubs and organizations interested in the biota of the state; and private individuals and companies that might have a species database of their landholdings. AINH also requested that those surveyed who had no biodiversity data respond by submitting the “no biodiversity metadata to report” form.


The inventory of biodiversity database information collected by AINH was incorporated into "Snapshot 2002: Biodiversity in Pennsylvania" published by the Pennsylvania Biodiversity Partnership in 2002.


The Pennsylvania Biodiversity Partnership is now addressing many of PA’s issues concerning lack of biodiversity information; duplication of effort in cataloging the biota, lack of information sharing, and difficulty in gaining access to biodiversity information.  Consequently, AINH is no longer independently pursuing its original mission of developing a uniform, comprehensive, web-based, biodiversity database of ecological communities and the flora and fauna in Pennsylvania.  We prefer to work within the cooperative partnership of PBP to develop a biodiversity database easily accessible to all interested individuals.