Dear Reader,

Dr. Jürgen Hoppe is one of the founders of SysTax, which is a leading German provider for the Global Biodiversity Information Facility (GBIF). GBIF is working "to make the world's biodiversity data accessible everywhere in the world". SysTax is among Europe's largest biodiversity database systems and it is situated at the University of Ulm, door to door with And as SysTax is also data provider for, it was time for an interview with Dr. Hoppe, who is working at the Institute for Systematic Botany and Ecology of the University of Ulm.

Here is the text of the interview:

AntBase: Jürgen, SysTax has been developed at the University of Ulm as a powerful, central database system for zoology and botany. How many collection records do you have in your system?

Dr. Hoppe: Currently SysTax houses 474.000 data sets from scientific collections, thus SysTax is Germany's largest GBIF provider for collection data. This includes 45.000 herbarium records, 196.000 records from botanical gardens and 232.000 from zoological collections.

AntBase: Only collection data?

Dr. Hoppe: We provide collection data from natural history museums and botanical gardens, however, no observation data that are also delivered to GBIF, for example by bird watchers or as a result of habitat mapping. For instance the German Federal Nature Conservation Agency provides data of the floristic mappings all over Germany to GBIF.

AntBase: For what purpose GBIF data are used?

Dr. Hoppe: It's the aim of GBIF to provide World's biodiversity data for people of all countries for free. This facilitates the search for specimens in the World's museums as well as the mapping of species distributions. In view of the current threat of biodiversity these data are especially valuable. And this holds as well for the data of that are housed in SysTax.

AntBase: And SysTax is collecting such data for nearly 20 years?

Dr. Hoppe: Nineteen years ago, Prof. Thomas Stützel, who is now working at the Ruhr-University in Bochum, had the idea of developing a database for plant systematics. He asked the German Research Foundation (DFG) for funding and started with the development of a taxonomic database on Eriocaulaceae, a tropical plant family. At a later time I advanced the system, together with Prof. Franz Schweiggert of the Institute of Applied Information Processing and Prof. Dieter Waloßek, of the Working Group Biosystematic Documentation, both University of Ulm. In 1989 the first master thesis was worked out on a problem of SysTax by a student of the mathematical economics. She had the knowledge on informatics. Since that time SysTax was developed as a central database for Germany's botanical gardens. Later we had other projects and more and more tasks were assigned to SysTax.

AntBase: What are the special features of SysTax?

Dr. Hoppe: SysTax includes all features that are necessary for taxonomic research in zoology as well as in botany. It is an integrated, central biological database that enables simultaneous requests of the data from multiple institutions and by multiple users. As a concept based system SysTax is able to store unlimited perceptions of the systematic status of a species. This feature enables its use for taxonomic revisions. Additionally, SysTax is able to manage user-defined multimedia data. As SysTax is capable of much more functions than needed for a provision of GBIF data, we became data provider for three of the seven German GBIF nodes, Evertebrates I and II and Vertebrates, as well as for the data from the botanical gardens. As a central system SysTax administers data from diverse national institutions that can be retrieved by one query. We provide these data to GBIF.

AntBase: Is it also possible to get data from GBIF in return?

Dr. Hoppe: SysTax has also established a German GBIF-collections portal with access to all collection data of German providers, currently 1,082.000 records. Additionally, SysTax is provider for the BIG-Portal (German Federal Information System for Genetic resources) and for BioCASE (Biological Collection Access Service for Europe), just to name some of them. More portals for different topics are conceivable.

AntBase: ...for example an internet portal on ants...?

Dr. Hoppe: This is a realistic vision with SysTax. In the moment you can already query ant data from the Australian National Insect Collection via SysTax. This is one of the fundamental ideas of GBIF to give users free access to all collected data. However, the differing protocols for exchange of data pose a problem by now; for the import of the Australian data set we had to adopt the data achieving mechanism to the TAPIR protocol instead to download by the European ABCD scheme.

AntBase: Do you have some new ideas for SysTax within next time?

Dr. Hoppe: We aim at further developing of SysTax to enhance its usability. This includes a relaunch of the user interface and a relocation of the hardware into the Communication and Information Center of the University of Ulm. Moreover we want to enlarge the database to include digital library data, for this purpose we go for cooperation with the German library organizations. We want to index taxonomical first descriptions of organisms within a repository. All efforts aim at the realization of a Virtual Research Environment for taxonomists and other researchers that need to work with biological systematics. Pilot projects, like our cooperation with will lead to a development of new tools for database management and innovative applications.

AntBase: Jürgen, thank you very much for this interview.

© 2009. Martin Pfeiffer. University of Ulm. is designed and maintained by Martin Pfeiffer & Hans Peter Katzmann, Institute of Experimental Ecology.



An Interview with Dr. Jürgen Hoppe, Institute for Systematic Botany and Ecology, Ulm University, co-founder and head of SysTax.

Dr. Jürgen Hoppe
Dr. Jürgen Hoppe