Web-based visualisation for biologists

VESpeR is a suite of web-based visualisation components that enable biologists to investigate the taxonomic, temporal and geographic coverage of DWCA species-referenced data that can be placed directly into the workflow of biologists who use such data.

VESpeR allows biologists to perform tasks such as sanity checking of data, view patterns in geographical, taxonomic or temporal aspects in an interrelated context, and accurately view data even when it spans conflicting taxonomic classifications. This can make a significant contribution to the efficiency and usability of online catalogues for both the providers and end-users of the data they hold.

Co-ordinated components

The components are co-ordinated such that selections and actions in one component will be reflected in the data shown in other components.

VESpeR multiple views
VESpeR multiple coordinated views showing a selection in one view (the map), shown in the other views (timeline and taxonomy)

VESpeR includes

  • a novel cross-taxonomy viewer that ¬†allows users to crosswalk different classifications, allowing them to accurately match specimens between data from different sources
  • interactive map to investigate specimen geographic coverage
  • interactive timeline¬†to investigate specimen temporal coverage
  • sanity checker to view data completeness and vocabulary size


Visualisation techniques have been recognised as one of the major directions in future research when handling and querying biological data, offering the ability to find patterns and outliers in data which traditional query interfaces cannot match.

A case in point is the multitude of species-referenced databases covering data from genomic to biodiversity data linked by taxonomic classifications that hold geographic and temporal-faceted data alongside other data. Many online databases hold collections of such data, often in archive format, but visual querying tools are invariably limited to a map interface of spatial distribution, neglecting the fact that biologists may wish to query or explore other facets of the data such as the classification or temporal distribution. Add onto this the problem of many complementary databases using different taxonomic classifications to reference their specimens and we have a situation where much of the potential utility of this data remains unused. VESpeR is designed to help address this.