IEEE TCDL Bulletin
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TCDL Bulletin
Current 2005
Volume 2   Issue 1


Integrating Image-rich Biological Information with a Web Search Tool

The InsideWood Model

Shirley Rodgers
D.H. Hill Library
Elisabeth Wheeler
Wood & Paper Science
Troy Simpson
D.H. Hill Library
Jeff Bartlett
InsideWood Program

North Carolina State University
Raleigh, NC 27695



North Carolina State University is collaborating with global partners to produce a comprehensive Internet-accessible wood anatomy reference, research, and teaching tool incorporating images, taxonomy, and anatomical information sets. With its multiple search capabilities, content types, and user options, InsideWood serves as a model for image-intensive, searchable biological collections. <>.


Project Description

InsideWood is an extensive, Internet-accessible wood anatomy reference, research, and teaching tool. This resource integrates information from a wood anatomy database for modern wood compiled at North Carolina State University with descriptions and photomicrographs contributed by international partners. The InsideWood web site will have value in 1) helping with wood identification, 2) providing data that can be incorporated into phylogenetic studies, and 3) serving as a resource for any course that teaches about the internal structure of woody plants. The descriptive database and images are useful to a community of users that includes botanists, archaeologists, park naturalists, paleontologists museum conservators, and forensic scientists, as well as educators in the natural sciences.

The InsideWood project is the largest known wood anatomy database. Broad taxonomic coverage provides over 5,500 descriptions that represent at least 8,000 species. The objectives of the InsideWood web site are to provide an interface to search the database by coded features and serve as a repository for photomicrographs of wood structure. Currently, over 35,000 digital images are archived, with contributions from North Carolina State University and 10 other institutions. In early 2005, these images will be loaded and linked to description records.

The InsideWood database was developed using Oracle. The complex data module is comprised of three major components: taxonomic information, image information, and descriptive information. Data were converted from text files and loaded into Oracle using PERL, XML, and ColdFusion. A controlled access interface allows editing of the content, including addition of new species descriptions. Image data were loaded using ColdFusion, which related the images to taxonomic and description records. A very fast web-accessible interface to the database has been developed using ColdFusion, Oracle indexes, and pre-formatted display data. Four search options in the user interface provide flexibility in retrieving wood anatomical information, with options for searches by features, scientific names, or keyword.

Luna Insight can browse and search images directly, allowing image searching with or without concomitant descriptions. Images can be retrieved by family, genus, species, contributor, or any field configured as searchable from Insight. The Insight workspace is a robust tool that has the capability to "zoom-in" for viewing as well as manipulating the image for incorporation into instructional material and presentations. The InsideWood application will display the large images in the Insight workspace. The InsideWood project can serve as a model for developing other image-rich descriptive databases for the natural sciences.

Thumbnail of a poster from JCDL 2005

For a larger view of Figure 1, click here.

Thumbnail of a poster from JCDL 2005

For a larger view of Figure 2, click here.


This work was funded by the National Science Foundation, NSF BRC 0237368. We are grateful to our major partners at the National Herbarium of the Netherlands, Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, and CSIRO for invaluable contributions and assistance in major aspects of this project's development.


© Copyright 2005 Shirley Rodgers, Elisabeth Wheeler, Troy Simpson, and Jeff Bartlett
Some or all of these materials were previously published in the Proceedings of the 5th ACM/IEEE-CS Joint Conference on Digital libraries, ACM 1-58113-876-8/05/0006.

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