The Online Field Guide
Many people, not just wildlife enthusiasts, take wildlife field guides of some sort on holiday with them, or at the very least have a copy of the bird book for their own country. The dedicated naturalists among us may amass large collections of guides to their favourite animal or plant groups for all the places they visit (I know I do!). While an increasing number of wildlife database projects exist online, from basic electronic checklists of species names and country distribution to ambitious photo-laden encyclopedias, these are often of limited use to amateur naturalists or others wanting specific information about identifying their latest finds.
The Online Field Guide aims to fill this information gap. At the core of the site are the same sorts of checklists, photos and information pages that are becoming the norm in online databases. Where this site differs is in its specific focus on giving people information that will help them identify the animals they've seen on their trips. Species entries are arranged in the database by country, and in a number of cases by regions within countries, to help you narrow your search. On the species pages, you will find a breakdown of a species' taxonomy (its scientific classification) and information about its behaviour, biology and ecology - but the most detailed section of each page is devoted to describing the species, how it differs from similar species in the same area, information on where to look for it, and close-up photographs of the animal illustrating defining features.
At this stage, the checklists and photo pages are based on my own records, and so are not intended to represent comprehensive species lists for the regions in the database. However, as the site is based on species I have encountered myself on field trips, expeditions and holidays, there is a natural bias towards commonly-encountered species that visitors to the region are likely to run into themselves
The short answer is: anyone interested in wildlife! My own interests and expertise lie mainly with herps (amphibians and reptiles) and insects, but I've deliberately designed the site to cover as wide a range of animal groups as possible (having said that, it's early days yet and most of the active pages cover - you guessed it - amphibians, reptiles and insects!) As well as amateur wildlife enthusiasts looking to ID their holiday snaps, I hope to attract naturalists interested in animal groups outside their own specialties
With this in mind, the site's emphasis is heavily on the non-specialist reader. Of particular importance when identifying species for the first time may be the Field Guide's extensive glossary of technical terms used in describing and classifying wildlife; keys are also being produced with the novice taxonomist as the target audience. For the benefit of specialists I will be adding pages that organise species by taxonomic group (e.g. spiders, amphibians or mammals), in a similar manner to existing wildlife databases.
As well as species biographies, I also aim to include detailed site information on the countries and regions covered by the database, both within the main species list page for each country and as separate factsheets. In short, I hope to make The Online Field Guide a valuable general resource for anyone interested in travelling to these areas, with the site's focus primarily but not exclusively on the animals.
Take a look!
The entry portal to the site is the Species Lists page; by clicking on the interactive map you will be taken to the country of your choice (but only virtually, sadly!) and can begin browsing the species pages. It's early days yet, so relatively few of the links will be active, but I hope that will change soon. The News page will also provide links to the most recently-added pages on the site.
This site is maintained by Phil Bowles.
All comments and suggestions on this website are welcome; I'm especially keen to receive enquiries about species identification, and am happy to answer queries about species not currently in the database. I am also keen to hear from specialists with any comments or corrections about the site's information content to ensure this resource is as accessible as possible.