Invasive Species Information Systems - ISIS

TDWG Interest Group (Open)


Annie Simpson
National Biological Information Infrastructure, US Geological Survey


The Invasive Species Interest Group will develop standard computer-based mechanisms for expressing and transferring information about invasive species, including taxonomies, distributions, terminologies, descriptions, identification tools, pathways, invasiveness, management information, and associated resources, for use by the GISIN and the global invasive species science community in general.


The Global Invasive Species Information Network (GISIN) was formed in April 2004 after several years of related meetings. The first major meeting to consider the global character of the invasive alien species (IAS) threat was held in Trondheim, Norway in 1996, convened by the Norwegian government and various United Nations (UN) organizations, which recommended development of a Global Strategy and mechanism for addressing invasive species. As a result of this meeting, the Global Invasive Species Programme (GISP) was formed in 1997. In 2001, the GISP issued a 'Call to Action' at the 6th meeting of the Subsidiary Body on Science , Technology and Technical Advice (SBSTTA) of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD). The Call to Action described the effects of IAS as a global problem and challenged governments, intergovernmental organizations, non-government organizations, the private sector and all other interested parties to take steps to implement the Global Strategy on Invasive Alien Species.

The GISP then initiated and coordinated seven regional workshops to assess the global IAS threat, impact, and needs. These workshops resulted in several declarations (e.g. the Kirstenbosch and Davis declarations from South Africa and the US in 2000 & 2001; the Russia-US declaration, the Copenhagen declaration from the nations of the Nordic/Baltic region and the Brasilia declaration from South American nations in 2001). Reports delivered by the nations involved in these workshops identified the need for information sharing, capacity building, financial support, research, expertise and other resources for addressing the IAS threat.

In 2003, the National Biological Information Infrastructure (NBII) was approached by the US Department of State's Bureau of Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs and asked to coordinate a workshop or gathering of experts to explore the implementation of a GISIN.

The Experts Meeting on Implementation of a GISIN was convened from April 6th to the 8th in 2004, in Baltimore, Maryland, USA. Four goals for the meeting included:

  • creation of an online community to support global collaboration,
  • identification and agreement on common data types for global database cross-searching and interoperability,
  • creation of a proposal funding toolkit containing such things as example proposals, proposal-writing guidance, suggested funding sources and other related information, as a capacity-building task, and
  • a review and listing of existing online IAS databases


The interim Steering Committee formed at the Baltimore meeting worked with the Secretariat of the CBD to commission the creation of an Invasive Alien Species Profile Schema (IAS-PS). This work was completed by Jerry Cooper and Michael Browne and was posted for public comment in August 2005.

In February 2006, the CBD Secretariat, GBIF, the government of Morocco and other organizations collaborated to convene an Experts Meeting to examine and refine the IAS-PS in detail and to consider reviewer comments. This meeting also built on recommendations made in the CBD information document UNEP/CBD/ COP/6/INF/18, "Report of the joint convention on biological diversity/global invasive species programme informal meeting on formats, protocols and standards for improved exchange of biodiversity-related information," for the establishment of the GISIN as a pilot initiative.


The Global Invasive Species Information Network (GISIN) requires building an information network for sharing and exchange of invasive species data, information, knowledge, and related metadata, for all organism types. The network aims to connect, through a distributed approach, as many existing and new invasive species information systems as possible throughout the world, by promoting common standards, protocols, and services designed to achieve connectivity. The TDWG ISIS Interest Group will develop, refine, and seek adoption of the standards to support the implementation of the GISIN.

Core Members

Michael Browne (IUCN Invasive Species Specialist Group, Auckland, New Zealand)
Jerry Cooper (Landcare Research, Auckland, New Zealand)
Marcus Doering (BGBM Botanic Garden/Museum, Berlin, Germany)
Robert Morris (UMass, Boston, USA)
Hannu Saarenmaa (GBIF, Copenhagen, Denmark)
Elizabeth Sellers (USGS, Reston, Virginia, USA)
Kevin Thiele (University of Queensland, Australia)


Invasive species scientists and information managers, decision makers, citizen scientists and educators, naturalists, quarantine officers, workers in disease control, etc. In its direct form the IAS-PS and related standards will be used in support of interoperability and exchange mechanisms for software packages and web services handling descriptive data (e. g., "species banks," as well as observational and occurrence databases).

Outcomes and Outputs

At this time, the principal products of the invasive species interest group are the IAS-PS Standard, and the discussion framework captured on the IAS-PS Wiki.

The IAS-PS Standard is currently immature and under revision/refinement. It is expected that version 1.0 will be ready for test implementation in the first part of 2007. In its current form, it handles the following types of information:

  • Species profiles (the contents of species banks, also called species accounts, species reports, fact sheets, etc.)
  • Non-native and invasive checklists
  • Positional, relational, bioregional, biogeographic data
  • Distributional data
  • Management projects and case studies
  • Expertise


The IAS-PS was based on the structures of 48 existing IAS databases. The test implementation will be run using at least three different types of database structures, to analyze the robustness and flexibility of its design.


The GISIN began discussing issues at the April 2004 Baltimore meeting. IAS database managers and policy makers were divided into interest groups relating to terminology, group logistics, and technical aspects of data sharing. That first meeting ended with the selection of a core working group, the Steering Committee, that has been developing different aspects of invasive species information sharing through regular teleconferences and chat sessions.

Advancement of the GISIN has been through baby steps and collaboration with other organizations such as GBIF, NBII, GISP, and the Secretariat of the CBD. "Piggy-back" meetings and symposia have been arranged at existing meetings such as AAAS and TDWG. Posters and talks have been given at related meetings such as ESA, TDWG, Weeds Across Borders, BISOBI, and the CBD COP.

Several proposals have obtained small amounts of funding, including one from the US State Department through the CBD Secretariat for a consultancy to develop the IAS-PS standard.

Funding from the CBD Secretariat, GBIF, the government of Morocco and other collaborators enabled an experts meeting to discuss the IAS-PS in February 2006 in Agadir. Participants from that meeting are continuing to refine the schema, develop tools to clarify user definitions, and select databases for a test implementation of the schema.

A formal listserv is now hosted by GBIF and has more than 125 members.

The GISIN has two Web sites hosted by the NBII, one using portal intranet technology, the other on the World Wide Web

To promote the IAS-PS, the use of a Wiki has been an effective strategy for documentation, and wider participation is expected in the future.

This interest group seeks affiliation with TDWG for the following reasons:

  • Support in the creation of a robust standard for sharing invasive species information, taken through a formal standards adoption process;
  • Incorporation of other pre-existing TDWG standards or elements of them, for example from the SDD and Observation Interest Groups;
  • Several TDWG members have offered to assist in the IAS-PS development.

Resources and

Version History

TDWG ISIS Charter version 1.0, 15 August 2006

  Last Modified: 26 November 2006