In biology, an identification key is a printed or computer-aided device that aids the identification of biological entities, such as plants, animals, fossils, microorganisms, and pollen grains. Identification keys are also used in many other scientific and technical fields to identify various kinds of entities, such as diseases, soil types, minerals, or archaeological and anthropological artifacts
When you work writing software, it is common that at one point or another of the product development you will work with a SME, or subject-matter expert. This person is someone experienced in a field such as telecom billing, insurance, taxes, or even nature and environment.
Questions too specific, that land away from the knowledge area of software engineers, are normally addressed by the SME. Sometimes the knowledge from a SME can be spread in a team after they have worked together for a while.
Most of my time in New Zealand I have been working with environmental sciences. In one project, I remember hearing other developers mention ID’s, Keys, and Identification Keys. I had not worked with environmental sciences before, and only learned about its Portuguese translation (“Chave”, or “Chave de Identificação”, or “Chave Dicotêmica”) recently.
They are mechanisms, digital or physical, that help you identify plants, animals, fossils, etc. And I found out later that there are many identification key software written for the Web, desktop, and also other medias like PDF’s, and even printed version.
And also in New Zealand I found how fun identifying species can be with the iNaturalist app and community. If you are like me before, and had not heard about it before, search around more about it. It is a very simple concept, common to biologists, people who work with taxonomy, marine life, birds.
If you are in New Zealand, or just interested about it, here are some links to get you started identifying the local species.
- DOC (Department of Conservation) Species descriptions and threat classifications
- NatureWatch Helpful websites for exploring NZ nature
- NIWA (National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research) Freshwater fish ID guides/keys
- Clues to Bird ID (PDF)