Tools for identification

Dryades ( is the Italian branch of SiiT. The Dryades website (Italian/English) gives you access to hundreds of interactive guides to the identification of plants, fungi, and animals, galleries of photos and drawings, search engines and databases on the biodiversity in Italy. The guides are generated automatically by the software FRIDA (FRiendlyIdentificAtion) - by Stefano Martellos, patented by the University of Trieste – which connects different databases created by different research centers.


The guides of SiiT are ‘easy’ even for those with a poor biological knowledge, for three main reasons:

    1) they do not follow the scheme of biological systematics, and generally avoid characters which are difficult to observe and appreciate, such as those distinguishing among families and genera.
    2) they may cover a limited number of species (e.g. 50 for elementary schools, 100 for high schools), the number being adaptable depending on the educational project: the fewer are the species, the easier is a key.
    3) The terminology can be easily modified according to the type of user (e.g. children versus university students), not only by us, but also by the teachers!

SiiT has a network of Associate Members, with experts supporting educational projects in schools. The basic idea is to customise the guides on the needs of teachers and students, with 3 levels:

    a) For primary schools the discovery of the biodiversity-environment starts from a very limited area, usually near the school (eg. ‘A guide to the trees of the school garden’),
    b) For intermediate schools the guides cover wider areas or a larger group of species (e.g. ‘A guide to Trees and shrubs of our city‘),
    c) For high schools and universities ‘important’ guides are available, sometimes with more than 1.000 species (e.g. the flora of a Region).

Main types of identification tools provided by SiiT

The identification tools developed by SiiT are available in different versions: for the Internet, for CD-Rom, for mobile devices; printable versions are available as well. They are based on data collected over more than 10 years of digitization and management of biodiversity data. Internet applications are accessible from any device connected to the web via a common Web Browser (Internet Explorer, Mozilla Firefox, Apple Safari, Google Chrome etc..). They are dedicated to organisms present in a specific area. Images are automatically connected to the species’ names: they derive from the archives of images of project Dryades, but new images can be also incorporated by the users. Upon publication, the guides are made visible on the project portal of Dryades /SiiT, or (the versions for iPhone and iPad) from iTunes. Internet applications can also be converted to stand-alone versions to be loaded on a CD-or DVD-Roms. These versions, although limited in the number of images for obvious reasons, are similar to those of the original versions for the Internet, and can be used on any device not connected to the web.

Versions for the Internet

A typical application for the Internet of project SiiT has a home page (Fig. 1) including:

- Banners with logos

- Connections to versions in other languages, when available

- Title and authors

- A description of the study area and of the application.

- Buttons for accessing the application functions.


Fig. 1: Home page of a typical key produced by SiiT: version of the Internet

Basic instructions: a short page of text guiding the user in the exploration of the application and of its functions.

Basic Features of a group of organisms (in the example: vascular plants): This button gives access to an explanation of the general characteristics of the group of organisms included in the key.

Glossary (when available): this button gives access to a digital glossary explaining the basic terminology used in the key.

e-Learning: with this button you can access e-learning modules developed specifically for the keys of SiiT. These modules, which also contain videos and quizzes, can be used by teachers to prepare one or more introductory lessons before letting use a key to their students (Fig. 2).


Fig. 2: e-learning module for teaching and learning leaf characters.

Forum: direct link to the Forum Natura Mediterraneo and Acta Plantarum, two communities of passionate Italian naturalists, useful for getting advice on the identification of different groups of organisms.

Study area (when available): this button gives access to one or more pages describing the area in which a digital key can be used.

The ‘Plantfinder’ (only available for vascular plants): this tool allows you to search by scientific and vernacular names (of all plants included in the key). The result is a page which contains data and images for the plant in question.

Dichotomous interface: this is the first and ‘easiest’ of the two interfaces available for the internet versions of the keys produced by SiiT, which follows a dichotomous skeleton (each step of the identification process asks you to make a choice between two options). The options are described textually, and often illustrated, in order to facilitate the selection (Fig. 3). The texts are adapted to the type of user: they can follow a strictly scientific terminology, or can meet the needs of a less specialized audience. Each choice excludes some species, until a single species remains.


Fig. 3: Screenshot of a dichotomous query interface: A – button to go back to the initial page; B – llink to a list of remaining species; C – link to a textual, illustrated key to the remaining species; D – Firs option, with text and its illustration; E – Second option, with text and its illustration

At each step of the dichotomous interface it is possible to see the list of remaining species or to produce an illustrated textual key to the remaining species only (Fig. 4); the latter feature is particularly useful for ‘browsing’ through images when the user is undecided in answering a given couple of questions.


Fig. 4: illustrated, printable textual key for the remaining species.

For each species, the key can display a taxon page (Fig. 5) describing it through an image and a text including nomenclatural data, a description, and notes. Context and level of detail of the descriptions may vary depending on the key.


Fig. 5: Taxon page of a plant


Multi-entry query interface: this is the second interface of the online keys of SiiT, thought for more expert users. Unlike the previous example, this interface enables users to simultaneously specify several characters (Fig. 6), to greatly reduce in a single step the number of remaining species; these also include family, genus or part of the scientific name (Taxon text box). e.g., one can ask for all plants with blue flowers and opposite leaves, for all species of the genus Cerastium, or for all species of the family Asteraceae.



Fig. 6: Multi-entry questy interface: the user can specify more characters in a single step.

After having selected some features of the organism in hand, the system produces a dichotomous key to all species which share the specified characters.

Printable versions


The keys of SiiT are also available in two types of printable versions, visible online in the form of a flipping book and downloadable for printing as a pdf file.

1) A version that includes photos and notes to each species, but without illustrations of characters (Fig. 7), practically a digital book.


Fig. 7: printable version with notes.

2) A version that includes photos of the species and illustrations of characters, but not the notes to each species (Fig. 8): a printable field guide which can replace the versions of a key for mobile devices.


Fig. 8: printable version with images of species and characters, but without notes (printable field guide).

Versions for CD- o DVD-Rom

The applications for CD-or DVD-ROM of project SiiT result from the automatic conversion of the dichotomous Internet versions into stand-alone versions. This is done by transforming a digital key in a sequence of illustrated HTML pages, one for each dichotomy and one for each taxon page. The files are organized and structured in a package that also contains the digital images. The main advantage of the keys for optical media is that they can be used without a connection to the web. Necessarily, the number of images is limited to one for each character, and one for each species. Furthermore, these versions are limited to the dichotomous interface only, since the multi-entry query interface needs a connection to the main server of SiiT.


Fig. 9 – Cover of a CD-Rom produced by SiiT

The initial page (similar to that of Fig. 1) contains the following basic functions:

- Basic instructions

- Basic Features of a group of organisms

- E-learning modules (when available)

- Study area (when available)

- Dichotomous query interface

The query interface is identical to that of the Internet version, but lacks the ability to generate the illustrated textual key at each step of the identification process.

Applications for mobile media (smartphones and tablet PCs)


The applications for Smartphones (iPhone/Android) and Tablet PCs generated by SiiT are stand-alone packages including an illustrated dichotomous key. They can also be equipped with systems for communication with external resources such as media archives or digital images, databases of biodiversity, etc.

These applications have a home page (Fig. 10) which contains:

- Title, authors and logos

- Buttons to access functions

- A description of the key and of the application



Fig. 10: Application for Apple iPhone. A – cover page; B – home page.

Instructions: short page of text illustrating the application and its functions.

Digital Key: This is the heart of the application. The digital key is a stand-alone dichotomous key, asking the user to make a choice between two options at each step. The options are described textually, and often illustrated, in order to facilitate the selection. The texts are adapted to the type of user: they can follow a strictly scientific terminology, or can meet the needs of a less specialized audience. Each choice excludes some species reducing the number of those remaining, until a single species remains (Fig.11).


Fig. 11: Screenshot from a typical application for the iPhone: A – back button; B – home page button; C – llink to the list of remaining species; D – button for the generation of a textual key; E – first option, with text and its illustration; F – second option, with text and its illustration.

At each step of the key it is possible to see the list of remaining species or to produce an illustrated textual key to them (Fig. 12).


Fig. 12: Lista (A) e chiave testuale (B) degli organismi rimanenti.

For each species, the application displays a taxon page (Fig. 13), with a picture and a note. Context and level of detail of the descriptions may vary depending on the key.


Fig. 13: Taxon page per un organismo.

Textual version: this button generates an textual dichotomous key for all of the remaining species for each step of the identification process, when the number of remaining species is less than 100 (Fig. 3B).

Species list: this button displays the alphabetical list of scientific names of all species present in the application. By clickling on a name you can have access to the corresponding taxon page.

Basic features of a group of organisms (in the example: vascular plants): This button gives access to an explanation of the general characteristics of the group of organisms included in the key.


Fig. 14: basic botany. A – index; B – an internal page, with text and illustrations.

Additional features of the applications for mobile media

Adding user-generated content - The application is designed to accept user-generated content such as pictures or field notes. In this case the application can become a working tool, e.g. for the amateur naturalist, researcher, or technical staff of environmental protection agencies. The user-generated content can be stored on the Smartphone, or be sent by e-mail to social networks, or loaded into a centralized database.

Use of social networks - The applications can be equipped with features for sharing the content with other users using social networking, incl content generated by the user.

Communication with a central server - The applications can be equipped with a communication system with a central server. This tool may be useful in citizen science projects in which users are involved in biodiversity surveys. It can be also useful to researchers and technicians of environmental protection agencies to store georeferenced observations or other information.

Using a georeferencing system - Almost all smartphones have a built-in geotagging. This system can be used by our applications to locate the position of the user in a specific area. For example, in the case of a natural park, the system may return only a guide to plants of that park.

Recognition of barcodes (QR code) - Applications can be enhanced with a system for recognizing barcode squares (QR code). This function uses the camera of the device. The barcodes must contain information that is understandable to the application.

Direct connection to other resources - Applications can be directly connected to the biodiversity databases of SiiT or to other resouces such as checklists, to make available more information not directly present in the application.


Partner / Projektni partnerji

Università di Trieste, Dip. di Scienze della Vita (Lead Partner), Prirodoslovni Muzej Slovenije, Ljubljana, Univerza na Primorskem -Università del Litorale  Koper/Capodistria, Università di Padova, Dip. di Biologia, Zavod Republike Slovenije za šolstvo Ljubljana, Comune di San Dorligo della Valle - Občina Dolina, Consorzio del Parco Regionale del Delta del Po Emilia Romagna, Agenzia Regionale per la Protezione dell’Ambiente del Friuli Venezia Giulia (ARPA - FVG), Gruppo di Azione Locale Venezia Orientale (GAL Venezia Orientale - VEGAL), Triglavski Narodni Park, Univerza v Novi Gorici


Progetto Strumenti interattivi per l’identificazione della biodiversità: un progetto educativo in un’area transfrontaliera (SiiT): finanziato nell’ambito del Programma per la Cooperazione Transfrontaliera Italia-Slovenia 2007-2013, dal Fondo europeo di sviluppo regionale e dai fondi nazionali.

Projekt Interaktivna določevalna orodja za šole (SIIT): spoznavanje biotske pestrosti na čezmejnem območju sofinancirana v okviru Programa čezmejnega sodelovanja Slovenija-Italija 2007-2013 iz sredstev Evropskega sklada za regionalni razvoj in nacionalnih sredstev.

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