We review the Symbiota software platform for creating voucher-based biodiversity information portals and communities. Symbiota was originally conceived to promote small- to medium-sized, regionally and/or taxonomically themed collaborations of natural history collections. Over the past eight years the taxonomically diverse portals have grown into an important resource in North America and beyond for mobilizing, integrating, and using specimen- and observation-based occurrence records and derivative biodiversity information products. Designed to mirror the conceptual structure of traditional floras and faunas, Symbiota is exclusively web-based and employs a novel data model, information linking, and algorithms to provide highly dynamic customization. The themed portals enable meaningful access to biodiversity data for anyone from specialist to high school student. Symbiota emulates functionality of modern Content Management Systems, providing highly sophisticated yet intuitive user interfaces for data entry, batch processes, and editing. Each kind of content provision may be selectively accessed by authenticated information providers. Occupying a fairly specific niche in the biodiversity informatics arena, Symbiota provides extensive data exchange facilities and collaborates with other development projects to incorporate and not duplicate functionality as appropriate.
Keywords: Biodiversity informatics; Open Source; digitization; economy of scale; natural history collection; virtual collection portals.