Gaia Guide: Help: getting started

Help: getting started help

If you are new Gaia Guide, then you may benefit from some guidance on how best to find the information you are seeking. This page provides that guidance.

Within any field guide in Gaia Guide, groups of similar specimens are organised into a hierarchical structure where a child group refers to a subset of the specimens in a parent group. Most commonly, these hierarchies are based upon scientific classification. At the top level of the classification system are the kingdoms of life. Beneath those are their phyla, then classes, orders, families, genuses and species. Users can navigate through this hierarchy to find the species of interest.

Where a group of specimens has a scientific basis, and so a scientific name, that scientific name forms part of the description of that group. If you are not logged in, or have configured your preferences appropriately, then the site will use common names in preference to scientific names, where that is possible. Otherwise, all group names, for scientific groups, will be referred to by their scientific names.

At times, it can be laborious to navigate up and down through the field guide hierarchies searching for a species description that matches the specimens being observed. Gaia Guide provides several ways to cut down on this work.

Most powerfully, the search bar in the top left corner, under the logo, provides full site search by key word. The details of this search system are documented elsewhere. Searching is most useful when you know the common name or scientific name of the likely species or you can make good guesses about the words used to describe the species, its distinguishing features, its behaviour and/or its habitat.

If the direct search system is not appropriate, then you can use a shortcut system to see images of all species that are underneath a group in the hierarchy. For example, if you are looking at the group that corresponds to "all birds", and want to see the images of the bird species under that group, then click on the "quick review" hyperlink. Each image links straight through to the detailed description of the species that it relates to. This can be a powerful way to select the handful of candidate species that may match the specimens being observed.

Once you have found the description of a candidate species, there will generally be a range of information that describes the species. For limited species descriptions, that may simply be a scientific name, an image or two, and some links to related web pages, such as Wikipedia, or to scientific databases such as The Atlas of Living Australia, which is an Australian Government facility that records sightings and other data for all known species in Australia.

For more complete descriptions, there will be summary statistics for the species, describing size, weight and abundance, along with descriptions of their distinguishing features, their behaviour, and their habitat preferences. Where sightings of the species have been recorded through Gaia Guide, those sightings will also be marked on a Google map.

If you identify a specimen using Gaia Guide, please contribute that information by adding another sighting record through the appropriate link in the species description.