IO Informatics

Conference on Semantics in Healthcare and Life Sciences

Keynote Speaker - Hilmar Lapp

Updated March 03, 2014

Assistant Director for Informatics
National Evolutionary Synthesis Center (NESCent)
Durham, North Carolina, USA

Presentation Date and Time:
Friday, February 28 - 9:00 am

Presentation Title:
Semantics of and for the Diversity of Life: Opportunities and Perils of Trying to Reason on the Frontier

Click here for presentation slides


The stunning diversity of life has long been a target of research, resulting in billions of specimens and hundreds of millions of pages of text in the world’s natural history museum collections and libraries. A wealth of literature documents in meticulous the detail the features shared between contemporary and extinct species, their evolutionary history and their ecological properties. Enabling the full power of computation for this constantly growing, yet woefully incomplete body of knowledge faces enormous challenges, but also offers huge opportunities. These include discovery, such as candidate gene hypothesis generation, knowledge integration, such as using the tree of life as a map, and prediction, such as forecasting the effects of environmental change on biodiversity patterns and human health. I will present examples of both obstacles and opportunities for semantics-based technologies to enable computing on our knowledge of the diversity and evolution of life on earth.

Hilmar Lapp (@hlapp, is the Assistant Director for Informatics at the National Evolutionary Synthesis Center (NESCent). His research interests are in reusable and interoperable software and data, large-scale data integration, and in building open sustainable eScience infrastructure. A biologist by training, he has also more than two decades worth of experience developing software, databases, and other informatics resources. He is co-PI of the NSF-funded Phenoscape project ( on ontological annotation of evolutionary phenotype observations, co-convener of the Biodiversity Information Standards (TDWG) Interest Group on Phylogenetics Standards, senior personnel in the Dryad digital data repository project (, and a participant in the Data Integration and Semantics Working Group of DataONE (