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SARCA Newsletter No. 3

December 2005


Dear SARCAlites!

No pretty pictures this time, but some information that will prove useful, I hope.

Before I get onto the main topic, I want to extend a warm thank you to all of you who have supported SARCA during its initial year, 2005. Whether you have served on the Steering Committee or on the expert panel, helped Marius in the field, sent us data from your personal notes or your institution, submitted photos to the virtual museum, helped to publicize SARCA, or just told a friend about it, you have made a positive contribution that will help SARCA to succeed in its mission. That mission, of course, is to improve knowledge and awareness of the conservation needs of our region's reptiles and to contribute towards their long-term survival.

When you go on your Christmas holiday, please don't forget to take along your digital camera and GPS so that you can record as many reptiles as possible for the virtual museum. I look forward to a flood of records in January!

Please travel safely and have a blessed Christmas.

Navigating the virtual museum

Whether you are a member of the expert panel or an ordinary user of the virtual museum (VM), as the number of records swells - currently 700 of them - it becomes increasingly important that you know how to navigate your way around the collection so that you can find what you want quickly and easily. The following are a few essential tips that will help you to have a hassle-free browsing experience.

  1. Use the search facility: When you enter the VM, the first thing you see is the search option. Using the search facility will deliver you a list of records that is pretty much exactly what you want and is much more efficient than looking through the whole VM, 10 records at a time.

    You can search by SARCA number or locality or observer name. In addition, if you want a particular range of SARCA numbers (only the more recent ones, for example), the "operators" allow you to specify: greater than (>), less than (<), equal to (=), less than or equal to (<=), or greater than or equal to (>=). If you want to search by locality or observer name, the "like" operator allows you to enter just part of the name in the "search for" box and you will get the records that have that string of characters in the observer or locality field. Finally, specify whether you want any record, or only those with a confirmed ID, or only those without a confirmed ID, or only those with a disputed ID, within your specified selection.

    You can also search for all records within a particular reptile family or genus, but then, naturally, only records with confirmed IDs can be found.

  2. Preserve your selection: A major problem that many users of the VM have is that, having selected the desired records, the selection is lost after a particular record has been clicked and viewed. The obvious thing to do is to click on the green "back" button of your browser to go back to your selection, but often this doesn't work and one gets an irritating error message instead. Sometimes you have to perform a new search to get your selection back - clearly this is not an acceptable situation. I don't know, and therefore cannot explain, the exact reasons for this problem, but fortunately there is a simple solution.

    The simplest solution for users of Microsoft Explorer - which is probably most of you - is to open a particular record in a separate window. For example, if you have selected all records with a SARCA Number greater than 600, and now you want to check out record number 637 in detail, instead of clicking on the link (the thumbnail picture or the blue number) in the normal way, right click on it instead, that is, use the right hand button on your mouse, not the left. A pop-up menu will appear; select the "Open Link In New Window" option. The selected record will then open in a new and separate Explorer window where you can view all the details and additional pictures and, if you are a member of the expert panel, enter your comments and identification. (The new window is likely to appear as a button at the bottom of your screen, so just click on it to have it pop up.) You can open several new windows in this manner and have them all open at the same time. In the meantime, your original window, with your original selection of records, is still open and you can return to it at any time by simply clicking on the relevant button at the bottom of the screen. The new windows can be closed whenever you have finished using them.

    Using this method you will never have to use the "back" button and you will never lose your original selection again - hallelujah!

  3. Use an alternative browser: This is not an essential action, but I do recommend it. There are alternatives to Explorer that are faster at downloading web pages, and are more convenient to use. One that I use is Opera. It is available online at and can be downloaded for free. It takes approximately 3.5Meg of space and about 20 minutes to download.

    What are the advantages? Well, it is reputed to be the quickest browser around, so that's worth noting. But for users of the VM, what is perhaps more important is that it uses the tab system. This means that you can have several web pages open at the same time, in the same session of Opera. Opera keeps track of the various pages by placing tabs at the top of your screen where all you need to do is click on a tab to see the page. Now, instead of having to open several different browser windows, you have all the pages you want in the same window.

    As in Explorer, when you want to view a particular record in detail, instead of a normal left click, use a right click to get a pop-up menu. In Opera you will find there are more options than in Explorer; the option you want is "Open in new page" which is near the top of the list. When you use this option, the record opens and a new tab appears at the top of your screen. You can open several records in this manner and close them whenever you wish because each tab has its own red "close" button. In the meantime, your original selection remains open with a tab of its own and can be returned to at any time, without having to use the dreaded "back" button!

I do hope that these suggestions will enhance your use and enjoyment of the VM. If you have further queries or problems, please email them to me and I will issue another information newsletter to answer them all.


James Harrison
SARCA Project Coordinator


South African National Biodiversity Institute Herpetological Association of Africa Avian Demography Unit

"SARCA is a joint project of the South African National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI), the Herpetological Association of Africa (HAA), and the Avian Demography Unit (ADU), Department of Statistical Sciences, University of Cape Town."



[ Document posted on 27 Jun 2005 ]

    April 16, 2024, 10:40 pm