Background and Evolution of Nemaplex

Rev 12/02/08

The inspiration for Nemaplex began when I visited the University of Arizona in about 1980.  There I was shown a computer program called "Todtax" written in Basic in 1979 by graduate student Larry Stowell.  Todtax was a computerized version of William F. Mai's Pictorial Key to Genera of Plant-parasitic Nematodes (Cornell University Press, 1975).

Then graduate student Sally Schneider modified the program so that it operated on a remote terminal linked to the Prime 400 computer at the University of California Riverside. In a class on plant-parasitic nematodes taught at the UC Riverside, I used the computerized key as an aid in teaching students to recognize morphological and anatomical features of nematodes from drawings and photographs in the Mai book. 

In 1987, with the evolution of desktop personal computers and after taking over teaching of Nematology 100 at the University of California Davis, I started developing a menu-driven system for delivering the content of my lectures to students. At the 25th anniversary meeting of the Society of Nematologists in Florida in 1987, attendees were provided information of an agricultural marketing initiative called Agroplex.  That name sufficiently aggravated a colleague that, by way of poking a little fun, I decided to name my evolving teaching aid "Nemaplex".

During the late 1980s, the computer game "Pacman" was popular and in 1987 and 1990, I made extensive modifications to the original Todtax and named it Nemaman. In Nemaman, the identified nematodes were linked to files on their biology and management in Nemaplex.  The modified Nemaman also allowed identification of nematodes from the drawings in the CIH Descriptions of Plant-parasitic Nematodes or from input of the name of a nematode genus.

Initially, users accessed Nemaplex at terminals linked to a central computer.  When it became more common and convenient for students to have access to personal or departmental computers at disparate locations, Nemaplex was supplied on disks.  That limited the ease of updating and adding to the material so, in the mid 1990s, with the advent of the Windows operating system, I migrated the evolving Nemaplex to an html format that allowed multiple linkages among files.  However, I was unable to master the conversion of Nemaman to that format and so the feature was removed. In essence it is replaced by binomial keys in Nemaplex with linkages to appropriate files on nematode descriptions and biology.  In 1995 we developed Nemabase (I was thoroughly invested in the Nemaxxxx theme by then), a database of the host status of plants to nematodes  which we saw as critically needed information for the design of cropping systems for nematode management as nematicides became less available.  I have not evolved the skills to link Nemabase with Nemaplex, so it continues to be available by download from the University of California Integrated Pest Management web site.

The background file code structure for the pages on nematode biology and ecology in Nemaplex was initially that used in Stowell's Todtax program to facilitate linkage of files. Since the Todtax program coded nematodes to the genus level, a species number suffix was added to the code. From about 1990 onwards, as the numbers and diversity of  nematode taxa in Nemaplex have expanded, the code system for nematodes not included in the Mai book is derived from Bongers' "De Nematoden van Nederland" based on family, genus and species designations.  Nematodes not included in that book are provided with codes using the same format.

Besides providing information on individual nematodes species (and there are still many species on which I have not yet provided information), files on management, methods, ecology and other areas have been integrated.  Also, I have included spreadsheet tools for selecting cover crops and making economic threshold decisions.

Nemaplex is a continually evolving enterprise.  It's development tends to be sporadic, with surges of activity during times that I am teaching Nematology or when I have been inspired by a seminar or presentation at a scientific meeting.  Since Nemaplex originated as class tutorial, and is still used that way even though it has stepped far beyond the subject area of the class, it provides details of lectures, laboratory sessions, exams, and supporting PowerPoint slides for Nematology 100.

As of November 2009, Nemaplex is comprised of 6,500 files with 44,000 internal hyperlinks. I am sure that there are many errors, omissions, outdated information, misinterpretations and misrepresentations in the files.  Those errors are mine and I will appreciate being informed of them so that I can make appropriate corrections .

Howard Ferris

Davis, California

(hferris@ucdavis.edu)

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