Inside the natural history museums of the world are billions of animal and plant specimens from birds, fish and beetles to flowers, mushrooms and grasses, all stacked, stored and preserved in jars and collection drawers.
The rich and diverse collections could be critical to understanding how the Earth's biodiversity is changing in the face of a growing human footprint if only the information were easily accessible.
A new online project, brought to life with the help of a team from the University of Colorado Boulder, is using citizen scientists to help solve the problem. Notes from Nature, http://www.notesfromnature.org, allows anyone with a curiosity for natural history, a computer and a little time to transcribe the often hand-scrawled tags attached to each specimen, which typically record the date, time and place where the plant or animal was collected, among other details.
"You can look at maps of the globe and you can see spots where we just don't know anything about vertebrates, let alone insects or plants or mollusks," said Robert Guralnick, associate professor in the department of ecology and evolutionary biology and CU-Boulder's point person on the Notes from Nature project. "We can fill in the gaps with these kinds of data that come from those drawers."
The concept that underpins Notes from Nature grew out of a collaboration among the University of Colorado Museum of Natural History, the Natural History Museum of London, the South Eastern Regional Network of Expertise and Collections, or SERNEC, and University of California Berkeley's Calbug project, an umbrella for the nine major insect collections housed in California.
The vision was crafted into a reality by data-visualization specialists from Vizzuality and by Zooniverse, a web portal that already hosts online citizen science projects that allow the average person to comb through cosmic data i
|Contact: Robert Guralnick|
University of Colorado at Boulder