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CU-Boulder helps tap crowds to digitize museum records of bugs and plants
Date:5/23/2013

n search of far-off planets, transcribe old ship logs to glean historical climate records, or listen to audio clips of nighttime bat calls to help identify and track the flying mammals.

"Our projects help answer research questions that can only be solved by a significant amount of human attention they require people, not computers," said Arfon Smith, director of citizen science at the Adler Planetarium in Chicago and the technical lead for Zooniverse. "People have responded in a way that is truly great. There is an appetite for contributing to something real."

When Notes from Nature launched in late April, cyber citizen scientists had access to two collections for transcription: insects from Calbug and plants from SERNEC. In the future, the project plans to add the London museum's bird ledgers and possibly other museum collections as they become available.

The University of Colorado Museum of Natural History's zoology records have largely been entered into a database already. However, major digitization efforts are currently underway in the museum's botanical, entomological and paleontological collections, work that is being supported through a nationally funded initiative to increase access to museum records.

Almost immediately after the website went live, hundreds of people started transcribing thousands of records, contributing a person-year's worth of work in just a handful of days. A month in, more than 2,100 people have completed more than 101,000 transcriptions.

Guralnick, who is the curator of invertebrate zoology at CU-Boulder's museum, is working to determine the cost-benefit tradeoff of crowdsourcing the transcription of museum collections as well as checking the quality of the resulting data and monitoring the time it takes to do the transcriptions online.

To create a baseline for his research, Guralnick paid a student to transcribe more than 1,000 records from the vertebrate zoology collection and
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Contact: Robert Guralnick
robert.guralnick@colorado.edu
303-735-0441
University of Colorado at Boulder
Source:Eurekalert

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