The costs associated with each method vary based on the rate for a student's time versus the cost to build the web infrastructure for the Notes from Nature site. The online transcription also requires a digital photo be taken of each specimen, though new whole-drawer imaging technologies may make that process cheaper and more efficient in the future.
Guralnick has yet to crunch numbers, but the overwhelming initial enthusiasm from citizen scientists is promising. "We think, even in the first week, we've paid it off," he said. "That's really cool."
Each record uploaded to Notes from Nature is transcribed by three different people. By comparing the results, Guralnick and his colleagues will be able to come up with a quality metric and compare that metric to the quality of records transcribed in the traditional manner.
Once all the records in a collection have been transcribed, the larger goal is to make the resulting data accessible to more people. For example, the data could expand existing projects, like the Map of Life, http://www.mappinglife.org, which already allows people to use mapping software to access hundreds of millions of natural history records from specific geographic areas.
"When I see transcriptions happening at Notes for Nature I'm really watching little points on a map fill in," Guralnick said. "That's really exciting to me."
Notes from Nature is part of an ongoing effort by CU-Boulder's museum to engage the public in citizen science projects. Earlier this year, the museum launched The Bees' Needs. The project involves 250 participants recruiting solitary wood-nesting bees to pollinate their backyard gardens and then mon
|Contact: Robert Guralnick|
University of Colorado at Boulder