Navigation Links
New database features 710,000 natural history records from Canadian Museum of Nature

Ottawa, March 26, 2014The Canadian Museum of Nature, Canada's national museum of natural history, has launched a free scientific database featuring open access to more than 710,000 records of plants, animals, fossils, and minerals that are part of the museum's national collections. The searchable online resource is accessible through the museum's web site at

The digitized records represent about one-quarter (or 22%) of the museum's estimated 3.2 million "cataloguable units" of biological and geological material. Overall, the museum estimates it manages more than 10.5 million individual specimens that have been acquired over more than 150 years. The collections, which cover Canada and other parts of the world, are stored and curated at the museum's Natural Heritage Campus in Gatineau, Quebec.

"The great potential of this online access is that it takes a huge collection and unleashes the associated data over the internet for all kinds of people to ask questions about the natural world," explains Dr. Mark Graham, the museum's Vice-President, Research and Collections. "This tool provides the power for a researcher to choose the data that they want, use it freely, and apply it to the scientific questions that they are trying to answer." In some cases, online access can minimize loans of valuable specimens, or reduce the need for direct contact with a curator or a personal visit to the collections.

Data from natural history collections, supplemented by images, can be applied in numerous ways. These can include tracking invasive species patterns, understanding competition in ecosystems, mapping changes in habitat or species range over time, defining poorly studied areas for collecting, or assisting with computer modelling related to issues such as climate change.

For natural history museums, digitization means providing online information that defines a specimen or object, which is usually indicated on a specimen label or sometimes written in field notes. This information may include its scientific name, when and where it was collected, who collected it, and other pertinent information such as the habitat where it was found.

"Anything that provides context about what that specimen is, what it was doing in its natural environment and where it was found is recorded," says Dr. Jeff Saarela, a museum research scientist and botanist. He led the project team that developed the database in collaboration with software developer eSolutionsGroup. "The museum's staff have been digitizing our specimen records for over 20 years, but this is the first time that information from the collections has been combined in one portal that can now be shared easily with the world."

The database is enhanced by the addition of about 16,000 records with high-resolution imagesthe majority are plant specimens stored in the museum's National Herbarium of Canada. The plants can be easily scanned because they are pressed and preserved for study on flat sheets. In addition, maps using GPS coordinates provide a visual cue to where each specimen was found.

Records can be searched under five main categories: discipline (mineralogy, paleobiology, botany and zoology), taxonomic classification (using the scientific naming convention), location (from latitude/longitude to geographical locale), specimen information such as catalogue number, and a collection date range.

The data fields are also standardized to meet global standards, so that the records can be integrated with international initiatives such as the Global Biodiversity Information Facility, based in Denmark. This network provides open access to scientific data from cooperating museums, universities, government agencies, NGO's and laboratories in more than 50 countries.

The museum will continue to add an estimated 16,000 records annually to its Collections Online portal. Priorities to date have included existing records from the museum's internal databases, type specimens (those used to define a new species), new specimens collected for study by the museum's scientists, and areas of scientific leadership for the museum such as specimens from the Arctic.

"Ultimately, this initiative allows the Canadian Museum of Nature to open up its back rooms to the world, so anybody can go online and look for information about specimens they might be interested in," says Saarela.


Contact: Dan Smythe
Canadian Museum of Nature

Related biology news :

1. U-M Health and Retirement Study adds genetic data to NIH database
2. New databases harvest a rich bounty of information on crop plant metabolism
3. Navigating the Patent Minefield of Embryonic Stem Cell Product Development; Free Kindle Fire Tablet and Research Database with Purchase
4. Privately owned genetic databases may hinder diagnosis and bar the way to the arrival of personalized medicine
5. NREL updates solar radiation database
6. CNIO researchers develop new databases for understanding the human genome
7. New database to speed genetic discoveries
8. NREL launches initiative to build solar performance database
9. Online biodiversity databases audited: Improvement needed
10. Search tool for gene expression databases could uncover therapeutic targets, biological processes
11. Nanomaterials database improved to help consumers, scientists track products
Post Your Comments:
(Date:11/2/2015)... , Nov. 2, 2015  SRI International has ... to provide preclinical development services to the National Cancer ... SRI will provide scientific expertise, modern testing and support ... of preclinical pharmacology and toxicology studies to evaluate potential ... --> The PREVENT Cancer Drug Development Program is ...
(Date:10/29/2015)... Daon, a global leader in mobile biometric ... new version of its IdentityX Platform , IdentityX ... have already installed IdentityX v4.0 and are ... FIDO UAF certified server component as an option ... features. These customers include some of the largest and ...
(Date:10/29/2015)... 2015 NXTD ) ("NXT-ID" ... on the growing mobile commerce market and creator ... a leading marketplace to discover and buy innovative ... wallet on StackSocial for this holiday season.   ... "Company"), a biometric authentication company focused on the ...
Breaking Biology News(10 mins):
(Date:11/30/2015)... ... November 30, 2015 , ... ... software integration with MarkLogic, the Enterprise NoSQL database platform provider, creating a ... change. , Smartlogic’s Content Intelligence capabilities provide a robust set of semantic ...
(Date:11/27/2015)... , ... November 27, 2015 , ... ... that includes over 2,000 technical presentations offered in symposia, oral sessions, workshops, ... applied spectroscopy, covers a wide range of applications such as, but not limited ...
(Date:11/25/2015)... 26, 2015 --> ... 2016 - 2020 report analyzes that automating biobanking ... quality in long-term samples, minimizing manual errors, improving ... minimizes manual errors such as mislabeling or inaccurate ... it plays a vital role in blood fractionation, ...
(Date:11/25/2015)... HOLLISTON, Mass. , Nov. 25, 2015 ... HART ), a biotechnology company developing bioengineered organ implants ... McGorry will present at the LD Micro "Main ... 2:30 p.m. PT. The presentation will be webcast live ... Management will also be available at the conference for ...
Breaking Biology Technology: