Missouri Botanical Garden Open Conference Systems, TDWG 2014 ANNUAL CONFERENCE

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Valorization over 350 years of natural history collections: e-ReColNat a digital platform for the environment and society
Julien Husson

Building: Elmia Congress Centre, Jönköping
Room: Rydbergsalen
Date: 2014-10-28 02:50 PM – 03:10 PM
Last modified: 2014-10-03


Evaluating biodiversity changes since the beginnings of the industrial era requires documenting occurrences of species over a large period of time. However, when dealing with species records, one faces the difficult problem of proper identification. At least for older periods, only specimens held in natural history collections can provide appropriate data, as they can be re-identified in the light of current taxonomy. There are ca. 2 billions of specimens in natural history collections worldwide, of which 100 millions are in France. Although occasionally imprecise, the occurrence data associated with these specimens provide a unique perspective on biodiversity over the last 350 years. They can thus be used to calibrate predictive models of the oncoming changes in biodiversity patterns under global threats.

The aim of e-ReColNat is to build a huge database consisting of species occurrence records through time, which will feed all kind of research and expertise in biodiversity survey, modelling global change, etc. It fits international initiatives such as e-Biosphere and the European program Lifewatch.

The most serious impediment to the use of specimen-based information is that only a small fraction is currently databased and available for a large and diverse community. Museums and other similar institutions have already taken up the task of digitizing and indexing their collections. Yet, the huge mass of data that is still to be recorded makes that task a tens (if not hundreds) of years project at the current pace. New methodologies, based on « industrial » logics and logistics, are required in order to speed up the digitization process. The project is 4-fold:

1) Acquiring raw data in the fastest and the most cost effective way.

2) Processing this huge mass of data (verifying, re-identifying, informing structured fields) to feed a database suitable for research and expertise. It requires mobilizing all resources available worldwide, professional and amateur taxonomists alike. In order to do so, we've build tools based on a Web2.0 participative approach (e.g Quality Control for Digital Imaging, Les Herbonautes ).

3) Creating a digital plateform to make biodiversity information freely and openly available to everyone.

4) Data back to providers after valorization specimens given by researchers at the aid of scientific tools available on the platform

The main objective is to provide a tool documenting biodiversity. Besides the research interests, the database will be appropriate for expertise (eg. biodiversity surveys, conservation programs, invasive species documentation). The plateform will offer a full access to the data, and provide tools for researchers to allow analyze the specimens