Missouri Botanical Garden Open Conference Systems, TDWG 2014 ANNUAL CONFERENCE

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

Last modified: 2014-09-24


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. There are ca. 2 billion specimens in natural history collections worldwide, of which 100 million are in France. The aim of e-ReColNat is to build a huge database consisting of species occurrence records through time, which will feed all kinds of research and expertise in biodiversity surveys, modeling global change, etc. 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 » logic and logistics, are required in order to speed up the digitization process. The project is four-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 have built tools based on a Web 2.0 participative approach (i.e., quality control for digital imaging, Les Herbonautes ). 3) Creating a digital platform to make biodiversity information freely and openly available to everyone. 4) Returning data to the providers after adding new species occurrence information (e.g., updated identification, revision, location) given by researchers with the aid of scientific tools available on the platform.

The main objective is to provide a tool documenting biodiversity using citizen science to gather and validate specimen data. The platform will offer full access to the data, and will provide tools for researchers to allow analysis of the specimens.