Missouri Botanical Garden Open Conference Systems, TDWG 2014 ANNUAL CONFERENCE

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Building the historical biodiversity baseline: Emerging iDigBio resources for onsite and online public participation in the digitization of biodiversity research specimens
Libby Ellwood, Robert Bruhn, Jeremy Spinks, Greg Riccardi, Austin Mast

Building: Elmia Congress Centre, Jönköping
Room: Rum 11
Date: 2014-10-27 11:00 AM – 11:15 AM
Last modified: 2014-10-04


Biodiversity research collections (biocollections) provide the important historical baseline data on diversity and distributions against which to compare the new observations that are often the focus of ecological and environmental citizen science projects. Engaging the public in the creation of this baseline serves the biocollections by generating the data, but it also furthers public understanding of biodiversity science and builds public support for biocollections. We will introduce two new resources for public engagement in digitization from iDigBio, the US National Science Foundation’s National Resource for Advancing Digitization of Biodiversity Collections. The first is a growing suite of digitization blitz kits to engage volunteers in onsite events at a collection. These kits include (1) protocols, (2) relevant best practice and standards documents, (3) artwork for advertising and incentive gifts, (4) post-event surveys, (5) equipment lists, and (6) example recruitment and training documents. To date we have produced an imaging blitz kit and are working on transcription and georeferencing blitz kits. In our experience, imaging blitz participants comfortably average about 125 specimen images per hour per imaging station with excellent quality. Post-event surveys suggest that digitization blitzes bring many new volunteers into the collection who have not previously participated in a collection’s longer-term volunteer program. The second resource is online, where public engagement can occur on a much larger scale. This new tool, called Biospex for Biodiversity Specimen Expeditions, is a public participation project management system that is designed to make it easier for everyone to establish digitization projects for the major tools (e.g., Notes from Nature, GeoLocate), advertise the projects at the go-to sites for learning about citizen science projects (e.g., scistarter.org), and move data between these tools and biocollection’s data management systems. These project creators/managers can be biocollection curators, but also citizen science groups and others. For example, a native plant society might choose to create a project focused on georeferencing all specimens (irrespective of source biocollection) from a local national park with the georeferences returning to the relevant biocollections. This enables “co-created” citizen science, rather than just the simpler “contributory” citizen science (sometimes called “crowdsourcing”), leading to a deeper understanding of the scientific process. We will explore the importance of this distinction for the design of Biospex in greater depth here; another talk in the “Access to Digitization Tools And Methods” will review the technical specifications of Biospex.

This work is partially funded by grant from the National Science Foundation's Advancing Digitization of Biodiversity Collections Program (Cooperative Agreement EF-1115210).