New Expeditions: Ground Beetles

Ground Beetles (Carabidae) are one of the most diverse animal families in the world with ca. 40,000 species known world-wide. They also dominate in both diversity and abundance at northern latitudes making them important ecological indicators on the effects of changing climates. For this reason, documenting ground beetle biodiversity throughout North America has become the major focus of large international collaborations such as one between the National Ecological Observation Network (NEON) in the US and the Barcode of Life Data Systems (BOLD). However, while efforts such as these have placed an emphasis on new ground beetle specimens, a swath of information remains to be tapped from numerous museums and collections throughout the world with historical collections.

With one of the largest holdings of ground beetles in North America at over 210,000 specimens, the E.H. Strickland Entomological Museum (UASM) at the University of Alberta in Edmonton, Canada has made a serious effort to digitize its carabid collection and make its data publicly available for researchers. At present, label data from over 170,000 specimens has been digitized and is searchable from online data aggregators such as Canadensys, the Global Biodiversity Information Facility (GBIF), iDigBio, and the Symbiota Collections of Arthropods Network (SCAN). Now through the assistance of Notes from Nature, we aim to digitize the remainder of our ground beetle specimens (~41,000) by enlisting the help of citizen scientists such as you.

Give our 1st expedition (Tiger Beetles 1) a try, and marvel at the color patterns of these magnificent beasts!


–Bryan Brunet, PhD

Collections Management Advisor (Natural Sciences), University of Alberta Museums, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada

Are you a Notes from Nature Pro?

In our last post, we mentioned that we wanted to thank all of our volunteers who have joined us from the previous Notes from Nature (NFN) and are taking part in the relaunch.  We know you’ve asked us about your efforts on the original site, and happily all those numbers are still available on your Zooniverse profile pages.  But we really do want to go above and beyond in Notes from Nature in acknowledging all those amazing folks who have helped us, and so we are offering two new badges to certify your efforts across the years on NFN.

In the new Notes from Nature, these badges automagically show up in your Field Book when you reach the badge milestone, so you may have already just achieved these – so grab a look, and if not, here’s hoping you can achieve these soon.  These will likely be the only badges we launch that relate to work on the previous Notes from Nature, so they are definitely unique (and hard to get). 

Our first badge is for an “NFN Journeyman” who has completed at least ten transcriptions in both the old Notes from Nature and the new one.  The badge reflects the continuity between the two sites, since it has been prominently displayed on the main page of both the old and new NFN.


The “NFN Pro” badge (with many thanks to Jordan Martin at the Zooniverse for the inspired artwork) is an entirely new badge that you achieve if you have performed at least 30 transcriptions in the old Notes from Nature and do the same number in the new one.   Again, thanks for improving the world and taking part in Notes from Nature!


End of Week Notes from Nature Goodness

 We are excited to have passed the 1000 mark in registered transcribers to the new Notes from Nature (NFN)!  We are also now exactly one month past our relaunch and couldn’t be happier about all the great effort.  We hope the faster pace of expeditions is something folks really like, and we have a lot of neat stuff coming in the near future – some very different kinds of expeditions for those adventurers who want to see very different kinds of specimens.

For those new transcribers to NFN who have headed here for the first time, we are glad to have you involved.  And we are also very thankful for those who took part in the first version of NFN and have come back.  For you folks in particular, we are working out some specific acknowledgements we hope to be able to get together in the next couple weeks.

Finally, we have a new link on the main Notes from Nature page which you may have noticed – “statistics”.  Hopefully it is pretty self-explanatory — give it a bit to load and you’ll get information about current progress and effort on each current expedition along with some neat tools to visualize transcriptions and talk comments over time.   We particularly like the “estimated time to completion” (ETC, for short) tool that gives an indication when an expedition might finish given current pace.   We know there are some bugs (of the software kind, rather than insect kind) to still work out, and we plan to have those licked soon, by next week.  For now, bear with us and please always feel free to provide feedback on what you think about the stats (or anything else).

New Herbarium Expeditions: Plants from Arkansas U.S.A.

The U.S. State of Arkansas is joining the Notes from Nature herbarium expeditions. They are hitting the ground running with a set of three expeditions that all launched today.

These specimen images can be found in their new project called, “Plants of Arkansas: Discovery and Dissemination.” Within the project you can currently choose one of three expeditions to transcribe specimen labels. Rolling out today are, “Plants of Arkansas: Discovering Dogwoods,” “Hear them Ring: Bellflowers of Arkansas,” and “Plants of Arkansas: The Delta and Crowley’s Ridge Flora.”

The first two expeditions are taxonomic in their focus (focused on specific plant groups). The flowering dogwood (Cornus florida) is a charismatic understory tree, but Arkansas has five other species of lesser-known dogwoods and three species of gums and tupelos in this family (Cornaceae). You will likely learn a lot more about these plants, their distributions, and habitat preferences as you transcribe the specimen labels.

Bellflowers are in the Campanulaceae family and they represent a colorful herbaceous element to the native flora of Arkansas. Though most species in this family have blue or purple flowers, cardinal flower (Lobelia cardinalis) is a bright red, fall-flowering beauty documented from nearly every county in the state. Aggregating this specific locality data will provide information on the level of habitat specificity or generality of these bellflower family members.

Finally, there is a regional project focused on the Arkansas Delta Region and Crowley’s Ridge. Botanically, this is the least explored region of the state. The Delta has undergone massive conversion from bottomland hardwood forest to row crop agriculture in the last 100 years, and the distribution of native and introduced species is not yet well understood. Moreover, this region in great need of improved conservation strategies, could greatly benefit by identifying species rich habitat remnants. We look forward to you engaging with the new “Plants of Arkansas: Discovery and Dissemination”. Let us know what you think about about these expeditions in the Talk forum.

Happy transcribing and as always thanks for your efforts!!!

A few new badges

We are really excited about all the initial effort on the new Notes from Nature!  We already have seen 7 expeditions finish, just in these first few weeks. We hope that you like the shorter expedition format, and we wanted to especially thank those who are working across these different expeditions.  For those explorers doing just that, we now have a new set of badges that certifies your efforts working broadly on transcribing natural history collections.  The first badge rewards you for efforts working across 5 expeditions and the harder badge to get is working across 25 expeditions.  And yes, true that we don’t yet have 25 expeditions up or finished, but those are coming, and that badge will become yours to collect sometime soon.

These badges are already activated on your Field Book, so take look to see if you have already earned the first one.

Again, thanks for all the efforts. If you like (or have some ideas for us how to improve) Notes from Nature, give us a holler.  We want to make Notes from Nature awesome for you and to serve a real value for understanding biodiversity.

New expedition: Ant plants!

Ants are essential to the life of over 11,000 plant species worldwide. Help us learn more about this remarkable partnership in Virginia by taking Notes from Nature.  We have a new expedition here.
The forests of eastern North America are a global hotspot for a remarkable ecological interaction: myrmecochory or ant-based seed dispersal. Over thirty genera of plants native to this region rely on ants to distribute their seeds. These plants produce a specialized food reward on their seeds, called an elaiosome, that is consumed by ants once they return to their nest with the harvested seeds.


Afterwards, ants discard the undamaged seeds in underground waste-pits or by their nest’s entrance, where germination conditions are ideal. Consequently, distributions of many native plant species, including some of Virginia’s most recognizable wildflowers such as bloodroot, trout lily and spring beauty, are governed by ants.

Help us learn more about the diversity and distribution of this remarkable ecological interaction while expanding your knowledge of the many ant-plants that call Virginia home.

First butterfly expedition complete!

Thanks to all the volunteers who contributed to the freshly-completed transcription of images from the first batch of butterfly specimens from the Florida Museum of Natural History. This collection of images presented a unique set of challenges, since they represent material that originated in several smaller collections which were then united under one roof at the FLMNH’s McGuire Center for Lepidoptera and Biodiversity. This means the tags and data associated with specimens are not standardized, and in some cases, there is data written on both sides of tags, requiring us to provide two images of each specimen. However, despite all of these challenges, data associated with these 468 specimens was transcribed in 13 days!

The first thing to which these data will be applied is developing better distribution maps of swallowtail butterflies. These specimens provide a vouchered record of where and when species can be found, and provide an especially valuable record of rare species that are not easily encountered by casual hobbyists, especially in remote areas of Southeast Asia and South America. We are interested in comparing closely-related species from these two regions to determine what role the pressures of paleoclimatic change may have played in determining their current distributions. This may offer clues to how future climate changes may affect these species, which have important roles as pollinators and as links in the food chain.

Thank you again, and be sure to check back soon for more FLMNH butterflies—our dedicated team of imaging volunteers is working hard to image more swallowtails and other groups, which we hope to post in a few months.


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