Transition Time

As we mentioned a while back, NFN is in the process of transitioning to a new version. Our current target date for the launch is June 15. With that said, we have a lot of work to do before that time so please stay tuned for further updates over the next few weeks. At this time, we are focused on setting up the new transcription workflows, refining tutorials as well as generating new web pages and content.

As our current image sets are completed we will make the corresponding interfaces inactive until we launch the new site. For example, the pinned insect interface (“Calbug”) was taken down about a month ago for this reason.

As of today the herbarium, macrofungi and bird image sets are at 90%, 95% and 69% complete respectively. This means that some of these could be finished within the next few days!

Some of you may be wondering if there will be a gap where NFN will be completely inactive before the new site launches. We intend to minimize any such gap by uploading some small images sets on to the site as needed. Our goal is to make the transition as smooth as possible for our volunteers.

In appreciation,

The NFN Team

Notes From Nature Challenge!

Hi Everyone,

The Notes From Nature project needs your help to digitize the treasure trove of biodiversity data stored in our natural history collections. NFN has some exciting news and a big favor to ask of you, particularly given this is Citizen Science Week, celebrating all the amazing efforts by volunteers here at Zooniverse and around the globe. As part of the events for the week, the project will be featured during the White House Science Fair

As we noted recently (, we will be re-launching with an all-new site and are soon ready to go live! As part of this process, we have set a goal to complete all of the images that remain on the site. This is close to 25,000 transcriptions. We are aiming to complete the remaining transcriptions by end of May, and we need your help to make that goal.

The images that you will find come from different types of museum specimens. Our focus is to finish our current macrofungi (mushrooms!) and herbarium specimens (plants!). Unlocking these data is critical to our understanding of biodiversity and we need your help to do it.

Please head over to Notes From Nature right now to help us complete our challenge at


Michael and the Notes From Nature Team

An inordinate fondness (and doneness) for (wood-boring) beetles

A few days ago the CalBug Expedition on wood boring beetles was completed. We want to extend a special thanks to all the volunteers that made this happen!  

 We are also excited to announce that this completion also marks the transition to the next phase of NFN. You will notice that there are no longer any pinned specimen images to transcribe on the site. In fact, we won’t be posting any additional pinned insect images until the new NFN site is launched some time during late Spring or early Summer.  We are already in the process of preparing a new set of CalBug expeditions just as cool as the wood-boring beetle effort we just finished.

You might be wondering about this new and shiny NFN 2.0? Our new NFN site is going to have some great enhancements for everyone involved in the process of doing citizen science transcriptions of natural history collections, and we’ll be talking more, right here, about all the neat stuff with NFN 2.0 soon. Stay tuned!

During the next two months we will focus on finishing up (retiring) existing images of bird ledges, macrofungi labels and herbarium specimens. As these current collections finish those interfaces will be temporary closed until the new NFN is launched. When the new version goes live we plan to provide more focused content across all the interfaces. This means that we will have a lot more expeditions for you to take that are geographically and/or taxonomically focused.  Again, more soon as we get all the pieces in place.

In the meantime there are still many ways to help! We still have lots of images available of bird ledges, macrofungi labels and herbarium specimens.  In fact, we need your help especially right now, as we hope to finish up those collection in the next month or so, to time with our relaunch.

In appreciation,

The NFN Team

More progress

Last week another herbarium collection reached 100%! As always we want to thank all the volunteers that helped make this possible. The NFN team is thrilled to see this progress as we move towards launching a new version of NFN this coming spring. Our goal is complete all the current collections before this time.

The collection that was just completed is from the Botanical Research Institute of Texas, however the specimens in these images were originally from the Vanderbilt University herbarium. This collection was housed on the Vanderbilt University campus until it transferred to Texas in 1997. These kinds of transfers between museums happen from time to time, but this one is notable for it’s size (over 350,000 specimens) and historical importance. The Vanderbilt collection is mostly comprised of specimens collected by R. Kral who was a very important collector in the southeastern United States. We will have more specimens from this collection coming in the future.

For those looking for more herbarium specimens, we still have two active collections where you can contribute today.

CalBug complete (again)!

Earlier this week the NFN team realized that we had retired an earlier CalBug collection a bit too early. There were 530 images that still needed to be transcribed. For this reason, this collection was put back up live on the NFN site earlier this week. Late yesterday our volunteers completed this collection. We are really excited to see two collections complete in one week!

The NFN team once again wants to sincerely thank our amazing volunteers (new and veteran!) for their effort!!

Still hungry for more CalBug images to transcribe?! CalBug Expeditions is still active and is 63% complete at the time of this posting.

Another collection complete!

Last week our volunteers completed the University of South Florida herbarium collection. We are excited to see this collection complete and wanted to take this opportunity to thank our awesome volunteers for their effort!

This was a relatively small collection of images (~500). The University of South Florida is similar to many collections in the SERNEC network as it is a small to medium sized collection housed at an academic institution. This collection is somewhat unique in that it has a large collection of cultivated plants.

This collection has been moved to our relatively new completed collections page. Thanks again to all the volunteers that helped with this collection!

Tweaking our transcription numbers (again).

As many of you know, Notes From Nature collects more than one transcription for each image (or subject, in Zooniverse speak). This is not uncommon among Zoonivere projects. This means that we get more than one set of data for each specimen image, making sure that each transcription is done by a different user. In fact, the algorithm does not permit a user to transcribe the same image more than once. This is why it is possible for a collection to be incomplete, but some users are no longer served images to transcribe.

The purpose behind this is to assist with quality assessment of the data. It is not that our volunteers do not provide quality transcriptions! In fact, in many cases Notes From Nature volunteers provide higher quality transcriptions than trained technicians. However, there are various situations where the information on a label can be up to interpretation. This is especially true for handwritten labels and information that goes into our free text fields (e.g. locality). Having more than one transcription helps us come up with the best possible transcription for a given image, using software that analyzes the whole set of transcription.

This is not the first time we have changed the number of transcriptions. When we first started Notes From Nature in 2013 we were collecting 10 transcriptions per image, which we quickly realized was many more than was needed. We reduced the number of transcriptions to 4 per image. We recently reanalyzed this issue again and found that 3 transcriptions per image would be sufficient. This means that we have moved from 4 to 3 transcriptions per image as of this week. So far this has taken place in the CalBug, Herbarium and Macrofungi interfaces.

Some of our volunteers have already noted that our progress bars showed a bit bump this week and this is the reason why. When the algorithm was changed any images with 3 transcriptions were immediately retired from the queue. As always, we greatly appreciate your hard work and are continually looking for ways to make this project more efficient and enjoyable!


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