Profile of Notes from Nature Team Member: Rob Guralnick
Name: Rob Guralnick
Title: Curator of Zoology at the CU Museum of Natural History (cumuseum.colorado.edu) and Associate Professor in the Dept. of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology (ebio.colorado.edu)
Where do you work primarily? My research and interests in understanding large scale patterns of biodiversity take me across the globe, typically with laptop in hand. Field ecological research has remained focused in the Western United States, in terrestrial and freshwater environs. I am a “taxon generalist” and work in the lab has ranged from viruses and parasites, to freshwater bivalves, to alpine mammal species such as pikas.
What you do in your day job? My day job is very dynamic, and usually includes some mix of meetings, both in person and virtual with students, collaborators, colleagues, etc. When not in meetings, I teach classes, oversee student work in my lab, and if I am super lucky, get to work on touching data and analyses in the realm of biodiversity research and informatics. What I most enjoy is getting a chance to pull together all the pieces involved in doing research and writing that up.
What’s your role with NfN and what do you hope to gain from it? If relevant, how will your research benefit? I (and the CU Museum) have been involved in Notes from Nature from the very beginning. I owe a lot of that interest to a former PhD student, Andrew Hill, who kept trying to get it through my thick skull that citizen science was going to be transformational in the study of ecology and biodiversity. Regarding what I hope to gain – two very different interests and research threads tie together with this project. One is a Museum-centric thread related to how Museums work with volunteers and build communities – I love that my job is diverse and includes museology as well the biodiversity research component. The issues of motivation and interest are important and I see the life sciences integrating more firmly with social and library and information science into the future. The other thread is that I work directly on how to assemble a globally coherent view of biodiversity and where our knowledge is best and worst. But getting this coherent picture requires understanding all the problems and limitations with messy and incomplete data. Notes from Nature promises to be a key way to get high quality mobilized for use. So, Notes from Nature is both a research project all on its own, and feeds essential data we need to do the biodiversity science in the 21st century.
What’s the most exciting aspect of citizen science work from your point-of-view? The most exciting thing for me is bringing one aspect of the job of working in a Museum out from collections spaces and into this neat, new Internet-scale world in which many of us live. I love the idea of people seeing all these cool specimens, and adding to our collective knowledge of the living world. I also am excited to just be involved, to connect, using new tools and approaches.