Profile of Notes from Nature Team Member: Andrew Sallans
Name: Andrew Sallans
Where do you work primarily? University of Virginia Library
What you do in your day job? Unlike most of my Notes from Nature colleagues, I am not in a research or teaching position, and instead focus my energy on building services to support data-intensive research, working with researchers on data management problems, and facilitating the management, access, use, and preservation of research data with UVA researchers.
What’s your role with NfN and what do you hope to gain from it? If relevant, how will your research benefit? I’ve been involved with Notes from Nature from its inception, having been the lead PI on a proposal to Zooniverse on behalf of SERNEC. I’ve been working with SERNEC for around 6 years now, with an eye towards digitizing the local UVA biological collections and providing a proper, broader long-term home for the digital data output. The opportunity to partner with the Essig Museum and Natural History Museum teams has been a real pleasure and opportunity to see other approaches for increasing access to biological collections, digitization methods, metadata standards, cataloging approaches, and general collection challenges. I believe that these experiences will all be beneficial as we continue to develop and evolve research collection management strategies here at UVA.
What’s the most exciting aspect of citizen science work from your point-of-view? This project has been exciting in many, many ways. Although I’m not in the role of a scientist, I’ve had the privilege of interacting directly with many collections over the past decade in order to help manage and preserve those collections. I’ve always loved being able to closely examine, understand, interpret, and contextualize items in collections, but this is something most people are never exposed to. Even with many new programs to increase STEM research and education, it’s sometimes hard to develop enthusiasm when direct contact with science is sometimes too dangerous or costly for the student or scientific object; I’ve seen the same be true in libraries (ie. lack of interest in history because it’s all behind glass). Zooniverse projects like Notes from Nature offer an excellent opportunity to make a meaningful contribution to scientific progress by completing critical tasks at a massive scale, while simultaneously having an opportunity to interact quite closely (ie. high-quality images are almost as good as the real thing!) with many specimen and the expert scientists and managers who work with them each day. I’m hopeful that we’ll inspire new researchers and research projects and create some great conversations between those who are passionate about science.