Profile of Notes from Nature Team Member: Andrew Sallans

Name:  Andrew Sallans

Title:  Head of Strategic Data InitiativesAndrew

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.


3 responses to “Profile of Notes from Nature Team Member: Andrew Sallans”

  1. Jean Tate says :

    Over in Galaxy Zoo (GZ) Talk, we have a ‘jargon gong’, to be used whenever a scientist uses a term which is (likely) not understood by a general (zooite) audience.

    My own test is “would a keen zooite in China understand the term, even if their command of English was good?”

    Sorry to say Andrew, you get three gongs (at least)! “SERNEC”, “PI”, and “STEM” (also a half gong for “UVA”).

    Dear Science Team members: not every NfN zooite lives in the US or is otherwise deeply familiar with jargon that is familiar to scientists. Please, when you write, try to keep an image of an extremely enthusiastic zooite in mind, one whose native tongue is not English, does not have a PhD in botany, and who does not live (and has never lived) in the USofA.


    • arfon says :

      Hi Jean, while I agree that overuse of jargon is something to be avoided if possible, this is a very new team and they’re just finding their feet blogging.

      I think the tone of this comment is overly harsh. Please be more friendly with your comments in future.


      • Jean Tate says :

        Yes, indeed; where are my manners!?!

        I think NfN is awesome!

        Shortly after Old Weather went live, I thought that the Zooniverse framework could surely be used to convert a great deal of analog information that has been sitting in herbaria and museums, tucked away in musty drawers, into digital form, to be set free and become available to professional and citizen scientists alike. And IRL (in real life), I’ve been bugging some folks at one herbarium about ways they could use that framework to greatly extend their own research (as well as make a real outreach splash!).

        Now, when it comes to transcribing records kept in museums in China … 😉

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