Slicing up SERNEC

As many of you may already know, the herbarium interface (or collection as its called on NFN) is comprised of images related to the SERNEC initiative. This is a very large consortium of herbaria that is interested in bringing more data about plants online for everyone to use. When I say more, I mean a lot more – millions of records! The geographic focus of these efforts is the southeastern United States, which is an extremely rich and unique global biodiversity hotspot.

Since NFN began, volunteers were only able select one set of herbarium images to work on. These have been preselected by the science team for a variety of different reasons. We have realized that there are limitation of this approach and have wanted to make these sets of images even more meaningful to everyone involved, especially our volunteers.

We have taken a step in this direction this week, by offering up four different collections to work on. These sets of images were selected and separated because they are from museums that are hosting onsite events this week as part of WeDigBio. The thought is that people have come to these events, in order to specifically help the museum that they are visiting. The new page allows volunteers to do just that.

This is a great test for the NFN team to see how this works out and will inform our plans for the future. For example, we are planning to allow for the subsetting of images by geography (e.g., North Carolina) and taxon (e.g., sunflower family). This has not been possible in the past mostly because this kind of information was not being collected when the specimens were imaged. The SERNEC group has changed it’s imaging protocol to allow for these kinds of selections to be made in the future. We are also interested in exploring other methods such as creating word clouds by using OCR methods to automatically extract all the words from the image and allow users to select them. After all, one of our main goals is to make coming to NFN a valuable experience for our volunteers.

Newfound Gap Rd near Clingman's Dome Rd - Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Photo by Timothy Wildey

Newfound Gap Rd near Clingman’s Dome Rd – Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Photo by Timothy Wildey


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