UC Berkeley Museum and WeDigBio

For centuries, scientists have explored and documented the natural world, collecting the billions of specimens housed in museums, universities, and field stations worldwide. And now, UC Berkeley and other institutions across the globe want to help make that information available to the general public.

But they need your help.

UC Berkeley’s Essig Museum of Entomology invites members of the public to one of the many transcription parties that will be held this week during the Worldwide Engagement for Digitizing Biocollections (WeDigBio) Event. The WeDigBio event will transform the cryptic data sequestered on the labels of plant, insect, fish, and fossil specimens into an open, globally accessible, digital resource with the help of the public.

“Between California’s extended drought, extensive wildfires, and other assaults on our environment, it is now more important than ever to understand how these pressures are changing insect communities and the ecosystem services they provide,” says local event organizer and collections manager, Dr. Peter Oboyski. “There is no better way to convey this message than by inviting the public behind the curtain to help us collect the data we need to document these patterns.”

The Essig Museum contains nearly 6 million specimens of insects, spiders, and their relatives, representing over 35,000 species. These specimens also represent the past 100 years of California’s climate, terrestrial habitats, and waterways in the form of distribution records of native and invasive species. “California is a biodiversity hotspot and a world leader in conservation, research conducted at the University of California over this time span allows us to map the past and give us a glimpse of our environmental future,” says Oboyski.

The WeDigBio event emerged within the museum community to accelerate the rate of digital data creation about the historical what, when, and where of the perhaps 9 million species on Earth. The major online transcription platforms include the U.S.-based Notes from Nature, Smithsonian Transcription Center, and Symbiota; the Australia-based DigiVol; the UK-based Herbaria@Home; and the France-based Les Herbonautes.

This one-of-a-kind event will be held from October 22-25 at 30 locations across the globe. While the local event at UC Berkeley offers a social setting where people can contribute and learn about the entomology museum and local insect diversity, members of the public can contribute at anytime from anywhere during the event at one of the participating online transcription platforms.

Essig Museum ”CalBug” specimens will be available for transcriptions at www.notesfromnature.org. More information about the WeDigBio event can be found at https://www.wedigbio.org.

The UC Berkeley transcription blitz will take place from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday, October 24th, in the BioScience Library of the Valley Life Science Building. More information is available at http://essig.berkeley.edu/activities/wedigbio.shtml. RSVP to essig.museum@gmail.com

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