Crab Shack Complete!

The Crab Shack at Notes From Nature has temporarily shut its doors, for the best possible reason: we’re done! In barely over a month, an amazing group of transcribers has completed data transcription from nearly 1,000 samples (upwards of 4,000 transcriptions, since each sample is transcribed four times). That’s the complete collection of crabs in the family Cancridae that we have here at the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County.

This was a particularly challenging transcription project. There were over a dozen data fields, and a truly ambiguous mapping of text on labels to database fields. This was really a stretch for the Notes From Nature team, and we’re extremely grateful! Deep thanks to Rob Guralnick, Rafe LaFrance, Libby Ellwood and Michael Denslow for putting it all together in time for the WeDigBio blitz.


Are we happy about how it went? Extremely! Here’s a snapshot of a few of the Happy Crab Shack Biologists here at the Museum right after we learned of the completion. From left to right, that’s Dean Pentcheff, Regina Wetzer, and Jenessa Wall. Not shown are Kathy Omura, Adam Wall, and a crew of interns, volunteers, and work-study students from the University of Southern California (who did the specimen and label photography).

But of course, the core contribution came from the many transcribers out in Internet-land. To all of you — thank you so much! This project happened and succeeded because of your persistence on this (admittedly ambiguous) project.


Even without looking at the data in detail, some gems have emerged. One example is a sample that, from its label data, we now know was collected in 1901 at an early marine laboratory near us in San Pedro. The photo shows the crabs and the labels that were transcribed. The boat “Elsie” was used by researchers at the lab before the operation moved to the San Diego area, where it became the Scripps Institution of Oceanography. At the time, San Pedro was a pretty rough place, but was home to (among other characters) an eccentric group of women pursuing marine biology. We had no idea that we had any specimens from that era.

While the Crab Shack is currently not serving any entrées, we’re not closing shop for good. First, we need to analyze and ingest the amazing dataset we now have. Based on what we learn from the data and the feedback from this expedition, we’ll be moving forward (again, teamed with the great Notes From Nature crew) to open a newly refurbished Shack, journeying on to a new group of animals (still to be determined).

We look forward to having you on board again!


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