Archive by Author | mwdenslow

WeDigBio 2022 – Day 1

It was an exciting first day or WeDigBio. Thanks for all the contributions, thoughts, questions and engagement!

Butterflies specimens in the Canadian National Collection of Insects, Arachnids and Nematodes (CNC)

We hope you are enjoying Day 2 so far. Remember to check out the special symposium on improving data quality October 14th, 12pm EST (UTC -5). More information and the link you join can be found in our previous post: WeDigBio Symposium: Improving Data Quality, Data Linkages, and Data Communities

Lastly, if you are interested in app based expeditions download the Zooniverse app and look for our special expedition under the category Nature.

— The Notes from Nature Team


Transcribing Canada’s Natural History Data

Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada houses several of Canada’s national biological collections, including insects, plants, fungi, bacteria and nematodes. These biodiversity repositories help scientists explore problems in agriculture, biological control and pest management, study biodiversity and genetics and help inform policy makers working to protect Canada’s natural resources.

The largest two collections are the Canadian National Collection of Insects, Arachnids and Nematodes (CNC) and the National Collection of Vascular Plants (DAO), both in Ottawa, Canada. The CNC contains around 17 million specimens, while the DAO contains 1.5 million dried vascular plant specimens.

Butterflies specimens in the CNC.

Our summer students have helped us capture over 1.3 million images over the past five years. With your help, we can turn these images into digital data that will then be put online for researchers from all over the world to study.

 CNC Summer Students digitizing specimen label data.

The DAO launched their Notes from Nature expeditions starting in April 2022 and have digitized poplars, willows and various plant species. The CNC is now launching our first expedition to digitize some of the Bristle flies (Tachinidae) of the CNC, with several more expeditions in the works. All of our active expeditions can be found in the project: Digitizing Biological Collections in Canada.

Join us in exploring Canada’s biodiversity on Notes from Nature!

A bristle fly of the family Tachinidae.

— Michelle Locke, Senior Entomology Collection Technician at the Canadian National Collection of Insects, Arachnids and Nematodes.

WeDigBio starts tomorrow!

The Notes from Nature team is excited for the start of WeDigBio tomorrow! WeDigBio (Worldwide Engagement for Digitizing Biocollections) is a global data campaign, virtual science festival, and local outreach opportunity all rolled into one. This 4-day, twice-a-year event mobilizes participants to create digital data about biodiversity specimens.

Notes from Nature is hosting lots of exciting expeditions featuring bees, moths, plants, moths, fleas, mites and more! Remember to complete 10 transcriptions to earn your WeDigBio 2022 badge.

Also, stay tuned for an announcement about a new Zooniverse mobile app based expedition.

There are events that you can attend online or in person. Be sure to check out a special Symposium on improving data quality which will take place on Friday.

— The Notes from Nature Team

WeDigBio Symposium: Improving Data Quality, Data Linkages, and Data Communities

Join us for a WeDigBio symposium this Friday 14 October 2022 at 12 noon EST (US eastern time)

WeDigBio next week

We’re ramping up for WeDigBio starting next Thursday (October 13). We’ve got lots of great content related to bees, plants, fleas, moths and even more to come.

Stop by Notes from Nature anytime to check out how you can help and as always please spread the word and encourage others to participate. All you need to do is visit Notes from Nature, select a project and then an expedition to work on. Every classification helps us unlock important biodiversity data that will become publicly available.

— The Notes from Nature

Measure Me Green is Relaunching!

The Big Bee Bonanza project launched a brand new kind of expedition for Notes from Nature, where we asked for your help to measure bee body size using a novel measurement tool. That first project was called “Measure Me Green” and included images of the widely distributed, green sweat bee (Agapostemon texanus). The response was incredible, and we finished the first measurement expedition in only a few days. Thanks to your help we also learned a lot along the way about how to create measurement expeditions and we learned from you about how we can improve the results of future expeditions like this one.

We looked closely into the measurement data and found that many of the measurements were longer than expected. Figure 1 illustrates this issue, with each line representing a measurement by a different participant. Some measured from the start of the tegula, others from the end or the middle. We think that this had to do with us not being clear enough about exactly where to draw the tegula lines. We plan to do a lot of measurements over the next few years and really want to get this right. We value your time and don’t often ask you to repeat classifications, but in this case, we feel it’s the best course of action to improve how we are doing things going forward.

Figure 1: Based on the variation in measurements, we found that different people are choosing different starting and stopping points on the tegula to draw the lines.

What we learned is that we need to improve our instructions. Since we found that most measurements were longer than expected, we have added new and improved directions for the next expedition. To see the new directions simply click the “Tutorial” tab in the upper right part of the screen. Bee anatomy is complicated, and the instructions are small, so we have updated them to provide clearly defined anatomical detail with new drawings. Figure 2 is an example of one of the new tegula illustrations. Have a look and let us know what you think.

Figure 2: New drawings to help guide participants were to measure the bee

So let us test our new instructions together! We are now relaunching the Measure Me Green expedition as the Measure Me Green Revisited expedition with the new instructions so we can understand if we are providing enough detail to get a closer match between measurements taken in the lab and those provided by Notes from Nature participants. Thank you again for your help! Understanding the variation (and reasons why) between the measurements gives us great confidence in the results and helps us progress the science of bee biology together.

Get involved and give the project a try – your work is helping us improve our measurement tool.

– Katja Seltmann, UC Santa Barbara, Cheadle Center for Biodiversity and Ecological Restoration

– Alec Buetow, Undergraduate Researcher, UC Santa Barbara, Cheadle Center for Biodiversity and Ecological Restoration

– Rosie Manner, Undergraduate Researcher, UC Santa Barbara, Cheadle Center for Biodiversity and Ecological Restoration

WeDigBio Talk (County Floras in the Digital Age)

We are excited to announce a public talk during the upcoming WeDigBio.

This talk will be presented by Theo Witsell from the Arkansas Natural Heritage Commission. The title is ‘County Floras in the Digital Age: Using Digital Specimen and Observation Records to Promote Biodiversity Conservation.’

It will take place Saturday October 15th from 4:30-5:30 pm CT (UTC -5). A short described and registration information is posted below. We hope you can make it!

Clematis pitcheri (Pitcher’s Leatherflower) Photo by Theo Whitsell

This talk will summarize the compilation of county-level floristic inventories for Benton and Washington counties, two rapidly developing counties in northwestern Arkansas, as part of the Arkansas Natural Heritage Commission’s County Natural Heritage Inventory (CNHI) process. This work made use of both traditional herbarium specimens and photographic observations on iNaturalist. The presentation will focus on the contributions from digital datasets in general and acknowledge the contributions made by volunteers who participated in specimen digitization and biodiversity documentation via iNaturalist. It will also provide some thoughts on how these digital datasets might be improved to help facilitate this work.

Register in advance for this meeting:

After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the meeting.


Pollination is the transfer of pollen from an anther (male part of a plant) to the stigma (female part of a plant). Pollination leads to the production of fruits and seeds and is therefore critical to plant reproduction including many foods that we eat everyday.

Bees are very important pollinators. Bees collect pollen and nectar for themselves and their offspring. In the process of visiting different plants bees transfer the pollen from one plant to another. This process often results in bees having pollen attached to various parts of their body.

A sweet bee (Augochloropsis metallica) with pollen. The pollen is light yellow and can be seen on various parts of the body.

Often we get pollination information by sitting and watching plants to see what insects visit it. However, this is time-consuming and it is impossible to know that you have seen all the visitors to that plant, or that you have seen all the plants that any species will visit. One way to get this information is to look at museum specimens. Often when insects are collected they contain pollen on them from the most recent plant they visited. If we can examine many individuals we can start to get a picture of the whole community of plants each species visits. 

The BigBee project would like to know more about what plants the bees have recently visited. That is why we are asking you to tell us if we see pollen on the bees in the photos. We know that this pollen might be hard to see, so we just ask that you try your best. The goal is to use the same images for label transcription, bee measurements and now pollen detection. With your help, this expedition will help us determine if that is possible!

Please give PollinLater a try and let us know what you think.

– The Big Bee Team

New expedition and a new task

We are excited to announce the next installment in our series of Digi-Leap expeditions. The Digi-Leap project is focused on developing workflows to accelerate specimen digitization and make the data broadly available to museums and stakeholders alike. These Notes from Nature expeditions directly support the development of these new Digi-Leap tools.

This new expedition contains a brand new task that has never been tried on the Zooniverse before. The basic idea is to correct blocks of text and then submit them. Volunteers will be presented with the results of OCR from specific specimen labels and then will be asked to correct issues that they find. OCR output can have three types of errors; substitutions, deletions and insertions. We’ll ask you to try your best to match the OCR output text with the text on the original label and make any needed corrections. 

Since this expedition contains a new task we are launching this as a ‘beta’ expedition and asking for additional feedback. We’d be grateful if you could try out the expedition and give us feedback via a form.

If you like to edit and correct things then this expedition is for you! Please give OC – Are They In Need Of Correction? a try and let us know what you think.

– The Notes from Nature Team

WeDigBio: Save the date October 16 – 19 

The next WeDigBio is a month away! The event will take place on 13-16 October 2022. People from all over the world join together to digitize specimen data and to celebrate biodiversity collections. We hope you join us!

This is a fun and festive weekend at NfN. We’ll have “classifying blitz” here online at Notes from Nature, where we’ll classify as many Subjects as we can during the event. There will be new expeditions, and some of our data providers will host events such as online talks, tours, and discussions (and possibly some in-person events), so you’ll have opportunities to meet them and learn about their work.

Please invite your family, friends, and colleagues to participate too: as you already do, they can support support biodiversity research by digitizing natural history collections data. You’ll be able to follow along by looking for the #WeDigBio hashtag on Twitter and Facebook. If you are more of an email person, you can sign up for the Notes from Nature email list here: This is a new list we are going to use for occasional announcements and information about the project. Note that we won’t share the list with anyone else and you can unsubscribe at any time.

— The Notes from Nature Team

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