Archive by Author | mwdenslow

WeDigBio 2020, Day 1 Summary

It was an exciting first day of WeDigBio. We started off with 13 Projects, 32 expeditions. There is really something for everyone from plants to butterflies and marine invertebrates to name a few. So please stop by Notes from Nature over the next few days and give them a try.

We even launched a new Project (Invertebrate Time Machine), which had a great day yesterday with over 800 classifications. Expedition Arctic Botany also had a fantastic day with over 1,300 classifications. In total Notes from Nature received over 6,300 classifications.

We are excited and ready for Day 2. A reminder that we have a public talk today as well. We also hope that some of you are enjoying your new badge right about now.

In gratitude,

— The Notes from Nature Team

Podcast featuring Notes from Nature

Cultural Heritage Institutions and Citizen Science – Part 2 is a podcast that was released today.

Here is a summary:

This episode, our second that looks at community and citizen science in cultural heritage institutions, explores how natural history museums use crowdsourcing to unlock the potential of biodiversity collections for research and education. Justin Schell talks to researchers and volunteers involved in the Notes From Nature project, which is one of the largest crowdsourcing projects focused on natural history information. 


We hope you enjoy it.

— The Notes from Nature Team

Jumping into the Field Museum Flea Collection

The Field Museum is participating in the NSF-funded Terrestrial Parasite Tracker (TPT), a collaboration of taxonomists and curators from 22 institutions with vertebrate and invertebrate collections, aiming to digitize 1.2+ million arthropod specimens to trace parasite-host associations and predict the spread of vector-borne disease in the U.S.. This digitization effort integrates millions of vertebrate records with vector and disease monitoring data shared by state and federal agency collaborators, creating a novel foundation for integrative, long-term research – and you can help!

Join us on our new Notes from Nature expedition “Jumping into the Field Museum Flea Collection”. Fleas (Order Siphonaptera) are small, highly-specialized external parasites of mammals and birds. Adults have no wings, their mouthparts are adapted for sucking blood, and their enlarged hind legs allow them to jump many times their body size. There are approximately 2,500 different species of fleas known to science, and many are mechanical vectors of disease, with the potential to transmit pathogens from mammalian hosts to humans. For this expedition, we digitally imaged over a thousand slide-mounted specimens from the Lewis Flea Collection, one of the largest in the world. You will help us transcribe the information from the slides’ labels, such as the species name, when and where the specimen was collected, on what host it was found, who was the collector, and so on. Hope you will join us!

— Maureen Turcatel, Collections Manager, Insects The Field Museum

Cool Colias

The Orange Sulphur, Colias eurytheme is a bright orange butterfly that is one of the most common butterflies in the United States, southern Canada and north Mexico. The common name is Alfalfa Butterfly. As a caterpillar it likes to munch on alfalfa, and clover, and other legumes. This species looks similar to other species and often hybridizes. However Colias eurytheme has a slightly different UV reflectance pattern on the wings and produces unique pheromones to attract mates.

Most specimens (but not all) have three images per moth, dorsal and ventral, and label data. Occasionally there are 2 label data images. The reason for this is because there sometimes is critical information on the back of labels. So be sure to check all images! While checking both images, look at the amazing shapes and minute coloration of the moth. Thank you so much for your help!

Transcription generally follows standard Notes from Nature protocols. Please be sure to write all pertinent information to the corresponding field. Please type all label data exactly as written on the label. The one field that is unique to McGuire is sampling protocol (collection method). This is how the person collected the specimen. It could be net, but often with moths it is some type of trap or light. Please write verbatim what is on the label.

— Laurel Kaminsky,

Digitization Manager, McGuire Center for Lepidoptera and Biodiversity

WeDigBio Badge

We are excited to roll out a new badge just in time for WeDigBio 2020. Our hope is to have a new badge for each event, so this one is the WeDigBio 2020 badge.

You can earn the badge by doing 10 classifications anytime during the event (between October 15th and October 18th, 2020). Remember that you can see your earned badges as well as the ones you are still working towards on your Field Book. Note that Field Books are specific to a project, so you’ll need to do 10 in the same project to earn the badge. You can find out more about the Field Book in a previous blog post.

Thanks and we hope you enjoy this year’s event!

— The Notes from Nature Team

CU Boulder WeDigBio: Alaskan Exploration! Join us for our First Adventure!

The University of Colorado Herbarium is a section of CU Boulder’s Natural History Museum. Here, over 500,000 preserved plant specimens- including wildflowers, ferns, grasses, lichens, mosses and more are held! This herbarium emphasizes the flora of the southern Rocky Mountains and contains one of the largest collections of Colorado plants in the world!

This year, the CU Herbarium is launching our first WeDigBio expedition. WeDigBio is a global data campaign that gives community members to take part in the creation of digital data about biodiversity specimens. During this event, you will have the opportunity to aid our Herbarium in the transcription of labels on specimens in our collection.

For this expedition, CU Boulder’s Herbarium will be focusing on the extraordinary and rich plant life of Alaska. With nearly one third of land covered in forests, its unique thaw lakes, and its vast areas of frozen grounds, Alaska makes for a beautiful expedition! Of course, you will complete this expedition of specimen digitization right from the comfort of your own home! 

Click here to participate!

–The CU Herbarium Team

Log historical marine biodiversity with Invertebrate Time Machine

We’re excited to launch a new Notes from Nature Project, Invertebrate Time Machine! Our mission: to unearth and mobilize data from historically important marine invertebrate museum specimens which are not yet available to researchers for addressing pressing scientific questions. The California Academy of Sciences has tens of thousands of old 3×5 index card copies of specimen jar labels. Their data were never entered in an online database, and remain largely invisible to the greater scientific community. Once captured, the potential of this data to inform science and marine conservation will be unlocked, permitting scientists to “travel” back in time by viewing historical occurrence records for marine animals including where, when and how they were collected, enabling new discoveries and important comparisons with current marine populations. Open access to this type of data has become increasingly important as marine habitats and ocean conditions change through time. Understanding the natural state of habitats towards their conservation requires documenting their history.

Think you’re not familiar with marine invertebrate animals? Well you probably are! These sponges, worms, corals, snails, crabs, starfish (and many more) lack backbones…invertebrates have a huge diversity of forms, from giant squid to tiny “sea pea” urchins. There are 35 major groups (phyla) of these familiar creatures, whereas all vertebrate animals make up part of one phylum. Marine invertebrates are more poorly known than fish and other marine vertebrates, yet they comprise about 97% of all marine animals so studying them is crucial to understanding marine biodiversity. If you’re already familiar with invertebrates, you might also know that scientists believe only 10% of marine species are known to science so far. Museum collections help us to document and study animal diversity to better inform conservation of both species and marine habitats.

Our old card cataloging system is no longer in use, and data for most of these cards were never captured digitally. We’ve made scans of these cards available for transcription using the Invertebrate Time Machine and we’re excited to embark on the first Notes from Nature expeditions to capture global data for diverse marine invertebrate phyla. We need your help entering card data into the correct fields, where they will then be searchable and visible online by scientists and members of the public around the world. Will you help marine scientists travel back in time by joining our project? We look forward to traveling with you!

— Christina Piotrowski, Collections Manager of Invertebrate Zoology, California Academy of Sciences

Two public talks for WeDigBio

As part of WeDigBio there will be a number of virtual events. We’ll be announcing these in the coming days, so please keep an eye out for more opportunities.

Friday, October 16, 11:00 am – 12:00 pm (central time)

“Research Questions to Answer with Specimen Data.” Learn how the transcribed data from Notes from Nature is used in specific examples of research questions that can be asked and answered using images and label data from specimens.

Travis Marsico, Arkansas State University professor and associate chair, STAR herbarium curator

Register in advance for this meeting:

Sunday, October 18, 1:00 – 2:00 pm (central time)

“Using digitized specimen data for on the ground conservation in Benton and Washington Counties.”

Theo will talk about the three-year inventory project for Benton and Washington Counties in Northwest Arkansas. This project uses historic specimen data and present-day surveys to inform conservation decisions in the rapidly changing area.

Theo Witsell, Arkansas National Heritage Commission Ecologist and Chief of Research, ANHC herbarium curator

Register in advance for this meeting:

WeDigBio next week

We are looking forward to WeDigBio event next week. The event runs October 15th – 18th. It is a global data campaign and a virtual science festival.

We’ll have lots of great content on Notes from Nature. We expect to see some old friends and hopefully some new ones too. We’ll have a new Project launching and hopefully a few fun surprises along the way.

Please join us for as much or as little as you are able. As always, we loved to hear from you on out Talk forum.

Looking forward to it,

— The Notes from Nature Team

Transcription Counts: A summary of recent efforts on the Plants of Arkansas Project

The Plants of Arkansas: skeletal records for our southernmost herbarium four-part expedition started on July 16, 2019 and completed August 30, 2020. Over 13.5 months, the Notes from Nature community transcribed 27,597 skeletal records from the University of Arkansas – Monticello herbarium (UAM). These skeletal records included data about the higher geography (country, state, county), scientific name, collector name(s), collector number, and collection date. Here is a summary of what we learned about the herbarium specimen holdings at UAM.

Higher Geography

Specimens at UAM were collected from 19 different countries, but the majority of specimens (99.5%) were collected from the United States. The second highest specimen count per country in the collection was Mexico with 50 specimens. Many countries have a single specimen collected, including the Bahamas, China, Ecuador, Ethiopia, Guatemala, Ireland, Micronesia, Morocco, Switzerland, and Ukraine.

Within the United States, the UAM collection includes specimens from all 50 states plus the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands. Over 63% of the specimens from the United States were collected in Arkansas, and the second highest specimen count per US state in the collection was Louisiana with 7.8%.

Specimens were collected from all 75 Arkansas counties. Attached is a map of Arkansas counties with the name of each county and number of specimens transcribed by county for the UAM collection. County shading indicates how many specimens were collected by county, with counties in lighter grays having fewer specimens collected and counties in darker grays having more specimens collected.


The UAM collection has 4860 species (5472 total taxa when including subspecies and varieties) across 1378 genera and 214 families. Only four families have >1000 specimens; the families with the most specimens include Asteraceae (composites, the sunflower family, 11.6%), Poaceae (grasses, 6.9%), Fabaceae (the bean family, 6.4%), and Cyperaceae (sedges, 4%). There are 57 families with over 100 specimens each, which can be seen in this graph organized by decreasing number of specimens by family from left to right:

Collection Timeline

The UAM herbarium was founded by Dr. Eric Sundell in 1980. The oldest specimen in the UAM collection was collected in 1895 and the most recent in 2011. Most specimens were collected while Dr. Sundell was the curator in the 1980s and 1990s:

That’s the summary I have for now! We’ll continue to learn more about this collection as we transcribe the locality, habitat, and other herbarium database fields directly in SERNEC. Next week, we’ll hear from the current UAM curator, Dr. Richard Abbott, about his reaction to the UAM collection summary, how he will use the collection in teaching, and what he wants his students to learn with this museum-quality resource.

Diana Soteropoulos, Botanist / Arkansas Herbarium Digitization Coordinator

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