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Support Notes from Nature!

We are happy to announce the launch of our crowd funding campaign!

Screen Shot 2013-09-23 at 10.51.37 AMWe believe that citizen scientists can play a significant role in helping researchers gain access to the wealth of information held within the more than 2 billion biological specimens around the world.  Access to this information is critical for answering all sorts of questions ranging from how species change to the effects of public policies.  In this campaign, we will be raising money to support the Notes from Nature citizen science crowd sourcing project through the hiring of student interns who will strengthen our engagement between the science teams and the vital citizen scientists.  The crowd funding campaign and this specific internship work is being managed through our partners at the University of Virginia, but will support outreach activities across the entire Notes from Nature community.

We just launched our fundraising campaign today with a goal to raise $10,000. Although we have 45 days to raise this money, we are hoping to start out strong! Every gift counts, so I hope you will join us in supporting this cause.  Please share this message with your friends and family, and anyone who you think may be interested in this exciting citizen science project.

Visit our campaign page:

Kicking-off a crowd funding campaign on Monday!

We have some exciting news:  this coming Monday we’ll be launching a crowd funding campaign to support outreach and engagement of the Notes from Nature citizen science community.   This is a big step for us, and very important, as citizen scientists are the lifeblood of this and all citizen science projects.  We will use the funds generated through this campaign to hire student interns who will focus on writing about the Notes from Nature collections, research, and maintaining communications across the community.  This will allow us to build stronger connections between our citizen scientists and the researchers working with collections, particularly as we continue to add more exciting collections from around the country and world.

We hope that you’ll take a look at our campaign and consider contributing, share with your family and friends, or simply continue to support Notes from Nature through participation as a citizen scientist.   Please see our campaign here:

Be sure to watch the video on our campaign page, too!  We specifically highlight the Mountain Lake Biological Collection and several team members from the University of Virginia.

250,000 Transcriptions!

Since our launch several months ago, the Notes from Nature citizen science community has transcribed 250,000 specimen labels!  This is an incredible achievement, and shows promise for where this project can go.  We’re indebted to the citizen scientists out there who love this work and have taken it upon themselves to contribute to science in this way.

Some highlights:

  • Over 3,500 citizen scientists from around the globe participating
  • Over 8,800 plant specimens completed (completion requires at least three transcriptions to ensure quality through consensus)
  • Over 16,000 insect specimens completed (same requirement as plants)
  • Over 25 bird ledger pages completed – these are WAY more time intensive, and were only added days ago (same completion requirement as others)

We’ve learned a lot during this period, and are now in the process of figuring out where to go next, and how to involve bigger crowds of citizen scientists and more interesting collections from around the world.  Our recent call for new collections has garnered interest from curators across the US and Europe, and we hope more will be in contact soon.  It’s a very exciting time.

Thank you for all your support!

Get your collection into Notes from Nature

This is the moment that many have been waiting for, and that we’ve been trying to figure out how best to handle for several months.  We think we finally have a process in place to receive and evaluate the addition of new collections into Notes from Nature through a variety of pathways.  This process will hopefully allow appropriate consideration of including Notes from Nature on grant proposals, in contributing new collection specimen and receiving data back, and much more.  Now that we are nearly at 250,000 transcriptions in only the first several months, we are excited by the prospects of putting this prototype system to work for the remaining BILLION OR MORE specimen on hold in collections around the world.  We are eager to hear your ideas for adding new content, expanding functionality, and finding ways to continue this project as an engaging citizen science effort and to make it a sustainable community resource.

If you are a collection curator and would like to see your collection become part of Notes from Nature, please visit our About page and read the lower portion describing “How to become a participant in Notes from Nature”.  The most important part is to complete the Application for Inclusion form at the end, which is what we need to know to consider your proposals.

-Andrew Sallans

Notes from Nature vs. English Premier League

If you are an avid Notes from Nature fan and tried to visit the site this past weekend while in the UK, you may have noticed that you could not access it.  Zooniverse team member Chris Lintott offers an explanation of what happened in this Notes from Nature vs. English Premier League match:

Crowd-sourcing of the Natural History Museum bird registers

The Natural History Museum (NHM) began life back in 1753 as part of the British Museum, which was founded in that year. In 1880, the natural history museum departments of the British Museum moved to new, purpose-built buildings in South Kensington, London, becoming known as the British Museum (Natural History) for over a hundred years before it officially adopted its present name towards the end of the 20th century. In 1970, the museum’s bird research collections were moved from London to its out-station in Tring, Hertfordshire, on the site of the former Rothschild Zoological Museum, where they and their associated curatorial staff currently reside.

The bird research collections of the NHM, now probably the largest of their type in the world, have gradually been accumulated since 1753, although relatively little still exists that dates from before 1800. A major step forward in the collections’ documentation occurred in 1837, when a much improved system was adopted that involved entering details of every individual specimen received in standard registers, with each specimen assigned a unique registration number that also appeared on the label attached to it. Since then data on over half a million bird skins, as well as many eggs, nests, skeletons and spirit specimens, were entered into the NHM bird registers up to the 1990s, when a digital registration system was adopted,.

It is this register information for the bird specimens received between 1837 and the 1990s that we now wish to capture by crowd-sourcing, using input from enthusiasts such as yourself. Once acquired, it will form the essential basis for follow-up work, to be conducted by curatorial staff and on-site volunteers, checking each entry against the relevant specimen and its label(s) to confirm and, in many cases, add to the data in what will become a comprehensive specimen data-base. Public availability of this will permit easy access by researchers and others to all information associated with all included specimens held.

Back in the mid-1800s, many of the huge numbers of specimens coming in to the museum were difficult for curators to identify (indeed, some were new to science) and they often had rather limited information accompanying them. This is reflected in the data recorded in the registers for this period, which is often scanty although always comprising a specimen registration number and, almost always, some attempt at identification. By the late 1800s and into the 1900s, more comprehensive data was normally being recorded in a more systematised manner that is clearer to transcribe. Our crowd-sourcing project therefore will begin with the later registers and work backwards. Hopefully the outcome will be that your own skills in transcribing increase in parallel with the challenges that the data present!

Robert Prys – Jones
The Natural History Museum

National Moth Week

Did you know that July 20-28, 2013 is National Moth Week?  You can take your love of the Notes from Nature CalBug moths beyond transcriptions by participating in moth observations in the natural world.  Check out details for participation here:

A look at some Notes from Nature stats

The Notes from Nature project has been running for almost two months already and we are still just excited as the day we launched. The community has been great and we have received some amazing support and feedback from many of you. We are actively working to expand our collection coverage and hope to keep you all entertained through all the beautiful summer evenings ahead of us. With that said, we thought it would be a nice moment to take a look at some of the trends of our community. This serves a both a peek behind the curtains as well as a sort of snapshot that we can return to in the future to see what has changed and how we improve over time.

We had the idea for this post since the day we flipped the switch and made the site live. We all knew that the first hours of the project being live were going to get some of the heaviest traffic we would experience. We wanted to do a little analysis of how that traffic came and left the site, we collected a small set of data over the first five days of the project in order to look at this. First things first, take a look at global the Notes from Nature contributors were over just the first five days (click to see in interactive map)!

Next, we thought it would be fun to take a look at how the site accumulated new users over the time after launch,

We see the expected, early gains in user numbers followed by a slower accumulation later in the week. After the really early spike in transcriptions that came with all the users, we saw a nice continuous growth of total transcription activity through the week.

We thought it would be pretty neat to look at the transcriptions coming in at different times of day from our two primary regions, North America and Europe.

The above graph’s X axes is in EST, so you can see a nice rhythm to the Notes from Nature transcription. We really like this graph and will love to see it play out over the course of a year or more! We built the above graphs with D3 and CartoDB, if you click on them you can see each one and take a look at the code used to create them.

So how is Notes from Nature doing more recently? Well, in the first five days we had around 5000 unique participants. In the past two weeks we have had just over 3200. Not bad! Projects like Notes from Nature usually get a lot of members early that don’t end up sticking around, but we have done well to keep them or create new ones over the small time period. Our biggest audiences are still overwhelmingly in the USA and UK.

Right now, we are averaging 1400 classifications per day! As we improve the interface and add new and interesting components to the mission, we think we can see a growth in this number, but we are really happy with it so far. We have completely finished, including replicate transcriptions, 12% of our records in only two months! We will have more records in the future, but hopefully we will have a bigger community working with us too. We are closing in on 200,000 transcription, which is going to be an amazing achievement. Thanks to all of you who are helping us do something amazing for biodiversity research, museum informatics, and science!

What happened to the transcription progress?

One of the questions we have been grappling with at Notes from Nature is how to add more specimen images to the application while still showing a clear path of overall transcription progress.  On the one hand, we have many more specimen images lined up from both CalBug and SERNEC, and need to keep expanding the pool of interesting and scientifically important collections being transcribed.  On the other hand, we don’t want Notes from Nature citizen science transcribers to become frustrated by a seemingly bottomless pool and confused by constantly increasing and decreasing progress bars.  In attempting to address this challenge, we’re going to do some small tests.  We’ve added some new specimen in recent days, and would like to hear what you think about these additions.  Among the new additions, we have about 74,000 new bugs, including many bombardier beetles, dragonflies, and damselflies, as well as about 13,500 new plant specimen.  Do you like that we’ve added these new specimen images?  Were you worried by the drop in transcription percentages?  Should we work to complete “missions” with smaller subsets before adding more content?  Whatever the case, check out the new specimen on Notes from Nature!”

Are you a teacher?

If you are a teacher, and you love Notes from Nature and other Zooniverse projects, now is a great time for you to get more involved.  Zooniverse is offering a Teacher Ambassadors Workshop on August 8-9, 2013, in Chicago, IL at the Adler Planetarium.  This is a fully-funded opportunity to learn more about how Zooniverse works and how to integrate materials into teaching curriculum.  Apply now!

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