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Macrofungi Added to Notes from Nature!

The Notes from Nature team is excited to announce the addition of content from the Macrofungi Collection Consortium!  This collection is a partnership of 35 institutions across the U.S that collectively will digitize about 1.5 million specimens that have been collected the past 150 years.  Macrofungi are important to humans in many ways – many people like to eat them, but some species are also deadly poisonous.  Macrofungi are also key to the health of our forests – indeed, most forest trees could not survive if their roots did not form a relationship with a macrofungus (called mycorrhizae) that helps tree roots absorb water and minerals from the soil.  Macrofungi are also an important source of food for forest animals and they serve as homes for many soil insects and other small organisms that are also part of a healthy forest ecosystem. Many macrofungi are very beautiful, and are the subject of nature photographers.  Their pigments may be used for dyeing wool or cotton, and for paper-making. Macrofungi are important religious symbols in some cultures.  Recently it has been discovered that macrofungi can play a role in the cleanup of environmental disasters.  Through a process called “mycoremediation” macrofungi are able to break down or remove contaminants such as pesticides and fuel oils.

The Macrofungi Collection comprises mushrooms and related fungi.  After collection, specimens of macrofungi are dried on a vegetable dehydrator or similar type of dryer, and then are placed in a box or packet with a specimen label that gives the name of the fungus, when, where, and and by whom the specimen was collected.  Because macrofungi are often very short-lived, documenting their occurrence with specimens is critically important for knowing which macrofungi grow where.

To help scientists answer the many remaining questions about these foundational organisms, they need access to data from collections.  Our project is to digitize these specimens and make the data available in a standardized, searchable form through the MycoPortal.

Although macrofungi (mushrooms and mushroom-like organisms) are not plants, they are still stored as dried specimens in herbaria.  The dried mushroom (which often looks nothing like the fresh mushroom!) is stored in a box or paper packet and is accompanied by a label that that gives the name of mushroom, where it was collected, when, and by whom.

You can contribute to a better understanding about these environmentally critical organisms by helping to transcribe data from the specimen labels into a structured format.   The folks who are capturing the images of these specimens have already recorded the name of the fungus,  so what we need your help with is transcribing the collection locality and date, as well as the collector’s name and number.

If you want to learn more about macrofungi, there are many sources of information.  Online, Encyclopedia of Life, which is also linked to the macrofungi collections in Notes from Nature, is a reference for images and descriptions of many of these fungi.  Mushroom Observer is a site where citizen scientists and professional mycologists meet to discuss macrofungi of interest.  There are also many clubs around the country where participants go on mushroom collecting trips, host lectures for members and teach the general public about these organisms.  You can learn about clubs in your area through the North American Mycological Association website.

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Seeking participants for December hackathon!

iDigBio and Zooniverse’s Notes from Nature Project are pleased to invite you to participate in a hackathon to further enable public participation in online transcription of biodiversity specimen labels.  The event will occur from December 16-20, 2013, at iDigBio in Gainesville, FL, though you may choose to participate in a subset of the days based upon the schedule.   We are especially looking for participation from the most enthusiastic and committed citizen science transcribers!  This is a great opportunity to have a direct influence on expanding this tool in the directions you would like to see it go.

The hackathon will produce new functionality and interoperability for Zooniverse’s Notes from Nature  and similar transcription tools.  There are four areas of development that will be progressively addressed throughout the week.

  1. Linking images registered to the iDigBio Cloud with transcription tools in order to alleviate storage issues.  (Monday)
  2. Transcription QA/QC and the reconciliation of replicate transcriptions.  (Remainder of week)
  3. Integration of OCR into the transcription workflow.  (Remainder of week)
  4. New UI features and novel incentive approaches for public engagement.  (Remainder of week)

There will be opportunities to narrow the focus in each category of activity in a teleconference tentatively scheduled for early in the week of November 25 (and also at the TDWG meeting and the iDigBio Summit, if you are attending either of those events).

If you are interested, please get in touch with Austin Mast (amast@bio.fsu.edu) by Wednesday, Nov 1.  iDigBio has budgeted some funds to support travel costs.

With best regards,

Austin and Rob Guralnick (UC-Boulder), co-organizers

A new milestone!

The Notes from Nature team is proud to report reaching the new milestone of 300,000 transcriptions completed!  This has been made possible by the generous and committed efforts of nearly 4,000 citizen scientists from around the globe.  We look forward to continuing the project and sharing more biological collections with you in the near future.  Thank you citizen scientists!

To continue growing and expanding, we are interested in your feedback.  What excites you the most from Notes from Nature so far?  How would you like to see it evolve?  Leave a comment and let us know!

On the radio!

This morning I had the opportunity to join WTJU’s Robert Packard on the Soundboard program to talk about Notes from Nature.  Click here to listen to the clip! 

Are you a teacher?

One thing the Notes from Nature team has been interested in doing from the start, but hasn’t yet found the time to squeeze in, is to develop educational materials utilizing the Notes from Nature content and release it via the Zooniverse ZooTeach site.  For those who have never heard of ZooTeach, it is described as a place “where educators can share high quality lesson plans & resources that compliment the Zooniverse citizen science projects.”

Screen Shot 2013-10-02 at 10.12.28 AMAre you a teacher?  Do you love Notes from Nature?  Would you like to integrate it into your curriculum?  If yes, please reply to this post with a comment to begin a conversation about how to do this.  We’re eager to reach a broader audience and partner with you!

Why Notes from Nature Matters

If you’ve appreciated our blog posts in the past covering various dimensions of why the data generated through Notes from Nature matters, and how this work impacts future scientific understanding of the world around us, you might like this video from Tim Hersch (Senior Programme Officer for Engagement, Global Biodiversity Information Facility). Mr. Hersch specifically talks about why it’s so important to get access to all the specimen stored in museum drawers and cabinets all around the world, as well as the benefits of citizen science to addressing these issues. We hope you’ll take a few minutes to listen!

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:  https://uva.useed.net/projects/84/home

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