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Results from Label Babel 2

We wanted to present some preliminary results of the Label Babel 2 expedition. The results from you all look spectacular. The vast majority of the data looks like the image below and will make excellent training data for the models.

The blue boxes in the image above are the outlines that you drew. The red boxes are the final crop for the labels; where we merged the blue box into a single “best” interpretation of the label. This is beautiful! There is close agreement on where & what the labels are. The only things we wanted identified as labels are outlined in blue. The tag, stamp, and ruler/color guide are not outlined, which is correct. The majority of the data looks this good.

The data from this expedition was generally great, but there were some wrinkles in the output. For example, there are some challenges in terms of processing the data in order to find the best interpretation of the labels. Some people outlined the wrong things or nothing at all, but by far the most common problem (unique to this expedition) was the lumping of several labels into a single outline (see image below). Here, we have added a new color “green” that shows several labels together. Unfortunately these kinds of entries can’t be used for training the models in the next step of our process.

Next, we go on to automating the label finding process by using the data you provided to train an automated process. After that, we will automate the classifications using the labels you provided around whether text was typewritten. We plan on using an artificial neural network that does both in one swell foop. We will use these annotations as the training data for this neural net.

We are eager to see the results and to use this data as well. We’ll give another update on the progress in a few weeks. In the meantime, we want to thank all of the participants in this expedition and say to also note how impressed we are with the results.

— The Notes from Nature Team

Label Babel 2 complete!

Label Babel 2 is complete! It actually completed a few weeks ago, so we wanted to give you an update about next steps for this project. Before we do that we want to thank each and everyone who helped with this expedition. It was a large one and very different from our typical transcription based tasks. We appreciate everyone’s willingness to try something new and make a contribution to our new project.

Example specimen with arrows showing different types of labels.

Label Babel was focused on automatic label detection in the specimen images. More specifically, the data generated from those expeditions will be used to train an algorithm to detect labels and pull them out of the image in the future. We are still working through the data so we’ll be able to say more about that specific part of the project and the outcomes from Label Babel 2 in the coming months.

Our next step in the larger project is to automatically pull the text out of the labels using a method called OCR (optical character recognition). OCR has been around for a long time and this is certainly not the first attempt to do this for biodiversity specimens. What we are striving to do is build off of what has been done in the past and ultimately develop a human in the loop workflow. This means that we anticipate that some specimens can be transcribed automatically, but many will still require human interaction. Human interaction is where you and Notes from Nature fit into the picture. As great as our new algorithm turns out to be, there are some tasks which only humans can do.

Next up will be an expedition where we ask you to look over the OCR results and ask you to tell us how it did. Please keep an eye out for that announcement.

— The Notes from Nature (and Digi-Leap) Team.

A Movable Fleas’t

The specimens you are transcribing in this expedition are a portion of the Milwaukee Public Museum’s slide collection. They were all collected by Dr. Omar Amin, a professor at University of Wisconsin – Parkside, and, along with other slides, form the basis of his work on the internal and external parasites of animals in the region. 

You will notice there’s a fair amount of repetition in the collection – a very limited pool of hosts and parasites, and perhaps wonder: why so many? A dog flea is a dog flea, after all. But there’s a lot more to unlock in these slides. First, there’s host specificity. Fleas have some host fidelity (they’re called dog fleas for a reason, after all), but collections like this can give us quantifiable information about how often those fleas pop up on other hosts. In this collection, you’ll notice several instances of squirrel fleas (Orchopeas howardi) collected from the opossum (Didelphis virginiana). Collections like this one, taken in conjunction with collections of squirrel fleas from all over the country, can help scientists work out how common it is to find squirrel fleas on opossums, or if these fleas are just freaks. We can glean additional data, too–like if there’s a seasonality to flea abundance (e.g., infestations are more common at certain times of year), if male vs. female hosts are more likely to have parasites, and what the ratio of male to female parasite is on a given species during a given year.


Having a collection of parasite slides is essential to documenting the natural world both of today and of the past.  Your digitization efforts on these slides, or any other community science transcription project, helps unlock this material for scientists, veterinarians, and public health officials.

Visit the Terrestrial Parasite Tracker (TPT) project today to give this expedition a try.

Julia Colby

Vertebrate & Invertebrate Collections Manager, Milwaukee Public Museum

Earth Day 2021

Happy Earth Day everyone!

On this Earth Day we’d like to highlight a few expeditions from our home institution, the Florida Museum of Natural History. The museum has world class collections, innovative research and so much more. We have three University of Florida expeditions that are running today and that we’d love to have you try out.

On this Earth Day we’d also like to honor the NfN community for partnering with us to conserve and make available knowledge about the natural world. The NfN project gives you the opportunity to make a scientifically important contribution towards that goal every single day.

Happy Earth Day to all.

– The Notes from Nature Team

WeDigBio 2021 appreciation

We closed out the last day of WeDigBio with over 5,400 classifications. That puts Notes from Nature at 22,067 for the entire event. We are so very thankful for your contributions and wonderful discoveries over the last several days. WeDigBio 2021 was another success and Notes from Nature is thrilled to be involved in this ongoing event.

We want to express our appreciation to everyone who contributed. Thanks to all the data providers, scientists, moderators, presenters and the Zooniverse team for keeping the system running behind the scenes. Most of all, our appreciation goes out to all the volunteers. Your contributions are sincerely appreciated and every classification that is completed brings us closer to filling gaps in our knowledge of global biodiversity and our natural heritage.

There are still lots of expeditions from a wide variety of organisms available on our site. We hope you found the event rewarding and that you will return again soon. In case you missed it, we posted a new video about Notes from Nature. Check it out and let us know what you think. It’s also on Facebook and Twitter if you want to share it and help spread the word.

— The Notes from Nature Team

WeDigBio 2021, Day 3 Summary

Thanks to everyone that joined us during Day 3 of WeDigBio 2021! Notes from Nature received over 5,600 classifications.

The New York Botanical Garden project was very active again yesterday, as was the Terrestrial Parasite Tracker project. We were also delighted to see so many classifications on the Labs expedition Label Babel 2. The Label Babel 2 expedition is different from many other expeditions and we are particularly excited to see the results once it’s complete.

Our volunteers have shared so many exciting discoveries. Yesterday this very rare orchid appeared in one of our active expeditions. It is a Vanilla species that is now presumed extirpated from the United States. It does still occur in the West Indies region. Culinary vanilla is extracted from other species of the same genus.

Vanilla dilloniana specimen from New York Botanical Garden (left). Image of cultivated Vanilla dilloniana specimen. Image and a write up about this plant worth checking out by Alan H. Chambers.

We hope everyone is enjoying the last day (few hours really!) of WeDigBio 2021. As always we’d love to hear from you. Please feel free to leave us some thoughts on the main Notes from Nature Talk board or you can always send a direct message to the Project Coordinator Michael @md68135 too.

— The Notes from Nature

WeDigBio 2021, Day 2 Summary

It was a productive and exciting day of WeDigBio. Notes from Nature received over 5,800 classifications.

The New York Botanical Garden project was very active with over 800 classifications. One of our volunteers found an amazing Umbrella Fern from New Zealand. It’s called Sticherus cunninghamii and has distinctive umbrella-like leaves.

A specimen of Sticherus cunninghamii  from New York Botanical Garden (left). Field image showing the plants distinctive umbrella like stature, photo by Rudolph89 (right).

We hope everyone is enjoying Day 3! In case you missed it, we posted a new video about Notes from Nature. Check it out and let us know what you think. It’s also on Facebook and Twitter if you want to share it and help spread the word.

— The Notes from Nature Team

WeDigBio 2021, Day 1 Summary

It was an great first day of WeDigBio 2021. We started off with 12 active Projects, 25 expeditions. The parasite, invertebrate and plant expeditions were particularly active. In total Notes from Nature received over 5,100 classifications.

We came across some incredible specimens yesterday as well. For example, the CalBug Project currently has an expedition of Cuckoo Wasps. They are called “cuckoo” after the birds of that name these wasps exhibit a behavior similar to cuckoo birds. They lay their eggs in the nests of unrelated species and some eat the host insect’s eggs or larvae. You can find more information about these wasps on Notes from Nature Talk.

A specimen (left) and field image (right) of cuckoo wasp Parnopes edwardsii. Left image Robin Gwen Agarwal CC BY-NC.

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

In gratitude,

— The Notes from Nature Team

Call to action! (WeDigBio 2021)

WeDigBio 2021 is underway. WeDigBio is a global event that focuses on digitization of natural history museum specimens. The focus of the WeDigBio event this year is on virtual digitization gatherings that will be hosted by museums around the world. Anyone is welcome to participate for all or part of the event from wherever they are.

This is where you come in right now!

Please consider our immediate call to action. Visit Notes from Nature’s organization page and complete 5 transcriptions on any of the 11 active projects right now. Dive into one of our many projects, select an expedition that interests you and transcribe away. We hope you enjoy and might even want to stay around for a while.

— The Notes from Nature Team

WeDigBio 2021 starting soon!

WeDigBio 2021 is starting soon (depending on your time zone of course)! This 4 day event will take place from April 8-11.

A collage showing some of the specimen types that have been featured on Notes from Nature.

Below is a summary of some of things going on and expeditions that will be hosted. Remember that you don’t have to wait for the event to officially start, you can come and go as you please and stay as long as you like. Just visit notesfromnature.org, select any Project to work on and then any of the expeditions that are listed under ‘Get started ⬇.’

New York Botanical Garden

California Phenology Network

Plants of Arkansas project

Botanical Research Institute of Texas

Florida Museum of Natural History

Lastly, don’t forget to try and earn your WeDigBio 2021 badge.

— The Notes from Nature Team

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