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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, 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

WeDigBio 2021 Badge

We are excited to roll out another new badge just in time for WeDigBio 2021. Our hope is to have a new badge for each year, so this one is the WeDigBio events taking place in 2021.

You can earn the badge by doing 10 classifications anytime during the event (between April 8th and April 11th, 2021 and the next event later this year). 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

WeDigBio Events: New York Botanical Garden (NYBG)

The New York Botanical Garden invites you to participate in citizen science and learn about biological collections during WeDigBio 2021.

Join us April 8 – 9 for a series of online events showcasing NYBG’s historic collection, research talks by contemporary botanists, and new virtual expeditions featuring orchids and epiphytic plants! At the end, gather virtually with other community scientists to meet, share experiences, and have fun while working together as a team on NYBG projects!

**See our NYBG WeDigBio homepage or learn more & REGISTER for our events below**

© NYBG William and Lynda Steere Herbarium

Virtual Tour of the Steere Herbarium

Thursday, April 8; 11–11:45 a.m. EDT – REGISTER on ZOOM

Explore ways that scientists study plants during a behind-the-scenes visit to the Steere Herbarium, one of the largest collections of preserved plant specimens documenting plant life around the globe over the past 300 years. Learn how these collections can be used in conservation work and to study climate change. See wild relatives of crops, invasive species that have taken hold in different regions of the world, and herbarium specimens of extinct plants that no longer grow on Earth.

© NYBG William and Lynda Steere Herbarium

Citizen Science Workshop

Thursday, April 8; 2–3 p.m. EDT – REGISTER ON ZOOM

Learn how to participate in Virtual Herbarium Expeditions and support the work of scientists to describe and conserve plant biodiversity! This introductory workshop will train beginner citizen scientists how to interpret plant specimen labels, research botanical archives, and record critical details about the history and geographic origin of scientific collections at NYBG.

© Robbin Moran

Webinar: Spotlight on Herbarium Research: Epiphytes!

Friday, April 9; 11 a.m.–12 p.m. EDT – REGISTER ON ZOOM

Citizen Scientists have contributed to rapid acceleration in the digitization of botanical specimens in the past decade resulting in unprecedented access to information about the plants of our world. This expansion has enabled new research applications, boosted the efficiency of species discovery, and encouraged collaboration across continents. During this hour, listen to perspectives from three botanists who study epiphytic plant families included in NYBG’s Virtual Herbarium Expeditions, and learn how they use digitized specimens and data for biodiversity research and conservation.

ORCHIDS: Matthew Pace, Assistant Curator, The New York Botanical Garden, USA

FERNS: Alejandra Vasco, Research Botanist, Botanical Research Institute of Texas, USA

BROMELIADS: Julián Aguirre-Santoro, Assistant Professor, Instituto de Ciencias Naturales, Colombia


NYBG WeDigBioBlitz!

Friday, April 9; 2–4 p.m. EDT – REGISTER ON ZOOM

Gather virtually with citizen scientists of all experience levels to participate in NYBG’s Virtual Herbarium Expeditions! Experts will be in attendance to answer questions, troubleshoot challenges, facilitate discussion, and provide context for your specimen discoveries.

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