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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.

WeDigBio events: California Phenology Network

Join the California Phenology Network for a virtual event to help “digitize” the flora of California! They have thousands of images of specimens, but know little about the plants that those images contain. In this event, they will transcribe data from specimen images using an easy-to-use online interface at There will be games, prizes, and a short presentation on the importance of herbaria!

More information and registration:

WeDigBio events: Arkansan botanists presenting about plants from near and far

The Plants of Arkansas project invites you to join us for three public presentations via Zoom offered during the WeDigBio event. Please find the titles, presenter information, dates/times, and links to register in advance for the Zoom meetings below:

On Thursday, April 8 from 8:00 – 9:00 am CDT, the senior botanist and herbarium collections manager at the Arkansas Natural Heritage Commission, Brent Baker, will present “Glades of Arkansas.” If you transcribed specimens during the Glade Quest expedition series, this presentation will provide a lot of context about what glades are, the different types in Arkansas, and where they occur. He’ll also highlight glade plants in general and plants unique to certain types of glades. You can learn about the globally rare novaculite glades only found in the Ouachita Mountains, which we’ll be transcribing soon!

Register in advance for “Glades of Arkansas”:

A novaculite glade/outcrop in the Trap/Jack Mountains area of the Ouachita Mountains in Hot Spring County, Arkansas. Photo credit: Brent Baker.

On Friday, April 9 from 2:00 – 3:00 pm CDT, professor, associate chair, and curator of the Arkansas State University Herbarium, Dr. Travis Marsico, will present “The important role of herbaria in recent discoveries of invasive species risk from hitchhiking propagules at international seaports.” This seminar will focus on collaborative research investigating the introduction and risk associated with hitchhiking Federal Noxious Weeds and other non-native species. Some interesting taxonomic complexity associated with introduced species will be discussed, and the role of herbaria as permanent repositories of vouchers, including the cryptic Glandularia, and centers of research will be emphasized.

Register in advance for “The important role of herbaria in recent discoveries of invasive species risk from hitchhiking propagules at international seaports”:

Left: Collection of Glandularia tenera from the Port of Savannah, Georgia, USA.  Above: Dark colored projections beyond the anthers of the flower of G. tenera, a diagnostic feature of the species.

On Saturday, April 10 from 11:00 am – 12:00 pm CDT, Dr. Travis Marsico will present “Plant species discoveries on Isla de Ometepe, Nicaragua.” This seminar will focus on graduate student research from Hazel K. Berrios and a sabbatical trip from Dr. Travis Marsico that investigated plant distribution patterns along the elevation gradient of Volcán Maderas in Nicaragua. Plant identifications are ongoing, and interesting finds, such as rare and endangered fern species, will be emphasized.

Register in advance for “Plant species discoveries on Isla de Ometepe, Nicaragua”:

After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the meeting.

Above left: Lindsaea arcuata, an endangered fern species, growing on Volcán Maderas, Isla de Ometepe, Nicaragua.  Above right: abaxial leaf surface of L. arcuata, showing the marginal sori.

WeDigBio 2021 Save the Date

The Notes from Nature team is very excited about WeDigBio 2021. The event will take place April 8 – 11. More information to come as we finalize our plans for this event. We hope you join us! In the mean time if you are interested in hosting an expedition on Notes from Nature for the event please fill out our interest form as soon as you are able.

More about WeDigBio:

Worldwide Engagement for Digitizing Biocollections (WeDigBio), is a global data campaign, virtual science festival, and local outreach opportunity, all rolled into one. This 4-day, twice a year event mobilizes participants to create digital data about biodiversity specimens, including specimen slides, plants on sheets, insects on pins and more. This year you can expect lots of online events and webinars that you can join as your scheduling and interest allows.

— The Notes from Nature Team

Labs is back and more

Way back in time, like 2019 (!) we had the idea to do something different with Notes from Nature expeditions.  Rather than transcribing or even annotating specimens that have flowers, we simply wanted your help in finding labels on herbarium sheets.  Why? So we can starting building a toolkit for training an algorithm to automatically find different types of labels contained on a specimen and the type of text that label contains. This means that your contributions help to create a training set that will serve as a key basis for machine learning approaches we’ll be employing.  So we prototyped an expedition called Label Babel, and long story short, it works!  We can use this approach for image segmentation.  Even better news – we got funding to continue this line of thinking and this new Label Babel 2.0 expedition is a successor that is smarter and better.  While a smidge more work than Label Babel 1.0, the new version will help us get ALL THE LABELS.

     The longer term goal is to make better use of automated tools in order to make transcription more efficient. For example, if we can automatically identity the label and the text it contains then we can try to have another algorithm read the text and try to interpret it. The goal being that we may be able to automatically transcribe certain specimens. Those specimens then would not need to be put through the same process at Notes from Nature. We would instead focus on specimens that truly need humans to see them.

    All this might make you wonder if these algorithm might ever replace the need for community scientists like yourself. We don’t think that will be the case for a very, very long time since there are so many specimens in the world that still need to be transcribed. In addition, there are also lots of other kinds of tasks that community scientists can help with such as measurements and counts, just to name a few. The fact is that we still have so much data to digitize and mobilize for a variety of uses. We are looking for ways to make that process more efficient so the data is available for anyone who wants to use it to help solve critical problems related to biodiversity.

If this sounds interesting to you, them please check out our new expedition Label Babel 2 in the Labs Project.

— The Notes from Nature Team

Aloha Acari from Hawaii

The Bishop Museum Entomology Collection is launching another expedition to continue digitizing our parasite specimens as part of the Terrestrial Parasite Tracker Project. The Aloha Acari from Hawaii expedition focuses on Bishop Museum’s extensive mite collection mounted on microscope slides. Thousands of slides have been scanned and are ready to have their labels transcribed to allow acarologists and other scientists to gain access to this vital data for research. Many of the mites from this project were collected from mice, rats, and birds like the migratory Pacific Golden Plover, Pluvialis fulva.

We look forward to your participation and joining our virtual ohana of citizen scientists. 

— Jim Boone, Bishop Museum, Honolulu, Hawai‘i

Mighty Michigan Mites

One of the 1,100 mite slides found in the A.J. Cook Arthropod Research Collection. These mites were collected off of a chicken on February 29, 1896.  

Welcome to Notes from Natures – Terrestrial Parasite Tracker’s newest expedition- Mighty Michigan Mites. Mites (Acari) are common arthropods that occur throughout the world but they are often over-looked given their small size (< 10 mm). Over 50,000 species have diversified in a multitude of habitats and are associated with many animals, from mosquitos to humans.  Some species are pests of humans and animals. For example, scabies causes skin rashes and mange while ticks transmit a variety harmful bacteria. Given their importance human and animal welfare, the collection of mites in the A.J. Cook Arthropod Collection began in the late 1800’s. These early collections documented mites associated with domestic animals.  In the 1950’s the mites associated with wild animals and insects were surveyed in mid-Michigan which provides a valuable source of ecological information. Other gems, including tropical and name bearing specimens, are scattered throughout the collection. In total, these specimens represent mites associated with other animals and offers a window to their past diversity.

— Anthony Cognato

Professor and Director of the A.J. Cook Arthropod Research Collection, Department of Entomology, Michigan State University

Happy New Year to the Notes from Nature Community

We realize that 2020 was a difficult year and we appreciate that so many were willing and able to spend some time with us. Together we completed over 100 expeditions, had over 1 million classifications and gained many new users.

It turns out that we were able to provide some assistance to institutions and people working from home during some challenging times. We are so grateful to our many volunteers and for your help moving biodiversity science forward each and every day.

We have some great news for the new year. Notes from Nature recently received some additional funding from the National Science Foundation and we have some exciting plans for 2021. The project is called DigiLeap. We’ll be sharing more details in the coming months, but the main purpose of the project is to make transcription more efficient and make greater use of automated tools when feasible. Most of this will be happening “behind the scenes.” For example, by using algorithms to separate images that are more likely to be automatically processed and don’t need to be seen by humans. We’ll actually be asking for your help with some of that to test and validate these new algorithms. We are excited and grateful to be able to keep advancing our software and continue to mobilize as much biodiversity data as possible.

All the best,

The Notes from Nature Team

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