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March 08, 2010

Digitizing biological collections

I received an email from our Resident Biologist, Bob Vande Kopple, pointing me to this website.

This spurred me to hash out a quick plan for digitizing our biological collections. I posted it at the above site as a comment but am reposting it here for posterity's sake:

Great timing. Our biological station has a small collection (~20,000 floral and faunal specimens) which we are just beginning to digitize. Given staffing constraints and variable confidence in taxonomic identifications we are using the following, low-overhead approach.

We are beginning with our largest and highest quality collections - vascular plants and bryophytes. We are collaborating with a larger institution (the University of Michigan Herbarium) from which we are receiving a database schema, hardware and software recommendations, and training for the digitization and QA/QC process.

In exchange, the UM Herbarium will receive unique specimen records and more precise location information for known collection sites in our region. Once this phase is complete, we will be better able to tackle our smaller and more complicated collections. We will also use this time improve the quality of the identifications in those collections.

My thoughts for the project outlined on this website are as follows:

For the digitization process, I believe a regional (i.e., dispersed) effort that pairs complementary institutions is best. A mentor-mentee relationship, if you will.

However, how to get our collection online, integrated with multi-institutional databases and how to leverage these databases is an outstanding question. For this phase of the project I think the ability to consult with technical experts located at a centralized institute would be best. I think this is the phase where uniformity should be enforced. I could foresee help in mapping our database schema to whichever data standard is adopted as well as how to best serve up and leverage data from an IT perspective.

Kyle Kwaiser, Information Manager
University of Michigan Biological Station

Posted by kkwaiser at March 8, 2010 10:11 AM

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