Thursday, June 23, 2016

Nicolas-Edme Roret: Insects and Natural History Manuals

Atlas des insectes, composé de 110 planches, représentant la plupart des insectes décrits dans le Manuel d'histoire naturelle et dans le Manuel d'entomologie. Digitized by Library of Congress.

By: Tomoko Steen
Science Section
Science, Technology and Business Division 
The Library of Congress

Atlas des insectes, composé de 110 planches, représentant la plupart des insectes décrits dans le Manuel d'histoire naturelle et dans le Manuel d'entomologie [Translation: Atlas of insects, consisting of 110 plates, representing most of the insects described in the Natural History Manual and the Manual of Entomology] was digitized from the Library of Congress (LC)’s collection on May 1st, 2012 by the Internet Archive and included in the Biodiversity Heritage Library (BHL).

Atlas des insectes, composé de 110 planches, représentant la plupart des insectes décrits dans le Manuel d'histoire naturelle et dans le Manuel d'entomologie. Digitized by Library of Congress.

One of the oldest publications scanned from the LC’s collections and added to BHL, this early natural history publication includes 110 plates of various insects. The publisher, Nicolas-Edme Roret, is a French publisher most known for an important series of manuals (Encyclopédie Roret or Manuels Roret), which are dedicated to diverse subjects including science, art, crafts, culture, and more. Atlas des insectes illustrates many of the insects described in Pierre Boitard's Manuel d'entomologie, ou Histoire naturelle des insectes (1828) - which it was meant to accompany - as part of Roret's Manuels. The text and plates were republished as new editions within L'Encyclopédie Roret in 1843 and 1844 (respectively).

Atlas des insectes, composé de 110 planches, représentant la plupart des insectes décrits dans le Manuel d'histoire naturelle et dans le Manuel d'entomologie. Digitized by Library of Congress.

Roret moved to Paris while he was a still young man to work in the library of his brother, Pierre-Jean Ferra. In 1815, he obtained a position at a large library of the Palais Royal, in Arthus-Bertrand, where he was assigned to be the chief clerk. He then moved on to become a bookseller and a licensed publisher in 1820 (license No 1419). In 1822, with his experience as a licensed publisher, Roret became an editor and published a variety of natural history books. His projects were often funded by his cousin Pierre Deterville, another bookseller and publisher. Deterville held rare natural history texts including those of Buffon (1707-1788), Jean Baptiste Lamarck (1744-1829) and Jean-Jacques Rousseau (1712-1778). Roret also edited and published Suites à Buffon (also issued under the title of Nouvelles Suites à Buffon), which involved naturalists such as Pierre André Latreille (1762-1833), Charles-Nicolas-Sigisbert Sonnini Manoncourt (1751-1812), Charles-François Brisseau Mirbel (1776-1854), Louis Augustin Guillaume Bosc (1759-1828) and René Richard Castel Louis (1758-1832).

Atlas des insectes, composé de 110 planches, représentant la plupart des insectes décrits dans le Manuel d'histoire naturelle et dans le Manuel d'entomologie. Digitized by Library of Congress.

Reference: Bulletin des Bibliothèques de France : 1997 - Paris, t. 42, n° 02.; Le Vitrail et les traités du Moyen Âge à nos jours. Corpus Vitrearum. XXIIIe colloque international. Tours 3-7 Juillet 2006.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Expanding Access and MiBio team members present at the annual Council on Botanical and Horticultural Libraries Meeting

The Council on Botanical and Horticultural Libraries hosted its 48th Annual Meeting in Cleveland, Ohio May 24-28th, 2016.  With perfect weather and a packed schedule, members were kept busy experiencing a number of different museums, attending meetings and hosting member presentations and speakers.  Tours of the Cleveland Botanical Garden, West Side Market, Great Lakes Science Center, Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum, Dittrick Museum of Medical History, Cleveland Museum of Art, Cleveland Museum of Natural History, Herb Society of America, and the Holden Arboretum allowed attendees to gain a well-rounded sense of Cleveland’s landscape.

Photo credit: Jennifer McDowell

The Council on Botanical and Horticultural Libraries (CBHL) is made up of organizations, institutions and individuals from around the world.  It was created to initiate and facilitate communication between those focused on libraries and botanical and horticultural literature and dates back to November 13, 1969 when the first conference convened in Boston, Massachusetts.  It was more formally founded the following year at the Second Conference.  Members of CBHL include the Denver Botanical Gardens Helen Fowler Library, Michigan State University Libraries, the Morton Arboretum and many others.  Some BHL affiliates and partners are also a part of CBHL including the Missouri Botanical Garden, the New York Botanical Garden, and the California Academy of Sciences Library.

One of the member presentations was titled “Towards better accessibility to biodiversity knowledge: The Biodiversity Heritage Library as a platform for content sharing and discovery” and included two different presentations on two BHL projects.  The first was the Expanding Access to Biodiversity (EABL) team members: Mariah Lewis and Patrick Randall.  This presentation, which is now available online, covered topics such as timeline, funding, scope, copyright, digitization, metadata, curation, and the benefits of participation. 

Following this was William Ulate who presented on Mining Biodiversity (MiBio).  While Expanding Access aims to bring more content into BHL, Mining Biodiversity is dedicated to transforming BHL into a next-generation social digital library resource that not only gives access to users, but also facilitates study and discussion of legacy scientific documents.  This international collaboration is a project rooted in helping users locate information within BHL easily and efficiently while fostering collaboration.  The presentation can be viewed here.  Members were also able to access and test the search interface and leave valuable feedback for the project. 
William Ulate, Patrick Randall, and Mariah Lewis present at CBHL
Photo Credit: Bill Musser

The two presentations were met with an extremely positive response from attendees and facilitated wonderful conversations about the Biodiversity Heritage Library, Expanding Access to Biodiversity Literature, and Mining Biodiversity.  Expanding Access was able to talk with a number of future contributors about the project and are looking forward to working with them to add their content into BHL!

Special thanks to our spectacular hosts: The Cleveland Botanical Garden and The Holden Arboretum and CBHL for allowing us to present!

It’s the Canopy Walk at the Holden Arboretum! 
Photo credit: Mariah Lewis

Want more information on the Expanding Access project?  Interested in being one of our contributors?  Please email Patrick Randall at for more information!  An Expanding Access team member will be present at ALA’s Annual Conference.  If you would like to talk about the project in-person in Orlando next week please email Mariah Lewis at  

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Diving into Marine Biodiversity & Coastal Ecosystem Research

On the eastern coast of Florida, about 120 miles north of Miami, there's a very special research center. It serves as a field station specializing in marine biodiversity and Florida ecosystems, especially that of the Indian River Lagoon - one of the most biologically-diverse estuaries in North America. The center serves as a destination for scientists around the world who are interested in studying the extraordinary biodiversity in the area as well as ocean and coastal processes at large.

Aerial view of the Smithsonian Marine Ecosystems Exhibit and the Smithsonian marine Station.

This center is the Smithsonian Marine Station at Fort Pierce, and its mission is to "support and conduct...scholarly research in the marine sciences, including collection, documentation and preservation of south Florida's marine biodiversity and ecosystems, as well as education, training, and public service."

The Smithsonian has had a presence in Fort Pierce since 1969. While the station and facilities have grown and evolved tremendously over the past four decades, a $10 million donation from Suzanne and Michael Tennenbaum in 2012 launched a project that further expands the Station's contributions to worldwide coastal marine biodiversity and ecosystem research.

Entitled the Tennenbaum Marine Observation Network (TMON), the project establishes "the first worldwide network of coastal ecological field sites" and "will provide an unprecedented understanding of how marine biodiversity is affected by local human activities and global change, such as ocean warming, acidification and rising sea levels." The Smithsonian Marine Station at Fort Pierce was named one of five field sites in the project, which aims to incorporate an additional ten new sites within the next decade.

Dean Janiak, Biologist, TMON/MarineGEO, Smithsonian Marine Station at Ft Pierce.

Dean Janiak has served as a biologist on TMON and the related Marine Global Earth Observatory (MarineGEO) program at the Fort Pierce Marine Station for the past year and a half. Before joining the station in Florida, he served as the Head Technician in the Benthic Ecology lab at the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center (SERC) in Maryland. With a B.Sc. in Biology from Humboldt State University and an M.Sc. in Marine Sciences from the University of Connecticut, Janiak has a passion for marine ecology, invasion biology, and life histories - a passion which attracted him to the position in Fort Pierce.

"I would consider myself a general marine ecologist with a particular interest in how marine invertebrate communities are both formed and maintained in space and time," explains Janiak. "When we travel out into the field and see communities of animals living in close proximity to each other, we could assume that they just randomly arrived there and have made a living. However, most species actually have gone through a harrowing adventure to get to where they are. Besides how they got there, the animals themselves are unbelievably diverse. I would argue that within ½ meter 2, in many parts of the ocean you could find more diversity than any zoo or aquarium could ever show you. Because of this, much of my interests are in not only why communities look the way they do but also what species or groups of species make up these communities. In particular, I do a lot of research in an unusual type of habitat - artificial habitats (e.g. docks, marinas, seawalls, etc.) - which are actually pretty common. While they tend to have a positive effect for those installing them (storm protection, recreational boating), we have little knowledge on how they function in terms of the animals on them and how they contribute to the overall system. For example, a large percentage of non-native species are found in these types of habitats, and one of the topics I am interested in is the consequences of these species spreading into more pristine, native habitat like seagrasses or reefs."

Such research is dependent upon information contained within published literature.

"In my opinion, there is no way to do science of any kind without having a solid background on what has been done in the past," affirms Janiak. "Unlike past history where we must learn from our mistakes in order to be successful, the sciences allow us to learn from our accomplishments. Each species is unique in its evolutionary journey and should be treated as such. Identifying a species and learning about how that species makes its living requires an extensive use of the library system."

Traditionally, access to historic literature can be difficult to obtain, even for researchers working at institutions with extensive library collections such as those that Janiak has access to through the Smithsonian Libraries. While Janiak is quick to point out that he benefits enormously from the e-journal subscriptions and robust ILL services offered by the Smithsonian, being stationed in Florida, away from the library base of his home institution, means that his opportunity to access the Library's physical collections are limited. Even the speediest ILL services inevitably introduce delays into the research process. The Biodiversity Heritage Library (of which Smithsonian Libraries is a founding Member), however, is revolutionizing scientific research, providing researchers across the globe with free and immediate access to the information and publications they require to study life on Earth.

"BHL is a great resource for trying to find things that have typically been forgotten by most," applauds Janiak. "[It provides access to] literature that would be otherwise impossible to find or know that it even existed.  From a research perspective, I use BHL as a starting to point to find taxonomic information on a particular species or group that I am working on. As we move closer and closer to new age molecular approaches to identifying species, we are losing people who can simply look at an animal and tell you what it is, why it is that, and the interesting way that it makes a living. I think that much of this knowledge would be lost if BHL was not trying to keep this information available."

Rockworm (Marphysa sanguinea). An example of one of the species found in the Indian River Lagoon. Image Credit: Dean Janiak.

In particular, BHL has proven to be a useful resource for the TMON project, providing information that supports research on global change.

"TMON has at its core to understand biodiversity and how it changes through time," explains Janiak. "I think that we are all aware that the climate is changing, and it is natural for change to occur. There are built-in positive and negative feedback loops that allow the climate to do so. I think the problem is that this change is happening at a rapid rate and we, in a single generation, can see this happening. It is therefore important to have access to a biodiversity library that has done so well to document the past, as this is vital to our understanding of the future."

Thanks to the free online access to biodiversity literature provided by BHL, combined with the extensive resources offered by the Smithsonian Libraries, Janiak has the information he needs to follow his research passions.

"I have always been career-minded and have also always wanted to be a part of something special with the caveat that it must come with a constant challenge. I think that the Smithsonian has not only offered me that but has also given me the opportunity to build a career with all the resources that I would need plus that relentless challenge that keeps me engaged and excited each day. It’s essentially like the popular kid at school asking you to play in their sandbox; you never want to leave."

This post may contain the personal opinions of BHL users or affiliated staff and does not necessarily represent the official Biodiversity Heritage Library (BHL) position on these matters.

Thursday, June 2, 2016

Update: Smorball and Beanstalk Access Restored

UPDATE: Access to BHL's two online games, Smorball and Beanstalk, has now been restored. Thank you for your patience. Start playing today and improve access to BHL's books and journals by helping to correct our OCR (optical character recognition). Learn more.

Below Posted 2 June, 2016:

BHL's two online games, Smorball and Beanstalk, are temporarily unavailable while we transfer the domains to a new registrar. We apologize for the inconvenience and thank you for your patience. We will provide notification via this blog, Twitter, and Facebook once access to the games is restored.

You can learn more about our games, and how they help improve the discoverability of BHL books, in this past blog post. To date, over 5,000 people have played the games and over 140,000 words have been typed. Thank you so much to all of our players and for your contributions to help improve access to biodiversity literature!

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

BHL at 10 Notable Books Collection

2016 marks the 10th anniversary of the Biodiversity Heritage Library. We kicked off our year-long celebrations with our #BHLat10 campaign in April, highlighting our history, growth, and milestones. As part of that campaign, we also highlighted the Top 10 Viewed and Top 10 Downloaded books in BHL.

We're continuing the celebrations with the launch of our BHL at 10 Notable Books Collection. For this collection, our Members, Affiliates, and Partners each nominated a favorite or noteworthy title that they have contributed to BHL. These include rare, monumental, and groundbreaking publications that have helped shape the field of natural history and biodiversity research for centuries.

And there are indeed many remarkable titles in the collection. We invite you to dive into the collection by browsing through the books in the slideshow below. Click on the link on each image to explore the entire book, or browse the whole collection here.

We'll be highlighting all of the books in this collection via social media throughout the rest of 2016. Follow #BHLat10 all year to learn more about the noteworthy contributions from our Members, Affiliates, and Partners, as well as to join our celebration of BHL's 10th anniversary.

Happy Birthday, BHL!

Thursday, May 26, 2016

The Roosevelt Wild Life Station

This is the first in a monthly series of posts highlighting contributions to the Expanding Access to Biodiversity Literature (EABL) project, which aims to enhance BHL's collections with content from natural history libraries, societies, and other institutions across the United States.

The Roosevelt Wild Life Station (RWLS) is a research center within the SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry (ESF) in Syracuse, New York. Its mission is "to deliver the science and trained professionals to preserve our wildlife heritage and save imperiled species worldwide." In the first half of the 20th century, the RWLS produced two publications—the Roosevelt Wild Life Bulletin and the Roosevelt Wild Life Annals—which are now available in BHL.

"The New York State College of Forestry, Syracuse, containing the offices and laboratories of the Roosevelt Wild Life Forest Experiment Station," from Roosevelt Wild Life Bulletin, v.1 no.1 (1921).

Founding of the RWLS

In December of 1916 Charles Christopher Adams, a zoologist at the New York State College of Forestry at Syracuse University, approached Theodore Roosevelt to discuss the need for systematic study of big game and other mammals in the forests of North America. Dr. Adams believed that a lack of understanding of these animals was a problem not only for scientists, but also for industry—particularly forestry—and the economy in general. Roosevelt agreed that research in this area should be undertaken and asked Dr. Adams to devise a plan, which he outlined the following year. Despite Roosevelt's enthusiastic approval, the work was delayed—first by the onset of World War I, and then by Roosevelt's death on January 9, 1919.

Dr. Adams, undeterred by these events, saw a new opportunity to carry on the vision he had shared with Roosevelt, and convinced the state legislature of New York to establish the Roosevelt Wild Life Forest Experiment Station as a memorial to the former President. The Station was signed into law on May 10, 1919, as part of the New York State College of Forestry. The legislation stated that the RWLS would conduct “investigations, experiments, and research in relation to the habits, life histories, methods of propagation and management of fish, birds, game and food and fur-bearing animals and forest wild life.” Dr. Adams was the Station's first director.

"The field party of the Roosevelt Wild Life Station at camp on Mount Marcy, working in cooperation with other scientists," from Roosevelt Wild Life Bulletin, v.1 no.1 (1921).

Writing in Science in June, 1919, Dr. Adams proclaimed:

Never before in America, and for that matter, possibly, never before in the world, has there been a forest biological station devoted primarily or exclusively to the study of every phase of forest wild life. The establishment of such a station at the New York State College of Forestry, at Syracuse University, is thus an event of considerable general interest and importance, not only to those interested in the conservation of wild life, to foresters, and to zoologists in general, and particularly to field naturalists, but in addition to many others who are interested in the ecology of fish, birds, game, fur-bearing animals, and other kinds of forest wild life. This station, named in honor of the man … thus becomes a very appropriate memorial to Theodore Roosevelt.

An editorial in the August, 1919 issue of Forest and Stream speculated that "The work that such an experiment station may do is almost limitless and its possibilities are as yet quite beyond the range of our imagination."

The conservationist George Bird Grinnell was equally laudatory; in the foreword to the first issue of the Roosevelt Wild Life Bulletin (1921), he wrote, "No one more than Theodore Roosevelt appreciated the value of the work done and to be done by the field-naturalist. No one more than he would welcome those services to science that may be accomplished by the Experiment Station that bears his name.”

"The fish laboratory of the Roosevelt Wild Life Station," from Roosevelt Wild Life Bulletin, v.1 no.1 (1921).

Publications of the RWLS

Under Dr. Adams's tenure as director, the RWLS began publishing the Roosevelt Wild Life Bulletin in 1921, which ran until 1950. The Bulletin contains general and "popular interest" pieces related to forest ecology. Many of these articles describe the geography and wildlife of the forests immediately surrounding the RWLS, as well as the Adirondacks and other regions of upstate New York. Several others detail field research conducted at Camp Roosevelt, Yellowstone National Park, where Professor Alvin Whitney, of the New York State College of Forestry, ran a boys' summer camp in the early 1920s.

Color plates from Roosevelt Wild Life Annals, v.1 no.3-4 (1926)

Typically, each issue of the Bulletin is organized around a single topic or group of related topics: parasites in freshwater fishes, a county-level wildlife and forest survey, and the management of ruffed grouse, among others. These articles, which treated wildlife as natural resources, would surely have interested naturalists, foresters, and hunters alike. In fact, within a few years of the RWLS's founding, people from as far away as India began to request research on subjects as esoteric as muskrat farming

"Field party of the Roosevelt Wild Life Station in Yellowstone Park, summer of 1921," in Roosevelt Wild Life Bulletin, v.1 no.1 (1921).

In 1926, the RWLS began a second publication, the Roosevelt Wild Life Annals, which ran for 10 years. Whereas the Bulletin was intended for a broad audience, the Annals contain technical papers that would have been of interest to professional naturalists, particularly zoologists and botanists. Like the Bulletin, each issue is typically devoted to a single topic: the red squirrel, trout streams in Yellowstone National Park, the bank swallow, and others. 

The RWLS Today

From Roosevelt Wild Life Bulletin, v.1 no.1 (1921)
Following the publication of the last Bulletin in 1950, the RWLS entered a period of inactivity that lasted until 1999, when it was reactivated through a combination of private and state funding. Governor George Pataki and Theodore Roosevelt IV presided over the rededication. The RWLS began to support student internships at ESF's Adirondack Ecological Center, and in 2014 the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation provided $3.4 million in funding for wildlife research and management. 

Today, the RWLS focuses on the northeastern U.S. and southeastern Canada in the context of truly global issues: habitat loss and climate change. In addition to providing hands-on experience to students of wildlife science, its priorities are "protection of imperiled keystone and strongly valued species vulnerable to the impacts of rapidly changing landscapes and climate; and habitat management issues, such as maintaining effective habitat in private-land mosaics, protecting and expanding core habitat areas, and securing habitat connectivity.” In these efforts, the RWLS carries on the vision shared by Dr. Adams and Theodore Roosevelt a hundred years ago. 


Adams, C. C. (1919). The Roosevelt Wild-Life Forest Experiment Station. Science, n.s. 49(1275), 533-534.

Frair, J., & Gibbs, J. P. (2011, Spring). The Roosevelt Wild Life Station: Revitalizing a forgotten conservation legacy. Fair Chase, 30-34.

National Park Service. Roosevelt Lodge, 1920. Retrieved from

SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry. History of the Roosevelt Wild Life Station [PDF document]. Retrieved from

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

BHL Singapore representative and National Library Board staff visit Smithsonian Libraries

Wai Yin Pryke ( Director, National Library, National Library Board of Singapore) visited with BHL Program Director Martin R. Kalfatovic and Program Manager Carolyn Sheffield on 19 May 2016. Ms. Pryke is visiting various libraries and other institutions on an official visit to the United States.

It was also an honor to have Ms. Pryke accompanied by Elaine Ng. Ng is the Chief Executive Officer of the National Library Board (NLB) and initiated contacts that led to the creation of BHL Singapore.

Two other NLB staff, Grace Sim and Julia Chee, were also part of the visit to Smithsonian Libraries.

(pictured above, from the left: Julia Chee, Martin Kalfatovic, Carolyn Sheffield, Elaine Ng, Wai Yin Pryke, Grace Sim)