Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Book of the Week: The Green Anole and Cuvier

If you ever owned a lizard as a pet growing up, chances are good that you owned one of EOL's featured species, an Anolis carolinensis, or Green Anole, also sometimes called the American Chameleon, although it is not a type of chameleon. This misnomer comes from this species' ability to turn from green to brown. This species is the only Anole species native to North America, and is found primarily in the southeastern United States.

The Green Anole has played a very important role in scientific research, particularly as it relates to studying neurological disorders, drug delivery systems and biochemical pathways as they relate to humans. Furthermore, "in 2005, the scientific community overwhelmingly chose the green anole lizard as its first target species for reptilian genome sequencing" due to "the repeated convergent pattern of adaptive radiation on islands of the Greater Antilles, producing on each island essentially the same set of habitat specialists adapted to use different parts of the environment."

The Green Anole, or Anolis carolinensis, was first described in this week's book of the week, Das Thierreich, geordnet nach seiner Organisation : als Grundlage der Naturgeschichte der Thiere und Einleitung in die vergleichende Anatomie, volume 2 (1832), by Friedrich Siegmund Voight. The book itself is attributed to both Voight and the well-known Baron Georges Cuvier. Cuvier was a French naturalist and zoologist, well known for his work helping to establish the fields of comparative anatomy and paleontology. Furthermore, he is well remembered as establishing extinction as a fact.

Das Thierreich, geordnet nach seiner Organisation : als Grundlage der Naturgeschichte der Thiere und Einleitung in die vergleichende Anatomie is a work of six volumes, published between 1831 and 1843. The volumes describe species from all across the Animal Kingdom, ranging from birds to reptiles and fish, mollusks, crustacea, insects and more. Take a few moments to take a look at the first description of our friend, the Green Anole, as well as the many other descriptions contained within the pages of these volumes. It is amazing to think that a species that was first introduced to the scientific community in a short, one sentence description would become one of the most important species in the study of human illness and animal physiology and behavior.

This week's Book of the Week, Das Thierreich, geordnet nach seiner Organisation : als Grundlage der Naturgeschichte der Thiere und Einleitung in die vergleichende Anatomie, volume 2 (1832), by Cuvier and Voight, was contributed by the Smithsonian Institution Libraries.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Biodiversity Heritage Library receives the ALCTS Collaboration Award

Originally uploaded by Smithsonian Libraries
Staff from the Biodiversity Heritage Library received the Outstanding Collaboration award from ALCTS on June 27, 2010.

The text of the citation read:

The Association for Library Collections & Technical Services (ALCTS) is awarding the ALCTS Outstanding Collaboration Citation to two distinguished libraries. This year’s recipients, in recognition of their outstanding collaborative partnerships are: the Biodiversity Heritage Library, the digitization component of the Encyclopedia of Life, which is a consortium of 12 major natural history museum libraries, botanical libraries and research institutions organized to digitize, serve and preserve the legacy literature of biodiversity; and the Juliette K. and Leonard S. Rakow Research Library of The Corning Museum of Glass, Corning N.Y.
Biodiversity Heritage Library (BHL), in a noteworthy collaborative effort, has fulfilled a scholarly need by providing open access to a large corpus of historical materials on biodiversity within the biological, ecological and environmental sciences. BHL has grown into an international collaborative digitization project by working with 12 major natural history museum libraries, botanical libraries and research institutions in the United States and United Kingdom. Through digitization and preservation, materials are made available, over an open access platform to scholars and researchers globally. The ability to locate, identify, retrieve the materials and, most importantly, to locate and identify specific organisms by their scientific names is seamless yet shows a high level of sophistication within BHL’s digital interface.
Pictured above, left to right are: Mary Case (President, ALCTS), Nancy E. Gwinn (Smithsonian Libraries), Tom Garnett (BHL/Smithsonian Libraries), Chris Freeland (BHL/Missouri Botanical Garden), Connie Rinaldo (Mayr Library, Museum of Comparative Zoology, Harvard University), Diana Duncan (The Field Museum, Chicago), Jane Smith (Natural History Museum, London), Matthew Person (Marine Biological Laboratory Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution Library), Cynthia Whitacre (President Elect, ALCTS)

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

New Feature: User-Submitted Requests for Scanning!

So, many of you participated in our BHL User Survey 2010, and we greatly appreciate your contributions! One of the most prevalent themes throughout the range of responses that we received was that our users want to be able to submit requests for scanning. So, you spoke; we listened.

Introducing the new scanning request form on BHL!

You as a user can now submit requests for items to be scanned and added to the BHL collection, free of charge to you, no less! The process is easy, too. Simply access the "Feedback" form on the BHL website (located in the upper right hand corner of the header through the "Feedback" link, or at the title and item level in BHL by clicking on the "Report an Error" link on the right hand side of the title screen or above the scan images in the book viewer) and choose the option "Scanning Request." You can then fill out and submit the form indicating your request for scanning.

We do ask that you keep a few things in mind. First, due to copyright restrictions, requests for scanning are limited to items published before 1923. Secondly, our ability to scan a request is limited both to the collections of our BHL member institutions and the condition of the volumes they might hold. If we don't have it, we can't scan it. If it's falling apart, we probably won't be able to scan it. Finally, we scan requests in the order they are received, and depending on certain circumstances, such as the rarity or fragility of the item in question, it may take longer to scan certain requests. Nevertheless, we are excited about this new feature and the opportunity it gives you, the user, to contribute to the building of our ever-increasing digital collection. So, pull out those lists of items you wished BHL had and start submitting your requests! We're waiting...

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Book of the Week: Spiders, Spiders and More Spiders

If you've been outside gardening lately, or even simply taking a closer look at the greenery around you, you probably noticed that you were not quite alone. Indeed, the coming of the warm weather also sparks the coming of a plethora of new life, among them insects and spiders. And if you live in the lower 48 states, Mexico or Central America, you may have seen one of the featured species on EOL - Argiope aurantia - the Black and Yellow Argiope.

Argiope aurantia is one of the "largest and most colorful orbweaving spiders from northeastern to southwestern North American." As orbweavers, Argiope aurantia build spiral, wheel-shaped webs, the round shape of which gives this spider and those with similar webs their "orbweaver" name. The life expectancy of Argiope aurantia in temperate climates is a mere year, with life lasting from birth in the fall to the "first harsh frost in the following year." In warmer climates and captivity, however, the outlook is slightly better for the females, which may live several years. Unfortunately for the males, they probably die after mating in their first year. Nevertheless, the conservation status for this species is good, as their commonality and widespread distribution currently ensures that they are in no danger of going extinct anytime soon.

Argiope aurantia is one of the many species of spiders and other invertebrates featured in this week's book of the week, A Manual of the Common Invertebrate Animals, Exclusive of Insects, by Henry Sherring Pratt (1923), contributed by the Marine Biological Laboratory at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution. Within this volume, Argiope aurantia is described as,

"Body large and conspicuous, being often 25mm. long, with long legs; abdomen black and 2 bright yellow or orange bands underneath; cephalothorax gray above and yellow underneath; the web is sometimes 2 feet in diameter and has a zigzag band of silk across the middle; the male has a small, irregular web nearby; [found] in grass and bushes; in open fields, especially near water."

Take a moment to look more closely at this colorful species on EOL and within this week's book of the week. And if you're out and about this summer, be sure to keep your eyes peeled for "zigzag bands of silk" in the grass and bushes, for you might just find that the spash of bright orange or yellow in the middle of the web is indeed Argiope aurantia, the Black and Yellow Argiope.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Book of the Week: Species Highlight - The Eastern Painted Turtle

Imagine that you are strolling through the forest on a fine summer morning. The birds are chirping merrily above your head, and an occasional squirrel scurries across the path in front of you. Suddenly, you reach a clearing, in the midst of which is a large pond. As you take a moment to look around, you suddenly notice a log floating carelessly through the water. Except, this is no ordinary log! Indeed, it appears to be moving! On closer inspection, you realize that this is not just a log, but a log covered with as many as 50 painted turtles, all basking in the warm summer sun. While you may never have experienced this yourself, this is indeed a sight which you might see should you find yourself around freshwater anywhere in North America from Southern Canada to northern Mexico. It is the sight of Chrysemys picta, also known as the Eastern Painted Turtle - the most common turtle in North America and one of the featured species this week on EOL.

Chrysemys picta is brightly marked, with a "relatively flat upper shell with red and yellow markings on a black or greenish brown background." Capable of living several decades, they "prefer living in freshwater that is quiet, shallow, and has a thick layer of mud." While relatively common and abundant, some populations are "threatened by the destruction of their habitat," and "in Canada, painted turtles have been placed on the federal blue list, which identifies animals considered vulnerable to human activities or natural events, but not immediately threatened."

Chrysemys picta is very descriptively discussed in this week's book of the week, Amphibia and reptiles (1901), by Hans Gadow. As of 1901, the Eastern Painted Turtle was "one of the few species of which, thanks to L. Agassiz, complete data of growth from the new born to the old age are known." Here, Gadow refers to L. Agassiz's work Contributions to the Natural History of the United States of America, volume 1 (1857), which articulates the growth of this species over time.

Take a moment to peruse Gadow's description of this turtle, as well as many other amphibians and reptiles, in
Amphibia and reptiles. And remember, if you're ever out strolling through the forest and come across a pond with a "moving log," be sure to take a closer look, for it might just prove to be a hoard of Eastern Painted Turtles basking in the sun.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

BHL and Vienna! BHL-Global Updates

So, as many of you may already know, BHL has gone global - way global, with BHL-Europe and BHL-China well underway, and a memorandum of understanding has just been signed with Australia. BHL and the Bibliotecha Alexandrina (for an Arab-language BHL) have had some preliminary discussions. Many of our BHL staff are currently in Vienna, Austria working with the BHL-Europe team to discuss project details and developments. Here's a short update from one of our own, Constance Rinaldo of the Museum of Comparative Zoology, Harvard; Ernst Mayr Library, regarding the exciting developments of BHL on a global scale:

"BHL staff have just completed several days of our first BHL meeting: BHL-Europe that is. The weather in Vienna has been warm and humid with rain for part of most days. Our BHL-Europe colleagues are productive, energetic and committed, including working through lunch on Sunday May 30! Over the course of the week, we spent many hours discussing PR, communication and dissemination, GUIDs, the GRIB (a tool used by the BHL staff to articulate which books each institution will scan), use cases scenarios for workflow and user survey. Our BHL-Europe colleagues seemed pleased with the help and discussion we offered, and we also gathered new ideas. Europeana has coordinated logos among the partners and they have a model which may serve BHL-global well. Several of us had an amazing tour of the libraries of the Natural History Museum in Vienna where most of the book collections are still tied to the specimen collections. The tour ended with viewing Vienna from the roof of the Natural History Museum and an impromptu lunch provided by Andrea Kourgli, the Librarian."
Top: General library collections, Natural History Museum in Vienna.
Bottom: BHL staff Martin Kalfatovic (back left) and Suzanne Pilsk (back right) having lunch in museum librarian Andrea Kourgli's (front left) office.