Saturday, November 27, 2010

Visit to BHL China

Chris Freeland, Martin Kalfatovic and Keri Thompson attended technical meetings related to the Biodiversity Heritage Library China node, November 15-17, 2010. The meetings, held at the Institute of Botany, Chinese Academy of Sciences (Beijing) took place over three days and covered scanning workflow, operation of the Internet Archive Scribe machine, technical standards for ingesting BHL-China materials into the BHL portal site, and replicating BHL data on IB/CAS servers.

BHL China program director Dr. Jinzhong Cui led the meetings. Also attending from BHL China were Fenghong Liu (project coordinator and Director of the Institute of Botany Library), Zheping Xu (technical director), and Shao Qing representing the Institute of Botany.

Additional presentations from the Institute of Botany staff included Chen Bin discussing the building the Chinese Field Herbarium, Li Min, project director for the Plant Photo Bank of China (PPBC), and a detailed presentation on the data storage systems in place at the Chinese Academy of Sciences.

The BHL team also received a tour of the Institute of Botany Library, source of materials for the initial scanning project.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

The Sun Parakeet and the World Checklist of Threatened Birds

The concept of threatened and endangered species is not a new idea for most of the world. Most are now well aware of the shadow that looms over so much of the magnificent life on our planet. While many efforts are underway around the globe to protect the species that are threatened, it is important to continue to raise awareness of the plight faced by so many of the creatures that share our planet. So, in an effort to do so, we highlight this week the Sun Parakeet, or the Aratinga solstitialis, one of the many species of threatened birds listed in this week's book of the week, The World Checklist of Threatened Birds (1990).

The Sun Parakeet is native to northeastern South America, particularly in "the north Brazilian state of Roraima, Southern Guyana, extreme southern Suriname, and southern French Guiana." Recent surveys revealing that the species may now be extirpated from Southern Guyana and rare in Roraima have excited recent discussions over the threatened status of this bird, and it is now listed as "Endangered" in the 2008 IUCN Red List. Deforestation, hunting, poaching, and capture for sale in the pet trade are the greatest threats facing this species.

The taxanomic history of this bird is interesting, beginning with its first description by Linnaeus in volume 1 of his 1758 work Systema Naturae. In this publication, Linnaeus situated the Sun Parakeet in the genus Psittacus. However, this genus is now reserved solely for the type species with which it is associated, the African Grey Parrot, and Aratinga solstitialis is now found in the genus Aratinga. Besides being known by the common name of Sun Parakeet, Aratinga solstitialis is also called the Sun Conure.

Aratinga solstitialis is a complex species, containing what have long been considered three sub-species: the Jandaya Parakeet, the Golden-capped Parakeet, and the Sulphur-breasted Parakeet. Recent discussions, however, have suggested that these sub-species are in fact separate species, or that the "Sun Parakeet and the Sulphur-breasted Parakeet represent one species, while the Jandaya Parakeet and Golden-capped Parakeet represent a second." However, these species will interbreed in captivity (with the exception of the Sulphur-breasted Parakeet, of which, since it was only recently discovered in 2005, it is suspected but not confirmed that successful interbreeding with the three other mentioned species can occur).

The Sun Parakeet is among those bird species listed in The World Checklist of Threatened Birds (1990). Take a few moments to examine this species on EOL, and discover this species, along with many others, in this week's book of the week. Think about what you can do to help ensure that these species are around for many generations to come.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Thank you, Society for the History of Natural History!

Staff of BHL are humbled to announce that we have been recognized by the Society for the History of Natural History for the past three years of efforts on behalf of our digital repository. The John Thackray Medal is especially rewarding to receive because it appreciates the comprehensive nature of our work. BHL is here to support the work of plant, animal and earth scientists alike and the John Thackray Medal is likewise an advocate for the broadest sense of natural history. We sincerely thank the Society for their work as well.

The Society for the History of Natural History also awards best original, unpublished, essay in the field of history of natural history. The winner of the 2010 essay is Nils Petter Hellström, who has recently completed his M.Phil. in the Department of History and Philosophy of Science at the University of Cambridge. 'The tree as evolutionary icon: Tania Kovats's TREE in the Natural History Museum'. It will be published in Archives of natural history volume 38 in 2011.

Previous winners include:
  • 2009 Stephanie Pfennigwerth, School of English, Journalism and European Languages, University of Tasmania, Hobart, Australia. 'The mighty cassowary': the discovery and demise of the King Island emu. Published in Archives of natural history 37 (1): 74-90. doi 10.3366/E0260954109001661
  • 2008 Ross Brooks, Department of History, Oxford Brooks University, Oxford, UK. All too human: responses to same-sex copulation in the common cockchafer (Melolontha melolontha (L.), 1834-1900. Published in Archives of natural history 36 (1): 146-159. doi: 10.3366/E0260954108000703
  • 2007 Heather Brink-Roby, Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA. Siren canora: the mermaid and the mythical in late nineteenth-century science. Published in Archives of natural history 35 (1): 1-14. doi: 10.3366/E0260954108000041
Additionally, The Society for the History of Natural History publishes an informal Newsletter that is produced three times a year and distributed free to members. It contains details of forthcoming meetings, news of other events, a lively Notes & Queries section, members’ news and new publications.

Monday, November 1, 2010

New features for "discovered bibliography"

BHL has used name finding algorithms that analyze all of the scanned pages in BHL and extract out the scientific names within. This functionality was released in 2007 and has received minor enhancements in usability. To date more than 81 million potential name strings have been identified by the TaxonFinder algorithm, representing 1.6 million unique names.

A new interface to these data has been moved into production, giving users enhanced functionality in using BHL's names-based bibliography. Users can now sort records within the results returned, and the results can be exported into a variety of popular reference manager formats including BibTex, EndNote, and a simple CSV file.

You can navigate to the new interface by clicking on Browse By: "Names" or by visiting this link:

You can also view a sample bibliography of the Great White Shark (Carcharodon carcharias) by following this link:

Please leave comments or questions on this post. Sincerely,

Chris Freeland