Tuesday, March 29, 2011

BHL and Our Users: Dr. Frank Ferrari

Today we feature another of our BHL users, and, in response to a question raised, reveal a little more about our content selection process. So, meet Dr. Frank Ferrari, a curator of Copepoda at the Smithsonian Institution!

Q: What is your title, institutional affiliation, and area of interest?
A: Research Zoologist in the Department of Invertebrate Zoology at the National Museum of Natural History (Smithsonian Institution). Specific areas of interest include the development of Copepods and related Crustaceans, patterning of Crustacean limbs, and taxonomy of Deep-Sea Copepods.

Q: How long have you been in your field of study?
A: Forty years

Q: When did you first discover BHL?
A: Shortly after it was established (2007)

Q: What is your opinion of BHL and how has it impacted your work?
A: An excellent resource. Particularly valuable for making available older publications/documents, especially those outside the immediate area of my expertise.

Q: How often do you use BHL?
A: On average, about once a month; more often when writing.

Q: How do you usually use BHL (read the titles online/download whole PDF/Select Pages to Download/etc.)
A: I usually read the publications/documents online and, as needed, download whole PDFs plus High Resolution Images.

Q: What are your favorite features/services on BHL?
A: Immediate access to the search engine upon accessing the website, and the clarity of the pages associated with a search

Q: If you could change one thing about BHL, what would it be, or what developmental aspect would you like the BHL team to focus on next?
A: Add an explanation of the strategy guiding the selections that have been scanned. Explain how publications/documents are selected to be scanned, and particularly what kinds of publications/documents are NOT scanned.

Thank you, Dr. Ferrari, for your feedback! In response to your final request to learn more about the BHL content selection process, we have created a BHL Content Selection Page on our public wiki that describes our process. You can also learn why certain items may be removed from our collection on our Deaccession Policy page. We hope this brings some light to our project and processes.

To learn more about Dr. Ferrari, and see a list of his publications, visit his page on the National Museum of Natural History Invertebrate Zoology website.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Annual BHL Institutional Council Meeting, 2011

(front row, from left: Susan Fraser, Catherine Wilt, Tom Garnett, Judy Warnement, Connie Rinaldo, 
Christine Gionnoni, Jean Farrington, Nancy Gwinn, Chris Mills; back row, from left, Jane Smith, 
Martin Kalfatovic, Doug Holland, Erick Mata, Graham Higley, Cathy Norton, Tom Baione, Chris Freeland)

On March 8-9, 2011, the Biodiversity Heritage Library (BHL) Institutional Council met at Smithsonian Institution Libraries in Washington, D.C.

The annual meeting is held to cover issues related to governance of the BHL, prioritization of the work of the technical development team, and discussion of the ongoing sustainability going forward of the BHL.

The BHL Institutional Council is composed of the directors, or their designates, from each of the twelve member libraries.

Attending were:
BHL Program Director Tom Garnett led the meetings. Also attending were BHL Technical Director Chris Freeland (Missouri Botanical Garden), Deputy Program Director Martin Kalfatovic (Smithsonian Institution Libraries), and BHL Collections Coordinator Bianca Crowley.

Recently appointed Encyclopedia of Life (EOL) Director Erick Mata, also attended the meeting and gave an overview presentation on the work of EOL and its relationship to the BHL.

-Martin Kalfatovic

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Book of the Week: Amphibians and Reptiles Galore!

So often with scientific illustration, one finds that the depiction of species or specimens are limited to the isolated rendering of the subject in question, devoid of any habitat or environmental context that gives the reader a clear picture of what life is truly like for the animal in the wild. So, when we came across the illustrations in Deutschlands Amphibien und Reptilien. Eine Beschreibung und Schilderung sämmtlicher in Deutschland und den angrenzenden Gebietan vrokommenden Lurche und Kreichthiere (1897) by Bruno Dürigen, we knew we had to highlight them. Plus, the plethora of reptile and amphibian species displayed seemed equally worthy of attention. So, enjoy these selected illustrations from our book of the week, learn more about the species depicted in each in EOL, and imagine what life might be like in the wild for our cold-blooded friends. Plus, don't forget to take a look at the book in BHL to see all of the other illustrations that are not highlighted in this post!

5) Young European Frog
6) Spawn and Stages of Development of the European Frog

1-3) Larval Stage
4) Adult

1) Female
2) Male
3) Black Species Type

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Book of the Week: Happy St. Patrick's Day!

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

Along with wearing green, drinking a pint (or maybe more) of some good Irish beer, singing some Irish songs, or any other variety of activities you may be planning to partake in on this festive day, perhaps the most iconic tradition to undertake is the search for a four-leaf clover. The four-leaf clover is a traditional symbol of good luck, with each leaf representing something different: hope, faith, love and luck.

The four-leaf clover is simply a rare variety of the more common three-leaf clover, with approximately 10,000 three-leaf clovers for every four-leaf clover. It is unclear whether the fourth leaf is caused by genetic or environmental conditions. The clover is of the genus Marsilea, and there are approximately 60 species of this aquatic fern, most of which are found in the Old World.

For our book of the week, we thought we'd highlight a book that prominently features the four-leaf clover. After all, while the brief summary of Marsilea presented above is a nice overview, with the odds of finding a four-leaf clover at 10,000:1, you may want to get a thorough description of this genus and some of the species contained in it before you go hunting for this lucky gem. If so, spend some time with our book of the week, Aquatic and Wetland Plants of Southwestern United States (1972), by Donovan S. Correll and Helen B. Correll. The section on Marsilea presents, with thorough descriptions, 6 species of the clover that can be found in the United States, including M. macropoda, M. mexicana, M. mucronata, M. uncinata, M. tenuifolia, and M. fournieri.

Armed with a complete description of these species, and an idea of where you might find them, let the search for the four-leaf clover begin! Just remember, whether you succeed in finding our elusive friend or not, be sure to take a break to enjoy the day to the greenest possible extent.

This week's book of the week, Aquatic and Wetland Plants of Southwestern United States (1972), by Donovan S. Correll and Helen B. Correll, was contributed by the MBLWHOI library.

To learn more about the genus Marsilea, check it out in EOL.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

BHL and Our Users: Dr. Toby Musgrave

This week we feature another of our faithful BHL users, Dr. Toby Musgrave, whose work in horticulture has benefited greatly by his discovery of BHL. We asked him a few questions about how BHL has impacted his work, and we present them to you here in a traditional question and answer style.

Q: What is your title, institutional affiliation, and area of interest?

A: Independent Scholar, unsalaried Research Associate at Royal Botanic Garden, Edinburgh, UK; and unsalaried Group Member of Interdisciplinary Evolutionary Studies (IES) within the Institute of Philosophy and the History of Ideas at Aarhus University, Denmark.

Q: How long have you been in your field of study?
A: My PhD was in garden history and I have been a freelance/independent scholar since 1994.

Q: When did you first discover BHL?
A: 2009

Q: What is your opinion of BHL and how has it impacted your research?
A: A hugely useful resource that has made my research less time consuming and less expensive

Q: How often do you use BHL?
A: At least monthly

Q: How do you usually use BHL (read the titles online/download whole PDFs/Select Pages to Download/etc.)
A: Download whole PDFs

Q: What are your favorite features/services on BHL?
A: The range of publications available and the ability to request titles to be scanned

Q: If you could change one thing about BHL, what would it be, or what developmental aspect would you like the BHL team to focus on next?
  • To have scanned and available every title listed by Blanch Henrey in her British Botanical and Horticultural Literature before 1800 (Oxford University Press, 1975)

  • Continue digitizing horticultural periodicals from the 19th century
Q: If you had to choose one title/item in BHL that has most impacted your research, or one item that you prefer above any other in BHL, what would it be and why?
A: Last year I threw down the gauntlet to [BHL staff] and asked if there was any possibility of BHL arranging to have made available the entire run (1841-1955) of the UK periodical The Gardeners' Chronicle. I asked because there is nowhere in my country of residence (Denmark) that holds it, requiring that I make time consuming and expensive research trips to London or Cambridge in the UK should I wish to examine the periodical. I was amazed and delighted that BHL has achieved what I asked. This contribution to the BHL catalogue has been a real boon to my research, with the bonus of being able to keyword search the PDFs of annual volumes that often run to in excess of 800 pages of tiny print. Thank you!

And thank you, Dr. Musgrave, for your faithful use of BHL and for taking the time to communicate with us to tell us how we could improve BHL for you! We will get to work on Blanch Henrey's list of botanical and horticultural works.

For more information about Dr. Musgrave, visit his website at

And if you have suggestions on how to improve BHL, or if you would like to be featured in our BHL users series on this blog, let us know via our feedback form, send a tweet to @BioDivLibrary, or post on our Facebook wall. We look forward to hearing from our users and continuing to develop BHL in the directions most beneficial to them.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Book of the Week: The Extinction of the Eastern Cougar

The sad fate of the Eastern Cougar has now been officially declared by the U.S. Government - it is extinct. The status of this animal has long been a subject of controversy, with many, including the U.S. Government, declaring that the animal has been extinct since the 1930s. The disappearance of the Eastern Cougar is directly related to the arrival of settlers to the New World. This fact is clearly documented in this week's book of the week, Extinct and Vanishing Mammals of the Western Hemisphere, with the Marine species of all the Oceans (1942), by Glover M. Allen:

"...It is clear that the eastern panther, though fairly common for so large a beast of prey, was exterminated from the more settled parts along the Atlantic coast in the colonial days, while in the wilder and more mountainous regions, as in Vermont and New Hampshire, the Adirondacks, and the Alleghenies, it persisted in some numbers till about the middle of the last century, after which the last surviving scattered individuals were gradually shot or trapped until they were exterminated, or practically so, by the last years of the nineteenth century."

Indeed, early settlers were even offered rewards for the bodies of these unfortunate creatures:

"The catamount, or panther, as these big cats were usually called in New England, was not especially common even in early days but was nevertheless evidently troublesome to the first white settlers on our shores, for bounties were offered and many were killed though with little record...As early as 1694 Connecticut offered a bounty of 20 shillings apiece for catamounts and as late as 1769 paid for four or five. Massachusetts first offered a reward of 40 shillings for killing these animals in 1742. In 1753 this was increased to 4. Probably by the time of the Revolution Panthers were fairly well gone from the three southern States of New England."

Despite the declaration of extinction, some still claim to spot members of this species in the wild. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service asserts that these sightings are actually "wanderers from western breedings ranges or escaped captives." It is interesting to note that a debate exists regarding whether the Eastern Cougar, and all other divisions of the cougar, are truly subspecies of the North American Cougar, or whether all North American species are a single subspecies. It was not until 1929 that the Eastern Cougar was declared a separate subspecies, and not until 1946 that Young and Goldman described all 15 subspecies. Despite calls to label all cougars in North America as a single subspecies, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service still maintains their distinction, declaring in 2011 that "While more recent genetic information introduces significant ambiguities, a full taxonomic analysis is necessary to conclude that a revision to the Young and Goldman (1946) taxonomy is warranted."

As we consider the unfortunate fate of the Eastern Cougar, let this be a reminder that we have a responsibility to take action to preserve the biodiversity of our planet so that existing species will still be around for future generations. We hope that the literature made available through BHL will continue to unlock the knowledge contained in these important historical documents, thus continuing to enhance research into biodiversity conservation on our planet.

For more information on the U.S. Fish and Wildlife's announcement regarding the Eastern Cougar, visit the press release page: