Thursday, August 28, 2014

On the Case: An Internship in Detective Work, Library Style

Facade, Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History
My earliest memory of the Natural History Museum is climbing the steps to see the “stuffed animal zoo.” It was a very rainy day and our plans of visiting the National Zoo were put on hold. However, my mom had an idea so that I- only about four or five at the time- could still see animals. I had no idea at the time what exactly she meant by “stuffed animal,” but I had a blast and returned frequently during our yearly trips up from Florida. The stairs seemed so much taller back then. Now they’re just a quick jaunt up to something much more than a place to escape the rain. As the years and visits went by, I found that I did not get bored by the many visits. Instead, I started looking at different aspects of the museum- beyond the educational tags and videos. I started seeing the museum as an entity and watching how much it meant to the different people visiting.

Mammal Hall, Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History
I completed my undergraduate degree at Florida State University, majoring in Interdisciplinary Social Sciences with a focus on Anthropology and History. I also completed a minor and certificate program in Museum Studies. I am currently working on completing my graduate degree at Catholic University of America in Library Information Science with a focus on Cultural Heritage Information Management.

Being able to work with the Smithsonian Libraries was an amazing experience. I was able to spend the last six weeks working with the Biodiversity Heritage Library as part of the Professional Development Internship Program. Those weeks flew by as I worked on a number of different projects. One of the main projects I worked on had to do with BHL’s issue tracking system, called Gemini. With digital libraries comes an even bigger audience which can lead to even more input. BHL users are able to note problems, questions, or requests that they have with items in the library which are then sent through to the issue tracking system. I was able to help unravel some of the difficult bibliographic questions which were anchored in the age old “what were the publishers thinking?” Bibliographic leg work made me feel as though my librarian skills were taking me down the path of a detective. Except instead of a dark alley I was making my way through the cyber-shelves of OCLC, wandering through different countries’ books to add to my collective knowledge about a title.

Mariah Lewis, BHL Professional Development Intern
While working on different issues in the issue tracking system I was able to make edits to the records in the BHL. After doing cataloging and metadata work in previous internships I found it very interesting to see how that data was stored and edited in a digital library setting. The collaborative effort that went into editing BHL records and answering questions in the Gemini system was incredible. With participating institutions all over the world, communication and team work was indispensable.

Working with BHL was a big change from my previous library work. It was my first time in a library setting not working with books. The transition from working with books and documents in a digitization setting to never seeing a book was not as difficult as I was expecting. I was given first-hand experience working with digital surrogates or- as some would say- totally new digital objects. Beyond this, it was really interesting to see how you can work with people all over the country and world with technology. While that seems obvious, BHL takes this to a different level and really works at having clear communication lines. The collaborative effort was probably the most inspiring part of the internship. I saw how BHL’s work can be used in other aspects of librarianship which complements my library and information science education and gives me hope and ideas for the future of librarianship.

Mariah Lewis
BHL Professional Development Intern

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

BHL joins the Global Biodiversity Information Facility (GBIF)

The Biodiversity Heritage Library has joined the Global Biodiversity Information Facility (GBIF) as an Associate Participant. GBIF operates through a network of global nodes to develop and maintain an open data infrastructure for sharing digital biodiversity data. As an Associate Participant, BHL will encourage open access and use of biodiversity data among its stakeholders and actively participate in the implementation of the GBIF Work Programme.

“BHL provides open and free access to over 250 years of biodiversity information via web services and open APIs,” said Martin Kalfatovic, BHL Program Director. “As a growing global consortium of biodiversity-related libraries and through cooperation with other biodiversity institutions, we are constantly working to refine BHL content and services to address the need for biodiversity literature. Through participation in GBIF, BHL will be able to share our own expertise, gain new competencies, and collaborate with new communities to ensure that the breadth of biodiversity knowledge is available to everyone, everywhere.”

GBIF participants include countries, intergovernmental and international organizations, and organizations with an international scope that seek to share data under common standards, inform and implement the GBIF strategic plan, and invest in tools, services, and capacity building within biodiversity information frameworks. To date, over 90 participants have signed the GBIF MOU.

About GBIF
The purpose of GBIF is to promote, co-ordinate, design, enable and implement the compilation, linking, standardization, digitization and global dissemination and use of the world’s biodiversity data, within an appropriate framework for property rights and due attribution. GBIF works in close co-operate with established programmes and organisations that compile, maintain, and use biological information resources. The Participants, working through GBIF, establish and support a distributed information system that enables users to access and utilize considerable quantities of existing and new biodiversity data. Learn more:

Monday, August 25, 2014

Twitterchat on Martha, Extinction, & Historic Literature

Pigeons. Selby, P. John (1845). 
Please join the Biodiversity Heritage Library (BHL), the Smithsonian Libraries, and the National Museum of Natural History (NMNH) for a twitterchat on September 2nd, 2014. The chat will take place between 2-3 pm (EST) and feature Helen James, Curator of Birds and our recent Once There Were Billions exhibit in NMNH, and Martin Kalfatovic, BHL Program Director.

This September marks the 100th anniversary of the death of the very last passenger pigeon, Martha. In honor of the event, our chat will focus on Martha and the passenger pigeon, extinction and the importance of saving historic taxonomic literature through projects such as BHL. Folks will also have an opportunity to ask questions about Once There Were Billions, species survival or anything else on your minds about birds or biodiversity.

You can send questions using #Martha100 to @BioDivLibrary, @SILibraries, or @NMNH. Helen will be taking over the @NMNH account and Martin will man @BioDivLibrary to answer your questions. Everyone is invited to participate and follow the discussion by using #Martha100. If you're not on Twitter, feel free to leave your question in a comment below or drop us a line by email at

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Avibase, The World Bird Database

As part of our BHL & Our Users series, we recently interviewed Denis Lepage, Senior Scientist at the National Data Center, Bird Studies Canada and creator of Avibase, an impressive online resource on the birds of the world.  With over 12 million records, the database covers information on about 10,000 species and 22,000 subspecies of birds, including distribution, taxonomy, and synonyms in several languages.

Over the last 20 years, Lepage has devoted his energy and inspiration to building and managing this extensive resource. Denis recently contacted us to share the role BHL has played in making his work possible and we're thrilled that he's agreed to share it here with you as well.  Enjoy!

BHL & Our Users: Denis Lepage

What is your area of interest?

My interest in taxonomy for Avibase is primarily a personal endeavor.  One of my goals for Avibase is to organize all bird taxonomy, whether current or historical, so we can track how our understanding of taxonomic concepts and scientific names has evolved over time. Since it began, the database has grown to about 12 million records, and I have developed various approaches to address some of taxonomy's unique challenges. These have recently been detailed in a paper published in the open access journal ZooKeys.

I am particularly interested in how the same scientific names are constantly being used for describing concepts that are actually representing different populations. Because of the rules of nomenclature, when a population is split into two or more species for instance, the original scientific name must remain with the one represented by the oldest specimen. Because of this, a scientific name may actually mean some very different things depending on who uses it or when it was used. The name Gallinula chloropus could mean a bird found in Europe, Asia, Africa, and Oceania but the birds found in the Americas could be alternatively called G. chloropus or G. galeata. If you naively looked at G. chloropus records on a global map, you would see a sudden and marked drop in sightings starting a few years ago in the Americas. You would probably eventually figure out that those have simply shifted to a different name, but the point is that this disorganizes things.

Screenshot of some of the reporting tools available in My Avibase

The problem is a lot more widespread than most people seem to realize, particularly as we start gathering vast amounts of data into large biodiversity inventories containing hundreds of millions of records. By my own estimate, less than half the world's species of birds have been represented by a stable and consistent name over the last hundred years or so. In some cases, such as with Puffinus Iherminieri, a single scientific name has been used to describe up to 18 different concepts, which really only share being represented by a common type specimen. In the broader sense, the name Puffinus Iherminieri can be used to represent a large complex of about 16 species according to today's understanding of taxonomy. Several of those are threatened species, so not being able to be precise about what a name means has real direct implications for things such as conservation. These difficulties are also compounded by several other challenges, such as name synonymy. While the rules of nomenclature were well designed to address the problems of changes in names and synonymy, they have completely ignored the issue of changes to the circumscription (what each name is used to represent).  The ZooKeys paper explains how I have addressed this problem in Avibase, and how this may be useful for other taxonomic groups.

In addition to that, Avibase also offers lots of resources for birdwatchers, including over 10,000 different checklists from all countries, states, and provinces, and many smaller islands around the world. Those are available in several taxonomies and providing common name synonyms in over 200 languages from Afrikaans to Zulu. There is an Avibase Flickr group to which nearly a thousand people contribute, and those are made available in the species pages, as well as in the form of illustrated checklists for any region of the world. I primarily designed Avibase with my own personal interests in mind as a birdwatcher, but I am very excited that so many people also find it useful. A relatively recent addition is the section called My Avibase, where people can maintain their life lists and generate cool reports that tell them where they can go next in their world adventures, and how many new species they can expect to see. By combining this with data from thousands of observers who contribute to eBird, I can also provide better estimates, for instance on which species they are most likely to find at different times of year, and more.

How long have you been in your field of study?

I started building the Avibase database just over 20 years ago, but it was launched as a web site around 2003. My original goal was mostly to create a personal database that contained all of the bird species and that I could use for tracking my own personal sightings. It then gradually evolved into something much bigger.

When did you first discover BHL?
A few years ago, through research for historical documents on and Google books.

What is your opinion of BHL and how has it impacted your research?

BHL provides access to historical documents on bird taxonomy that are often difficult for me to access otherwise, particularly outside of an academic environment. Being able to access digital copies of these documents at my leisure is extremely convenient.

How often do you use BHL?

Regularly, but this varies.  Over the last year, it has been several times per month.

How do you usually use BHL?

I generally download the whole PDFs for my own local use.

What are your favorite features / services on BHL?

Access to digitized copies of historical documents. Since I am not located in a university or a place where I can access a comprehensive library, this is invaluable. Even if I had such access, having these documents available online, with their content indexed and searchable from desk is incredibly convenient. For instance, I often come across old names that are no longer in use, and that I am trying to resolve their meaning.  Many of those names are only found in old historical documents (e.g., Hellmayr's Catalog of the Birds of the Americas), and having them simply available a Google search away is incredibly powerful.

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?

Part of what I have been trying to do is convert the content of some of these documents into structured database pieces. This is very challenging in many respects. It assumes that the optical character recognition (OCR) is efficient and accurate, and that the information can be relatively easily parsed into their individual components. In several instances, I have found that the individual books that had been used for scanning had many marking made by hand, and which often disrupted the OCR process. I think that working on copies that are as clean as possible would be a desirable and reasonable objective. Improving the OCR process itself would also be incredibly valuable, but these books are probably more challenging than your average publication. They often rely heavily on abbreviations, symbols, highly stylized fonts and of course contain words such as scientific names that are not found in standard dictionaries.

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?

So far, undoubtedly the volumes from the Peter's Checklist of the Birds of the World. These represent a very important compendium of every bird in the world known at the time of publication and are used as the principal reference underlying most other subsequent global taxonomic effort. After a few years of manual labor by myself and a colleague, I am glad to say that we were able to convert major portions of the 16 volume series into a database that can be accessed openly here: Efforts are underway to expand the database to include synonymy information that was also included in Peters' checklist.

Thank you, Denis, for sharing your work on Avibase and how you use the Biodiversity Heritage Library!

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

BHL Update at the EOL Executive Committee Meeting

The BHL and Encylopedia of Life (EOL) share the vision of open access to knowledge about life on earth. BHL works to achieve this goal by providing open access to biodiversity literature. EOL tackles this challenge by gathering, generating, and sharing biodiversity knowledge in an open, freely accessible digital repository.

BHL and EOL have been collaborating since 2007, sharing content, best practices, and expertise. Both websites are also extensively interlinked. Taxa identified on pages in BHL are linked to the corresponding species page in EOL. Likewise,  EOL species pages contain links to all identified literature in BHL referencing those species. Through the use of machine tagging, BHL also supplies species illustrations to EOL. To date, 16,496,376 pages in BHL link to EOL species pages, and 1,177,510 EOL pages link to BHL literature. BHL has contributed 13,808 images to EOL.

On 28-29 July, 2014, the EOL Executive Committee Meeting was held at the National Museum of Natural History in Washington, D.C. Agenda topics included strategic planning, EOL content growth and integration with external databases, repackaging content for educational purposes, and the success of Traitbank (a searchable, comprehensive, open digital repository for organism traits, measurements, interactions and other facts for all taxa across the tree of life).

Dr. Nancy Gwinn, Director of Smithsonian Libraries and the BHL Executive Committee Chair, was asked to give a BHL update at the meeting. Her presentation highlighted BHL content and membership growth, the Art of Life project, and notable activities over the past six months, including the Field Book Project, participation in the Bouchout Declaration, the joint SIL/BHL exhibit "Once There Were Billions," Purposeful Gaming, Mining Biodiversity, and the Global Names Project.

Dr. Gwinn also showcased notable BHL/EOL collaborative activities and achievements over the past six months. The May 28th Smithsonian Associates event on Digital Volunteerism, which provided volunteers an opportunity to tag BHL illustrations with species names and explore the iNaturalist platform, was of particular interest.

"Planning for EOL's future is proceeding with vigor and enthusiasm," said Dr. Gwinn following the meeting. "I am pleased that BHL continues to contribute to this process."

Making biodiversity knowledge freely available to everyone is an ambitious goal. But by continuing to share content and collaborate with EOL and like-minded initiatives through joint events, knowledge transfer, and cooperative needs analysis and service development, we are confident we will achieve it.

View Nancy's Presentation:

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

The Sea Dog: Exploring the Discovery & Classification of the Shark

It's that time of year again! That special week set aside to celebrate the fabulously diverse Selachimorpha clade: Shark Week!

If you were to ask an average person to differentiate between a tiger shark, Great White, whale shark, bull shark, or mako, most could probably do so, or would at least be aware that such varieties existed. This wasn't always the case. A mere six hundred years ago, sharks were known only by the bizarre personas recounted by animated sailors. And even when more accurate depictions and accounts began to circulate, the world was completely ignorant of the vast diversity of these creatures. A shark, generally, was a shark. It took an army of people, and several hundred years, to even begin to comprehend these magnificent fish, and we've still only scraped the surface.

The Shark in Myth

A selection of monsters that supposedly plagued the Atlantic Ocean. By Abraham Ortelius. 1570. Theatrum Orbis Terrarum
Eleven hundred years ago, man was just starting to venture boldly into the open oceans. At that time, and throughout the Middle Ages, the sea was a place of mysticism and superstition, with countless tales of leviathans, monsters, and spirits plaguing the waters. Researchers believe many of these tales were actually based on real creatures, however exaggerated. Some of the beasts may have been at least partially informed by shark sightings.

Conrad Gessner (the man behind our strange walrus a few weeks ago) depicted the Ziphius in his 1560 work Icones Animalium. Many researchers believe the beast with the back fin may be a Great White, due in part to the unfortunate seal in its jaws. The porcupine-fish taking a bite out of the Ziphius' side? The jury's still out on that one...

The Ziphius. Conrad Gessner. 1560. Icones Animalium.

Caspar Schott's 1662 beast is equally fanciful, but the teeth and jaws suggest that it may be inspired in part by a shark.

A shark? Caspar Schott. 1662. Physica Curiosa.

Despite limited contact with sharks, or perhaps because of it, artists generally portrayed the fish as ravenous man-eaters. Olaus Magnus' 1539 Carta Marina shows a hapless man besieged by a gang of sharks. Fortunately for him, a kind-hearted ray-like creature has come to the rescue.

Olaus Magnus. 1539. Carta Marina

Also in the Middle Ages, fossilized shark teeth were identified as petrified dragon tongues, called glossopetrae. If ground into a powder and consumed, these were said to be an antidote for a variety of poisons.

The Shark as a Sea Dog

By the time of the Renaissance, the existence of sharks was more generally known, though their diversity was woefully underestimated. Only those species that were clearly distinct based on color, size, and shape - such as hammerheads, blue sharks, and smaller sharks such as dogfish - were distinguished. As for the Lamnidae - Great Whites, makos, and porbeagles - these were identified as a single species.

In the 1550s, we see the Great White debut to an audience that would remain captivated by it for hundreds of years, though under a rather strange monicker.

In 1553, Pierre Belon, a French naturalist, published De aquatilibus duo, cum eiconibus ad vivam ipsorum effigiem quoad ejus fieri potuit, ad amplissimum cardinalem Castilioneum. Belon attempted the first comparative analysis of sharks, and presented 110 species of fish in a much more realistic light than previously provided. In addition to a hammerhead, Belon included a woodcut of a shark he named Canis carcharias.

Canis carcharias. Pierre Belon. 1553. De aquatilibus duo. 

Some readers may recognize that "Canis" is the genus currently assigned to dogs. Belon was not attempting to classify sharks with dogs by asserting this name. Indeed, systematic classification based on ranked hierarchies would not come onto the scene for over two hundred years. The common practice at this time was to choose descriptive names based on physical characteristics. Colloquial speech referred to sharks as "sea dogs," and carcharias comes from the Greek "Carcharos" (ragged), which Belon associated with the appearance of the shark's teeth.

De Lamia. Guillaume Rondelet. 1554. Libri de Piscibus.

In 1554, French physician Guillaume Rondelet gave us another illustration of a Great White, under the name De Lamia (a child-eating demon in Greek mythology). Publishing Libri de Piscibus Marinis, Rondelet described more than 440 species of aquatic animals. Along with his illustration, Rondelet conveyed a tale of one specimen found with a full suit of armor in its belly. He also proposed that it was this fish, and not a whale, that was the culprit behind Jonah's Biblical plight. A whale, he postulated, did not have a throat wide enough to swallow a man whole and regurgitate him later.

Hammerhead and Catsharks. Ippolito Salviani. 1554. Aquatilium Animalium Historiae

That same year, Ippolito Salviani published another book on fish, Aquatilium Animalium Historiae, replete with engravings that included the hammerhead and (most likely) catsharks.

Though Conrad Gessner may have published accounts of many mythical beasts (such as the Ziphius in 1560), his 1558 work Historia Animalium (2nd edition linked here) was an attempt to give a factual representation of the known world of natural history. Within it, he included a much more recognizable illustration of the Great White (under both names Lamia and Canis carcharias). The study was based on a dried specimen, thus accounting for the rather desiccated appearance.

Gessner's Lamia. Conrad Gessner. 1604. Historia Animalium (2nd edition). 
Finally, in 1569, the word "Sharke" finally finds its place in the English language, popularized by Sir John Hawkins' sailors, who brought home a shark specimen that was exhibited in London that year.

Influenced by the violent, and commonly exaggerated, stories circulated by sailors and explorers, general perception pegged sharks as ravenous beasts intent on devouring everything in sight.

Sharks and the "Modern" Era

By the 1600s, a more widespread attempt to classify fish according to form and habitat, and a fresh curiosity in shark research and diversity, found a footing in scientific research.

In 1616, Italian botanist Fabio Colonna published an article, De glossopetris dissertatio, in which he postulated that the mystical glossopetrae were actually fossilized shark teeth. The article had little impact, but in 1667, following the dissection of a Great White shark head, Danish naturalist Niels Stensen (aka Steno) published a comparative study of shark teeth, theorizing for the first time that fossils are the remains of living animals and again suggesting that glossopetrae were indeed fossilized shark teeth.

In the mid-1700s, a famous figure emerged. In 1735, Swedish botanist and physician Carl Linnaeus published his first version of Systema Naturae, at a mere 11 pages. Within this first edition, he classified sharks in the group Condropterygii, along with lampreys and sturgeon.

Linnaeus continued expanding his classification system, and in 1758 he published the tenth edition of Systema Naturae - the work we consider the beginning of zoological nomenclature. Within this edition, Linnaeus introduced binomial nomenclature, a naming scheme which identifies organisms by genus and species, with an attempt to reflect ranked hierarchies. This system provides the foundation of modern biological nomenclature, which groups organisms by inferred evolutionary relatedness.

Squalus carcharias. Carl Linnaeus. 1758. Systema Naturae (10th ed.).

Within Systema Naturae (10th ed.), Linnaeus identified 14 shark species, all of which he placed in the genus Squalus, which today is reserved only for typical spurdogs. He also presents his binomial for the Great White: Squalus carcharias. And he, like Rondelet before him, suggests that it was indeed a Great White that swallowed Jonah whole in ancient times.

Squalus carcharias. Marcus Bloch. 1796. Allgemeine Naturgeschichte der Fische.

By the late 1700s, we see a greater attempt to distinguish between the varieties of white sharks. From 1783-1795, Marcus Elieser Bloch published twelve volumes on fish under the title Allgemeine Naturgeschichte der Fische, with 216 illustrations. His Great White, perhaps the first in color, bears Linnaeus' name. And in 1788, French naturalist Pierre Joseph Bonnaterre gave the porbeagle shark its first scientific name, Squalus nasus, distinguishing another "white shark" as a distinct species.

Squalus. Bernard Germain de La Cepede. 1798. Histoire Naturelle des Poissons.

French zoologist Bernard Germain de La Cepede grouped sharks, rays, and chimaeras as "cartilaginous fish," identifying 32 types, in his 1798 work Histoire Naturelle des Poissons. He describes the "white shark" as the largest shark (a distinction truly held by the whale shark).

Selachians. Georges Cuvier.
The Animal Kingdom (1837 ed.).
In his 1817 work The Animal Kingdom, French anatomist Georges Cuvier listed sharks as "selachians," a term still in use today as the clade including sharks: Selachimorpha.

In 1838 we see the first use of the modern Great White genus name. Scottish physician and zoologist Andrew Smith proposed the generic name Carcharodon in a work by Johannes Müller and Fredrich Henle (linked here in Smith's later 1840s publication), pulling together the Greek "carcharos" (meaning ragged and used in the association by Belon nearly 300 years earlier) and "odon" (Greek for "tooth"). Thus, Smith was proposing a name meaning "ragged tooth."

Finally, in 1878, Smith's genus name "Carcharodon," and Linnaeus' species name "carcharias" were pulled together to form the scientific name we know the Great White by today: Carcharodon carcharias.

Thanks to the dedication and curiosity of past naturalists and contemporary taxonomists, we're now aware of the incredible diversity of sharks. There are over 470 species known today; that's quite a leap from the mere 14 species identified by Linnaeus over 250 years ago!

Want more Shark content? Get over 350 free shark illustrations in the BHL Flickr collection, and browse dozens of historic books on sharks in our BHL and iTunes U collections. You can also explore the incredible diversity of sharks in the Ocean Portal.

Happy Shark Week!

Grace Costantino
Outreach and Communication Manager | BHL

Thursday, August 7, 2014

BHL Africa Report from Internet Archive's Global Director

Since it's initial organization in 2012 and launch in 2013, BHL Africa has been hard at work developing a strategy, framework, and methodology for contributing the valuable biodiversity information held within the node's participating institutions to BHL. Significant progress occurred in April and June, 2014, with the arrival and subsequent installation of Internet Archive scanning machines at the University of Pretoria in South Africa.

Robert Miller presenting at National Museums of Kenya
Robert Miller, Global Director of the Internet Archive, and his colleague Gemma Waterston (IA Satellite Coordinator) traveled to South Africa in June to provide installation support and operational training for the new machines. Following a successful instatement, Miller then traveled to the National Museums of Kenya (NMK) in Nairobi to discuss digitization and collaboration opportunities.

"Over many years,  I have had many wonderful opportunities to live (Asia, Europe and North America) and travel to many countries (45, in fact, prior to this trip)," commented Miller. "My trip to Kenya (country 46) was made all the more special by the warm welcome and hospitality I received by Ashah Owano [Resource Centre Manager, NMK] and Lawrence Monda [ICT Manager, NMK] and their staff at the National Museums of Kenya in Nairobi, Kenya. They arranged for me to present and talk with representatives of over 25 different institutions and present the work that the Internet Archive has done with the global BHL family."

Robert Miller with representatives from NMK
Miller's presentation highlighted Internet Archive's work to bring books and media to people all over the world. Since its inception, BHL has partnered with IA for digitization and access support, contributing to IA's current 19 petabytes of available data. Miller's visit was a valuable opportunity for our Kenyan colleagues to better understand the services and options available to them and for Miller to form new global relationships.

"What will I remember?" pondered Miller in response to a request for information on his presentation and experiences in Kenya. "That a wonderful Museum system exists in Kenya, an amazing collection of content is found there and, most importantly, a great group of passionate people are working hard to share their world with the global community. I am so excited to build on this first meeting and hope to return soon."

We're excited to see where these newly-forged connections within a long-standing relationship between BHL and IA lead as well. One thing we know for sure: with the passion and determination of our African colleagues guiding an ambitious effort to provide open access to African biodiversity knowledge through BHL, our goal to become the "largest reliable, reputable, and responsive repository of biodiversity literature and archival materials" is now one step closer to becoming a full-fledged reality.

*All pictures courtesy Robert Miller

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

BHL Update at the 2014 North American GBIF Meeting

The North American Regional Node Meeting of the Global Biodiversity Information Facility (GBIF) occurred in Ontario, Canada on July 21-22, 2014. The meeting, themed "Advancing Informatics, Engagement and Content," focused on progress updates and ongoing implementation tactics for the North American regional strategy. Discussions included the use of digital object identifiers (DOIs), collections and specimens in the GBIF context, organizational structure, and membership in both GBIF and the North American node. BHL's Program Director, Martin Kalfatovic, provided a "BHL Update for GBIF" via video-conference on July 22.

GBIF is an international open data infrastructure that "allows anyone, anywhere to access data about all types of life on Earth, shared across national boundaries via the Internet." GBIF operates through a network of nodes to coordinate biodiversity information facilities and "encourage institutions to publish data according to common standards." The GBIF vision, "A world in which biodiversity information is freely and universally available for science, society, and a sustainable future," is remarkably similar to BHL's own vision to "inspire discovery through free access to biodiversity knowledge." Such commonalities underpin a natural cooperation between the two programs.

Kalfatovic's presentation outlined BHL's history and recent  organizational, collections, usage, and technological developments. Addressing some of the meeting's specific themes, Kalfatovic also described BHL's work with DOIs, including the current restriction to monographs and ongoing investigations into alternatives for remaining content types. The presentation also highlighted some of BHL's collaborative efforts, including participation in the Digital Public Library of America (DPLA), the Bouchout Declaration, and work with Field Books. The presentation as a whole demonstrated how BHL's successful unification of technology, libraries, and science has produced an open access knowledge repository integral to the work of researchers, conservators and scientists around the world.

Through the continued dedication and cooperation of initiatives like BHL and GBIF, a future where all scientific knowledge is freely available to everyone, everywhere will soon be not just a dream but a much-anticipated reality. Welcome to the future of scientific discovery.

View Kalfatovic's Presentation:
BHL Update for GBIF. Martin R. Kalfatovic. Advancing Informatics, Engagement and Content. North American Regional Node Meeting of the Global Biodiversity Information Facility. University of Guelph, Ontario, Canada. 22 July 2014.