Thursday, July 30, 2015

Taming the Wild Social Media Animals: Facebook, Twitter, Blogger… Oh My!

As the daughter of a children’s librarian and library branch manager, I grew up in public libraries and have become passionate about the important role a library plays within a community. This has led me down the path of becoming a librarian myself. Originally from California, I’m now living on the east coast and attending graduate school at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill pursuing my passion for this institution. This coming year is my last year of school for a dual Master degree program in Library Science and Public Administration. Normally, I work as a Graduate Research Assistant at the Odum Institute for Research in Social Science managing their Twitter account and conducting usage and outreach assessments. However, this summer, I was fortunate to obtain a six week Smithsonian Libraries Professional Development Internship at the Biodiversity Heritage Library. As part of this internship, I had the amazing opportunity to gain experience with evaluating BHL’s outreach strategy and impact, as well as gain a deeper knowledge about the natural sciences and the publications that have shaped biodiversity knowledge.

The first part of my project was to conduct an environmental scan of six similar organizations to BHL and answer the following questions:
  • How does BHL’s social media presence, audience size, posts, and post engagement compare to similar organizations?
  • Are organizations similar to BHL moving away from driving social media users back to their websites by linking content and instead, simply distributing the content by posting it directly to social media platforms?
The second part of my project was to manage BHL’s social media accounts, test out new outreach strategies, and do a strategy performance comparison to answer the following questions: 
  • What are possible new outreach strategies that BHL could implement on Facebook and Twitter?
  • After implementing some of these strategies, what is the impact of these new strategies and how do they compare to BHL’s current strategies on those platforms?
If you’ve interacted with BHL on Facebook, Twitter, or Blogger anytime during the first two weeks of July, then you were talking to me and responding to my posts! Here are some of my favorite posts that I created:

After collecting all the performance data and analyzing it, I submitted a final report that summarized BHL’s social media outreach impact in comparison to other organizations, discussed the performance of seven new social media strategies, and made twelve recommendations for BHL’s outreach strategy going forward.

Maria Chiochios
Outreach Impact Strategy Intern
Biodiversity Heritage Library

"We are very excited about using the outstanding report and recommendations Maria provided to develop our outreach efforts for the future. If you'd like to learn more about Maria's findings, please contact me, crowleyb[at]si[dot]edu" - Bianca Crowley, BHL Digital Collections Manager

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

BHL Summer Newsletter and Quarterly Report Now Available!

How does the Biodiversity Heritage Library support scientific initiatives around the world?

BHL's latest quarterly report highlights many ways that our open access biodiversity resources are supporting the work of scientists and researchers across the globe, including in the fields of taxonomy, agricultural science, ocean sciences, and more.

Plus, you can explore all of the great things that BHL has been up to the past few months.

You can also see some of our latest developments in our Summer 2015 newsletter. 

Want to stay up to date with the latest news from BHL? Sign up for our newsletter today!

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

NYBG's Flora Illustrata Wins Two Prestigious Awards

Flora Illustrata: Great works from the LuEsther T. Mertz Library of The New York Botanical Garden, edited by Susan M. Fraser and Vanessa Bezemer Sellers and published by The New York Botanical Garden (NYBG) - a founding BHL Member - and Yale University Press, has been honored with two prestigious awards: the 2015 American Horticultural Society Book Award and the CBHL 2015 Annual Literature Award.

On 4 June, 2015, the American Horticultural Society named Flora Illustrata as one of its 2015 AHS Book Award Winners during the Great American Gardeners Awards Ceremony and Banquet in Alexandria, Virginia. The AHS Book Award, established in 1997, honors outstanding garden-related books published in North America. Candidates are judged on writing style, authority, originality, accuracy, and design quality. According to Rita Hassert, a botanical librarian at the Morton Arboretum in Lisle, Illinois, and one of the 2015 AHS Book Award Committee Members, "[Flora Illustrata] adeptly captures horticultural history through thoughtful, easy-to-understand discussions of the botanical and cultural significance of each piece."

Flanked by Jane Diamantis, Chair of the Awards Committee, and Tom Underwood, Executive Director of the American Horticultural Society, editors Susan Fraser and Vanessa Sellers proudly display the book award for Flora Illustrata during the June 4th Award Ceremony at River Farm, AHS headquarters in Alexandria, VA. Photo from the NYBG Blog:
On 18 June, 2015, the Council on Botanical and Horticultural Libraries, Inc. (CBHL) presented Flora Illustrata with the 2015 Annual Literature Award as part of the Council's 47th Annual Meeting in Decorah, Iowa. The award, in its sixteenth year, recognizes significant contributions to the literature of botany and horticulture. According to the CBHL press release about the 2015 award, "This work celebrates one of the nation’s most important botanical literature collections and was edited by a long time CBHL member Susan Fraser," Director of the LuEsther T. Mertz Library.

Flora Illustrata celebrates key works from the collections of the LuEsther T. Mertz Library of The New York Botanical Garden. The Library is one of the most comprehensive resources about plants anywhere in the world, holding over one million cataloged items on horticulture, floriculture, botanical illustration, garden design and history, the exploration of the New World, and land management. Through a series of essays, each written by a leading authority, and a plethora of stunning illustrations, Flora Illustrata highlights selections spanning more than eight centuries, such as rare manuscripts and iconic books including Renaissance herbals, precious botanical drawings, explorers’ notebooks, and more, and presents the library’s collection within the context of larger cultural and historical events throughout the ages.

"The contributors and editors not only describe the contents within the books but their importance as physical objects, noting the significance of the paper used, typefaces and bindings," states the CBHL 2015 Annual Literature Award press release. "The essays tell the stories of how some books came to be written, illustrated, and their social, cultural and scientific significance when first published as well as their present day influence and importance. Anyone who loves history, art, plants and gardens will enjoy this book."

Key themes throughout the book include the roles played by preeminent explorers, scientists, publishers, artists, and printmakers across the centuries, the development of bookmaking and graphic arts, and the scientific progress that led to improved identification and representation of plants. The first and final chapters also detail the history, development, and purpose of the LuEsther T. Mertz Library.

“The LuEsther T. Metz Library is unquestionably one of the great treasures of the world," praised Thomas E. Lovejoy, Senior Fellow at the United Nations Foundation and University Professor in the Environmental Science and Policy department at George Mason University. "Flora Illustrata reveals with stunning scholarship the deeply intertwined history of plants, science, and humanity. Rich and fascinating beyond imagination and now accessible to anyone. A triumph of a book.”

The LuEsther T. Mertz Library of The New York Botanical Garden is one of the founding institutions of the Biodiversity Heritage Library. Susan M. Fraser, co-editor of Flora Illustrata and Director of the Mertz Library, is the NYBG representative to BHL and former BHL Executive Committee Secretary. NYBG has contributed over 3.8 million pages to BHL to date. Explore NYBG's collection in BHL today.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

The Conchologists: Searching for Seashells in 19th Century America

This post was originally published on the Inside Adams blog from the Library of Congress. See the original post here.

Post by Jennifer Harbster
Research and Reference Specialist | Library of Congress

In the 19th century naturalists and enlightened amateurs in the U.S. cultivated an understanding of the natural world of this new country by documenting new and known varieties of plant and animal species. One of these scientific pursuits was conchology- the study and collection of marine, freshwater and terrestrial shells. The story of American conchology has the makings of a great screenplay – there is adventure, discovery, and a cast of passionate characters who sought to advance science, but also personalities who practiced ‘species- mongry” that sought fame and money.

Conchology was a popular area of study which is evidenced by the large portfolio of published shell indexes, catalogs, and papers in the 19th century. The Library of Congress has a variety of material that traces the history of 19th century U.S. conchology, but it also has earlier titles including the 1684 edition of Filippo Buonanni’s (1638-1725) Recreatio Mentis et Oculi: in Observatione Animalium Testaceorum Curiosis Naturae Inspectoribus considered to be the first book specifically dedicated to conchology, and as a result, the author became known as the father of conchology. We also have a book on conchology owned by Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826) that was part of the collection sold to the Library of Congress in 1815, Elements of Conchology, or, An Introduction to the Knowledge of Shells by Emanuel Mendes da Costa (Ernst Mayr Library, Harvard MCZ copy in BHL here). Thankfully it survived the 1851 Capitol Hill fire and is available for scholars to use.

Mendes da Costa, Emanual. Elements of Conchology. pl. 1. 1776.

There is such an abundance of individuals associated with early American conchology that mentioning every single one would be a dissertation, not a blog post. Therefore this post will only highlight a selection of characters who helped to lay the foundation of conchology in the U.S. If you want to read more about the early pioneers, see "A Sketch of the History of Conchology in the United States" in American Journal of Science and Arts, March 1862.

First up is Thomas Say (1787-1834) who was one of the earliest noted American conchologists, although he is best known for his work in entomology. He was a founding member of the Philadelphia Academy of Natural Sciences and published some of the first accounts of American shells in the Journal of the Academy of Natural Sciences (1817-1826) as well as American Conchology (1830-1838).

Say, Thomas. American Conchology. pl. 29. (1830-38).

Next is Timothy Abbott Conrad (1803-1877) who is more known for his work in geology, so his focus was mainly on the Cretaceous and Tertiary mollusks. He helped edit Say’s American Conchology, and authored American Marine Conchology (1831) and the Monography of the Family Unionidae (1836).

Isaac Lea (1792-1886) was another important figure in conchology. He criticized and corrected some of Conrad’s work regarding classification of the Unionidae- see the Lea and Conrad controversy papers. In my opinion these scientific duels makes history all the more interesting.

Amos Binney (1803-1847) and William G. Binney (1825-1909) are two scientists who played significant roles in 19th century conchology. Amos was an avid collector of rocks, birds’ eggs, and shells and was a founding member of the Boston Natural History Society. He is most notable for his work in malacology (study of the Mollusca animals, not just the shells) of land mollusks. His monumental publication The Terrestrial Air-Breathing Mollusks of the United States (1851-1878) was published after his death. His son William followed in his father’s footsteps and continued to collect and document shells in the U.S. He edited the Complete Writings of Thomas Say (1858) and his father’s Terrestrial Air-Breathing Mollusks of the United States, as well as published checklists, and compiled bibliographies of North American shells.

Binney, Amos. The Terrestrial Air-Breathing Mollusks of the United States. v. 5 (1878). pl. 66.

The history of U.S. conchology would not be complete without mentioning Augustus Addison Gould (1805-1866) who described nearly 1,100 molluscan species. He was a physician, as well as a conchologist, whose research on Massachusetts invertebrates remains a standard reference still used today. He helped found the Boston Society of Natural History with Amos Binney and was a curator for its mollusk collection for many years. He helped to identify and describe the new shells collected during the Wilkes (or U.S.) Exploring Expedition to the Pacific (1838-1842), which was published in Atlas Mollusca and Shells (volume 12 of the Expedition series).

Gould, Augustus. Atlas Mollusca and Shells. pl. 17. 1852.

Another figure in 19th century conchology is Constantine S. Rafinesque (1783-1840) who embodied the definition of a passionate 19th century naturalist. He was well-traveled and liberally documented the natural history of the animal and plant kingdom in the Americas and Europe. While many of his contemporaries suspected him of “species-mongry” – creating imagined species to gain fame and money – he was a significant, albeit intense, character among the early 19th century naturalists. To get an impression of his immense body of work related to conchology see The Complete Writings of Constantine Smaltz Rafinesque, on Recent and Fossil Conchology (1864) and for a biography see Constantine Samuel Rafinesque: A Voice in the American Wilderness by Leonard Warren (2004).

The practice of conchology was not limited to those formally educated in the sciences, but also included enlightened amateurs.

In 1839 Edgar Allan Poe (1809-1849) – yes that Edgar Allan Poe – “wrote” The Conchologist’s First Book. In reality, while his name is on title page, he only created a less expensive copy of an existing book to “offer to the public” in which he contributed an original introduction and rearranged the illustrated plates. To learn more about the history of this book see the Poe Museum’s website.

Poe, Edgar Allan. The Conchologist’s First Book. 1839. pl.1.

There were also important 19th century government figures such as Senator Benjamin Tappan (1773-1857) and Major-General Joseph G. Totten (1788-1864) who practiced conchology. Major- General Totten, a founding member of the National Academy of Sciences and a regent at the Smithsonian (National Museum), published and described many new species of New England marine Mollusca.

While researching for this post I found that many of the wives or sisters of these conchologists assisted with collecting and documenting specimens. Timothy Abbott Conrad’s sister hand colored many of his illustrations in American Marine Conchology (1831). Thomas Say’s wife Lucy illustrated numerous plates in American Conchology (1830-1838?). The website for the library at the Academy of Natural Sciences of Philadelphia has more on Lucy including images of her work.

Conrad, T.A. American Marine Conchology. 1831. pl. 2.

Beginning in the 20th century, American women conchologists and malacologists began to publish their own research. Ida Shepard Oldroyd (1856-1940), a pioneer of West Coast conchology, authored The Marine Shells of the West Coast of North America (1924-27) that documented 2,000 species of mollusks from the West Coast. Martha Burton Woodhead Williamson (1843-1922) published “An Annotated List of the Shells of San Pedro Bay and the Vicinity” in the Proceedings of the United States National Museum, 1892: 179-220. Along with reviewing books for Nautilus, Woodhead became a member of the national executive committee of the Isaac Lea Conchological Chapter of the Agassiz Association and was involved with conservation measures related to the abalone industry.

Many of the Library of Congress’s 19th century conchology materials are part of the Rare Books and Special Collections because they contain valuable beautiful illustrated plates or are deemed prized rare items that need special care. However, there are also wonderful examples that can be accessed from the Science and Business Reading Room. Beyond the Library of Congress, there are other resources to explore, including The Academy of Natural Sciences of Philadelphia malacology/conchology resources, which was established in 1812 and is now at Drexel University. Of course, many of the items mentioned above can be found in the Biodiversity Heritage Library (BHL) - they are linked in this blog post where appropriate.

Swainson, William. Exotic Conchology. 1841. pl. 33. More illustrations from this work in Flickr:

I hope I have piqued your interest in the history of American conchology, so much so that you want to explore more and, perhaps, do some shell documenting of your own. So channel the spirit of a 19th century naturalist – collecting or documenting shells is easy. You don’t even need to be near the ocean because you can also find shells near other bodies of water such as rivers and lakes, and you can also discover shells on the land (terrestrial shells). You can draw and color what you collect like a 19th century naturalist or be a 21st century naturalist by photographing them. For inspiration see the BHL Flickr album from Exotic Conchology, Conchologist’s Textbook, and Conchological Manual. Also, your local library will have field guides to help you identify shells in your location or more general shell field guides that will help you identify the classes of shells.

Monday, July 20, 2015

Announcing Altmetric and MyTweeps on BHL!

Have you ever wanted to learn more about the books in BHL? Or maybe find out what people are saying on social media about our collections? Or perhaps you'd like to connect with other BHL-enthusiasts?

We're excited to announce that today, as part of our Mining Biodiversity project, we've launched two new features on BHL that will allow you to do all of the above! These features are Altmetric and MyTweeps.


Altmetric is a UK-based company that offers tools to help track online mentions of a library, publisher, or other entities’ content. Sites such as Twitter, Facebook, Wikipedia, Reddit, Google+, and Mendeley, as well as other online sources like blogs and news outlets, are indexed.

We worked with Altmetric* to track online conversations that include links to BHL books and articles. All mentions** of an individual book (which include a link to the book itself or a link to a page within that book***) are aggregated together into a single dashboard that allows you to explore all of the conversations happening about that item in one place. Each book's individual dashboard is accessible by clicking on the Altmetric badge (a colorful, donut-shaped icon) in the book viewer header or the "see more details" link in the information box that pop-ups when you hover over the Altmetric badge (see below) in BHL.

The Altmetric badge in the BHL book viewer. Click on the badge itself, or the "See More Details" link in the pop-up box that appears when you hover over the badge, to see the Altmetric dashboard aggregating conversations about this item.

Within the dashboard, you can explore the specific tweets, Facebook posts, news articles, Wikipedia articles, or blogs that talk about that particular book. Each indexed site is represented by a different color (i.e. Twitter is teal; Facebook is navy blue; etc.), so a simple glance at the Altmetric donut will tell you which sites people have mentioned that item on.

Example of the Altmetric dashboard, accessed by clicking on the donut-shaped icon or information box illustrated above, for a book in BHL.

The Altmetric icon will appear in the book viewer header for any book that has been mentioned (and where that mention includes an actual link to that book or a page within that book) on one of the indexed online sites. If there is no Altmetric icon in the book viewer header, then there have not yet been any online conversations (with a link) about that book (but you can change that!).

Altmetric dynamically tracks new online mentions of BHL books. That means that if you tweet or post about a book in BHL (and include the link to it), Altmetric will subsequently index that post and make it available in BHL via the described Altmetric icon. Thanks to the social sharing buttons we've added to BHL (see below), it's easier than ever to share your thoughts, expertise, or comments about a BHL book on social media. And thanks to our Altmetric implementation, it's also now easier than ever for others to find those comments in BHL and benefit from your knowledge!

The social media sharing buttons on the BHL website. Simply click on the desired social site to share a link to the page you are viewing in BHL. 

Altmetric picks up new mentions on Twitter, news outlets, and blogs on a daily basis. Mentions on Wikipedia, Google+, and Facebook are picked up and indexed via the described dashboards every 2-3 days.

Here are links to just a couple of BHL books that have been indexed by Altmetric. Click on the donut icon in the book viewer header to explore the fascinating conversations about each item. You can contribute directly to the online conversations using our social sharing buttons in BHL (see above), or by clicking on the appropriate links in the Altmetric dashboard (see below). Or start your own conversations about BHL books and see them appear (note the time lag for indexing on various sites above) in BHL!

Contribute to a Twitter conversation you discover in Altmetric simply by hovering over the tweet in the Altmetric dashboard and then choosing "Reply," "Retweet," or "Favorite."

Clicking on any one of the Facebook posts you discover in the Altmetric dashboard will take you directly to that post in Facebook. From there you can comment, like, or share the post within Facebook itself.


Love biodiversity, books, or natural history? Want to find others who like it too? Or perhaps you'd like to find an easy way to connect with other BHL fans? Are you on Twitter?

Then look no further than MyTweeps on BHL.

MyTweeps is a tool developed by the Social Media Lab at Ryerson University, one of our Mining Biodiversity grant partners. The tool allows you to explore an individual Twitter network (those who follow a certain account on Twitter).

We've included a link to the BHL MyTweeps dashboard on the homepage of BHL. Simply click on the "BHL Twitter Community" button at the bottom of the homepage, beneath the BHL Twitter feed, to access the dashboard.

The link to the BHL MyTweeps dashboard on the BHL homepage.

The BHL MyTweeps dashboard displays the latest tweets from the Twitter accounts that follow BHL, trending hashtags and trends over time from those followers, geographic location of BHL's tweeps (i.e. followers), and the connectivity of the BHL network (i.e. who mentions whom among the BHL community of followers). We've also included an Altmetric dashboard in the lower left-hand corner of the MyTweeps page that shows the most popular BHL books on social media that week.

The BHL MyTweeps Dashboard, accessed by clicking on "BHL Twitter Community" at the bottom of the BHL homepage.

Take a look and discover a whole new network of biodiversity and BHL enthusiasts to connect, converse, and collaborate with. Or simply use MyTweeps as a way to stay informed about the topics and issues that are important to our community.

We hope you'll explore and enjoy our new social media tools and take the opportunity to learn more awesome information about our collections. If you have any questions or comments about the tools, please don't hesitate to send us feedback!

Happy socializing!

This project is made possible by a grant from the Institute for Museum and Library Services [Grant number LG-00-14-0032-14].

*Traditionally, Altmetric tracks only DOI (Digital Object Identifiers) mentions, but for this project our team worked with Altmetric to pioneer the tracking of URIs (Unique Resource Identifiers) via Altmetric. In exchange, Altmetric has granted us free access to their license and services.
**Mentions of BHL content on social media sites (i.e. Twitter, Facebook, Google+, Reddit, and Mendeley) are captured from June 2014-onwards. Mentions of BHL content on blogs and news articles are captured since the launch of BHL onwards.
***Indexed conversations are those that include links that start with "" or "" or "" We are not tracking mentions with links that start with "" due to Google Scholar tag guidelines, which form the basis of Altmetric's tracking ability.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

BHL Website Experiencing Technical Difficulties 7/16/2015

UPDATE: Tech difficulties and performance issues on BHL have been mostly resolved. Another brief outage may be required later today or tonight to complete the recovery. Thanks for your patience.

We are currently experiencing technical difficulties that are causing slowness on the BHL website and affecting PDF generation and OCR display. We are working to correct the issue as soon as possible, and apologize for the inconvenience. Thanks for your patience and stay tuned for more updates.

Newest In-Copyright Additions to our Collection

Did you know that there is modern literature in our collection?

We have permission with over 165 licensors to provide nearly 400 in-copyright titles for free and open access under a Creative Commons BY-NC-SA 4.0 license. In other words, we have contemporary titles in our collection that you are free to use so long as you attribute the content to the copyright holder, use the content for educational or personal use only (commercial use is NOT allowed) and share the content under the same license (CC-BY-NC-SA 4.0). You can even create derivatives of the content for reuse so long as you adhere to the terms of the license.

BHL is pleased to announce the recent acquisition of 4 new in-copyright titles that we are in the process of adding to our collection:

The San Diego Shell Club []
Since 1961, the San Diego Shell Club has been promoting research and appreciation of Mollusca through “lectures, club meetings and field trips,” as well as through their peer-reviewed publication, The Festivus. The Club has relationships with natural history museums in southern California including the San Diego Natural History Museum, Natural History Museum of Los Angeles and the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History.
  • BHL is looking forward to providing back-issues of The Festivus through 2013 in our collection soon. Please monitor our recent additions page to track its progress. The San Diego Shell Club offers copies of their current volume for a very affordable fee via their website. 

California Botanical Society []
Dedicated to the advancement of Western American botany, the California Botanical Society has been operating since 1913. Through its peer-reviewed publication, annual banquet, research support, graduate student support and community outreach it continues to play a major role in promoting scientific study and raising awareness about this important niche area of botany.
  • Digitization of Madroño; a West American journal of botany is actively in progress with over 50 volumes and counting. The California Botanical Society agreed to provide in-copyright volumes for the BHL collection under a 3 year "moving wall" or embargo meaning that for 2015 we will complete digitization up through the 2012 volume. Every year thereafter, we will digitize one more volume such that the 2013 volume will be available in 2016 and so on.
Work in progress...and if you are wondering why the current series of volumes for this title is out of sequence, it is because we are still in the process of digitizing the title, modifying the metadata, and ensuring we have all volumes present and accounted for. Sequencing volumes in their proper order takes manual curation of the items in our collection. Thanks, in advance, for your patience. Notice other titles with volumes out of order? Please let us know and thanks! We'll get to it when we can.

The Royal Society of Queensland [ with the publication of its first Proceedings in 1884 as a successor to the Philosophical Society of Queensland. Over 150 years later, the Society is not only the oldest scientific institution in Queensland but is still producing its Proceedings on an annual basis. Entirely run by volunteers, the Society “seeks to increase awareness of the sciences in Queensland” by promoting “original research and the application of scientific method and knowledge to policy-making and decision-making.”

  • Proceedings of the Royal Society of Queensland. BHL digitized early volumes of the Society’s publication in 2009 and is in the process of digitizing through 1955. Please stay tuned for more volumes to appear in the coming weeks. 
  • The earliest volumes of the Society were published as the Transactions of the Philosophical Society of Queensland vol.1 (1859) to vol.3 (1872) and will be digitized to BHL as well. These early volumes are proving tricky to track down within our BHL consortium partner holdings but where there’s a will, there’s a way… 

Would you like to contribute any in-copyright content to the BHL? If we hold the content in one of our partner libraries we would be happy to digitize it under a CC-BY-NC-SA 4.0 license and make it available via our website. Please see our Permissions page for more information and contact us [].

By: Bianca Crowley, Digital Collections Manager

Thursday, July 9, 2015

BHL Helps Unravel the Mysteries of the Paraguayan Fauna

Lack of access to published information about biodiversity is one of the major inhibitors to efficient scientific research today. It's such a longstanding problem, in fact, that it has a name. The taxonomic impediment.

For hundreds of years, scientists and naturalists have published information about Earth's species in books and journals. Many of these works, however, are available in only a few select libraries, and information about species is often not available within the countries in which those species live.

The taxonomic impediment is a very poignant reality for Paul Smith and his colleagues working in Paraguay. Paul is a freelance naturalist working with FAUNA Paraguay and the Para La Tiera Research Station.

Paul Smith, freelance naturalist working with FAUNA Paraguay and Para La Tiera Research Station.

FAUNA Paraguay is dedicated to the magnificent Paraguayan fauna and serves as an online community promoting the study, conservation, and protection of this fauna and related habitats. The community is working to educate the public about Paraguayan biodiversity, produce related scientific and educational papers, and amass the first open access zoological and ecological library in Paraguay.

The Para La Tiera Research Station is based at the Reserva Natural Laguna Blanca and is working to protect globally threatened South American ecoregions through conservation and research projects and is spreading awareness about these regions through community outreach and scientific publications about related biodiversity.

Paul specializes in the natural history, ecology and distribution of Paraguayan fauna, publishing widely on ornithology, herpetology, mammalogy and entomology. His discovery of BHL through a Google search had a dramatic impact on this work.

"BHL is a gamechanger for people like me working in countries where literature is hard to come by," lauds Paul. "To be able to consult at the click of a mouse classic old works that used to be impossible to find is revolutionising the way we work here, and the ability to trace modern citations back to their original sources is beginning to provide answers to a lot of the 'mysteries' that have stumped us for some time! There is no doubt that this has benefited the scientific community here in Paraguay, and has changed the way we do things. It has certainly opened up biology to a wider audience, and young Paraguayan biologists are finally beginning to flourish. I have no doubt that wider access to key literature has played a key role in that development."

FAUNA Paraguay ELibrary (which includes many resources from BHL) being used by Para La Tierra museum curator Olga Petko for the identification of specimens in the Laguna Blanca research station.

These days, Paul consults BHL at least weekly, but often more frequently. Furthermore, it has been a major contributor to FAUNA Paraguay's Library, which is the largest natural history library in the country. A major component of the initiative is the ELibrary. While remote access to books through electronic copies greatly increases the efficiency of scientific research, spotty and slow Internet connections in Paraguay made relying only on online access to books and journals less than ideal and necessitated the creation of an ELibrary that could host local copies of required materials. BHL has served as a major backbone to this ELibrary.

"We have a very slow internet connection here in Paraguay," explains Paul, "So we habitually download everything we can for inclusion in our ELibrary, especially books and complete runs of journals. That way we know we can have access to it when we need it and not be dependent on internet connection speeds! 
"The gigantic collection of PDFs [from BHL] that we have put together forms a notable part of the FAUNA Paraguay library, which is consulted regularly by professionals, students and educators. It has become a major resource for me personally as well as many others, and of course I perform all my literature searches through BHL before looking for the references in our library. 
"Access to literature has long been a problem here as of course are funds to visit libraries in other cities. Our library can be consulted in person, but we also provide a service where people can consult our collection at a distance via email and we can carry out literature searches for them and send them PDFs of relevant literature. Of course we always take the opportunity to direct users to BHL, but in some cases it is more convenient for students to request PDFs of specific articles or pages which we can make from the bigger files from BHL that we already have downloaded and then email these to the person who requested it."

We asked Paul what he would like to see BHL develop or focus on in the future. His response? More partnerships with institutions in developing countries.

"One thing I'd like to see happen is reaching out to institutions in developing countries and asking them to join the digitalization process," emphasized Paul. "I realise this comes with difficulties, but using the region I work in as an example, there are countless journals, monographs and books produced by museums, scientific societies and clubs (especially in Brazil, Chile and Argentina), many of which have been in print for well over 100 years, and which are still difficult to obtain even now (even if you physically visit the places to try and get copies of them!). Some of these journal titles are no longer in print, some continue to function, but they hold vast amounts of information that is not in copyright and risks being lost forever as the number of hard copies slowly dwindles (it's becoming more and more the case that old journals are just being thrown away!). I'm sure this is the case all over the developing world, but getting some of those really obscure journals digitalised would be another massive step forward. There is certainly interest in doing this in some of the institutions I have spoken with, but a lack of resources/opportunity seems to be the major stumbling block. Having the opportunity to make their titles available on BHL would I'm sure be the answer that many of these institutions are looking for."

We are always interested in exploring collaborative opportunities with institutions. You can learn more about our partnership process on this page, and if you're interested in talking further about collaborations, send us feedback!

So what's Paul's favorite feature on BHL? The recent additions page, which provides updates of all the new titles added to BHL each week. As Paul praised, "Searching through the BHL collection online is like finding a treasure chest! The good thing about this treasure chest though is that it keeps getting fuller each week!"

Thank you, Paul, for sharing with us the impact that BHL has on your work and country. Do you use BHL to support your own research? Want to tell us about it? Send an email to!

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

These Polychaetes Will Make You Feel All Worm and Fuzzy

The National Museum of Natural History is hosting its inaugural celebration of International Polychaete Day (July 1, 2015) in the memory of Krisitan Fauchald, a research zoologist at the Smithsonian Institution who dedicated his life to studying and sharing annelid, or segmented, worms with the world. A majority of polychaetes are marine worms, and include common names like bristleworms, lugworms, featherduster worms, and sea mice. However, more familiar types of worms such as earthworms and leeches are also considered polychaetes. The term polychaete means “many bristles” and most of the marine worms reflect this description by bearing numerous bristles along parapods, or segmentally arranged side flaps. Polychaetes are among the most common marine organisms with roughly 10,000 species of polychaetes currently known. This remarkably diverse group of animals comes in a variety of shapes, sizes, colors, and lifestyles and can be found throughout the world living on the sea surface, down in the ocean depths, among rock pools, or in the mud and sand at the seashore. To celebrate International Polychaete Day, we wanted to share a staff favorite from BHL’s collection: A monograph of the British Marine Annelids by William McIntosh.

Bootlace worm (Lineus longissimus)
Green-leaf Worm (Eulalia viridis), 
Eulalia tripunctataEumida 
sanguinea, and Nereiphylla paretti

William Carmichael McIntosh, an eminent Scottish physician and marine biologist, is best known for being the driving force for establishing the first marine biology station in the British Isles in 1896 and compiling a compendium on marine annelid worms. Interestingly enough, McIntosh’s groundbreaking research on marine worms actually began while he was employed as a psychiatrist and superintendent of the Murthly mental hospital near Perth, Australia. While McIntosh conducted research in other areas, most of his career was occupied with studying these marine annelids and assembling his monumental monograph. The first volume of his monograph was published in 1873 and described nemertean, or ribbon, worms in great detail. Over the course of the next 50 years, McIntosh published three additional multipart volumes describing numerous other families and species of polychaete.

Cirratulus tentaculatus, Bristleworm 
(Cirratulus cirratus),
Dodecaceria concharum
and Scolelepis cirratulus
Amphitrite figulus, Sand Mason 
(Lanice conchilega), Polycirrus medusa, 
Amphiglena mediterranea, and
Branchiomma argus

McInstosh believed that these marine worms were the most beautiful of all the invertebrates with their ornamentation and coloring. In his words, they held up against the “gaudy tints of butterflies and birds or the burnished splendor of beetles” (1908, vii). As a result, McIntosh felt it important to accompany his monograph, a major scholarly achievement in its own right, with beautiful illustrations that he hoped would make polychaetes known to a much wider audience. His sister, Roberta who was his workmate on several collection trips, encouraged McIntosh to take on the task of describing the various forms and functions of the marine worms they found from which she would create exquisite drawings. After his sister’s death, another artist, A.H. Walker, took over the task of completing and adding to the beautiful drawings started by Roberta. Each volume of McIntosh’s monograph set is filled with stunning illustrations of marine worms. In his final volume, McIntosh modestly acknowledges that “there are many gaps to fill in literature, anatomy, physiology and development, but he hopes that they are left in a better state than he found them” (Stiassny 2014, 111). We wholeheartedly believe William McIntosh has more than accomplished that endeavor.

King Ragworm (Alitta virens)
Eunice, Red Gilled Marphysa 
(Marphysa sanguinea), Nematonereis 
unicornis, Opal Worm (Arabella iricolor),
Bristleworm (Hyalinoecia tubicola)
and Lumbrineris latreilli

Polychaetes have existed for eons and can be traced back to around 500 million years ago. Researchers have found that polychaetes play a key role in ecosystem functions, as well as  a vital link in the ocean’s natural climate control system. Furthermore, with polychaetes usually being the dominant organism in a sample of mud or sand taken from the ocean floor on any part of the planet, polychaetes are excellent indicators for marine biologists about the effects of pollutants and the natural and human-induced changes in ecosystems. Join us in marveling at these amazing animals and discovering more about why a whole day is devoted to them on this inaugural International Polychaete Day through planned activities and social media using the hashtag: #InternationalPolychaeteDay.

Stiassny, Melanie L.J. (2014). McIntosh's Monograph of Marine Worms. Natural Histories Opulent Oceans: Extraordinary Rare Book Selections from the American Museum of Natural History Library (pp. 110-113). New York: Sterling Publishing.

Maria Chiochios
Outreach Impact Strategy Intern
Biodiversity Heritage Library