Thursday, May 26, 2016

The Roosevelt Wild Life Station

This is the first in a monthly series of posts highlighting contributions to the Expanding Access to Biodiversity Literature (EABL) project, which aims to enhance BHL's collections with content from natural history libraries, societies, and other institutions across the United States.

The Roosevelt Wild Life Station (RWLS) is a research center within the SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry (ESF) in Syracuse, New York. Its mission is "to deliver the science and trained professionals to preserve our wildlife heritage and save imperiled species worldwide." In the first half of the 20th century, the RWLS produced two publications—the Roosevelt Wild Life Bulletin and the Roosevelt Wild Life Annals—which are now available in BHL.

"The New York State College of Forestry, Syracuse, containing the offices and laboratories of the Roosevelt Wild Life Forest Experiment Station," from Roosevelt Wild Life Bulletin, v.1 no.1 (1921).

Founding of the RWLS

In December of 1916 Charles Christopher Adams, a zoologist at the New York State College of Forestry at Syracuse University, approached Theodore Roosevelt to discuss the need for systematic study of big game and other mammals in the forests of North America. Dr. Adams believed that a lack of understanding of these animals was a problem not only for scientists, but also for industry—particularly forestry—and the economy in general. Roosevelt agreed that research in this area should be undertaken and asked Dr. Adams to devise a plan, which he outlined the following year. Despite Roosevelt's enthusiastic approval, the work was delayed—first by the onset of World War I, and then by Roosevelt's death on January 9, 1919.

Dr. Adams, undeterred by these events, saw a new opportunity to carry on the vision he had shared with Roosevelt, and convinced the state legislature of New York to establish the Roosevelt Wild Life Forest Experiment Station as a memorial to the former President. The Station was signed into law on May 10, 1919, as part of the New York State College of Forestry. The legislation stated that the RWLS would conduct “investigations, experiments, and research in relation to the habits, life histories, methods of propagation and management of fish, birds, game and food and fur-bearing animals and forest wild life.” Dr. Adams was the Station's first director.

"The field party of the Roosevelt Wild Life Station at camp on Mount Marcy, working in cooperation with other scientists," from Roosevelt Wild Life Bulletin, v.1 no.1 (1921).

Writing in Science in June, 1919, Dr. Adams proclaimed:

Never before in America, and for that matter, possibly, never before in the world, has there been a forest biological station devoted primarily or exclusively to the study of every phase of forest wild life. The establishment of such a station at the New York State College of Forestry, at Syracuse University, is thus an event of considerable general interest and importance, not only to those interested in the conservation of wild life, to foresters, and to zoologists in general, and particularly to field naturalists, but in addition to many others who are interested in the ecology of fish, birds, game, fur-bearing animals, and other kinds of forest wild life. This station, named in honor of the man … thus becomes a very appropriate memorial to Theodore Roosevelt.

An editorial in the August, 1919 issue of Forest and Stream speculated that "The work that such an experiment station may do is almost limitless and its possibilities are as yet quite beyond the range of our imagination."

The conservationist George Bird Grinnell was equally laudatory; in the foreword to the first issue of the Roosevelt Wild Life Bulletin (1921), he wrote, "No one more than Theodore Roosevelt appreciated the value of the work done and to be done by the field-naturalist. No one more than he would welcome those services to science that may be accomplished by the Experiment Station that bears his name.”

"The fish laboratory of the Roosevelt Wild Life Station," from Roosevelt Wild Life Bulletin, v.1 no.1 (1921).

Publications of the RWLS

Under Dr. Adams's tenure as director, the RWLS began publishing the Roosevelt Wild Life Bulletin in 1921, which ran until 1950. The Bulletin contains general and "popular interest" pieces related to forest ecology. Many of these articles describe the geography and wildlife of the forests immediately surrounding the RWLS, as well as the Adirondacks and other regions of upstate New York. Several others detail field research conducted at Camp Roosevelt, Yellowstone National Park, where Professor Alvin Whitney, of the New York State College of Forestry, ran a boys' summer camp in the early 1920s.

Color plates from Roosevelt Wild Life Annals, v.1 no.3-4 (1926)

Typically, each issue of the Bulletin is organized around a single topic or group of related topics: parasites in freshwater fishes, a county-level wildlife and forest survey, and the management of ruffed grouse, among others. These articles, which treated wildlife as natural resources, would surely have interested naturalists, foresters, and hunters alike. In fact, within a few years of the RWLS's founding, people from as far away as India began to request research on subjects as esoteric as muskrat farming

"Field party of the Roosevelt Wild Life Station in Yellowstone Park, summer of 1921," in Roosevelt Wild Life Bulletin, v.1 no.1 (1921).

In 1926, the RWLS began a second publication, the Roosevelt Wild Life Annals, which ran for 10 years. Whereas the Bulletin was intended for a broad audience, the Annals contain technical papers that would have been of interest to professional naturalists, particularly zoologists and botanists. Like the Bulletin, each issue is typically devoted to a single topic: the red squirrel, trout streams in Yellowstone National Park, the bank swallow, and others. 

The RWLS Today

From Roosevelt Wild Life Bulletin, v.1 no.1 (1921)
Following the publication of the last Bulletin in 1950, the RWLS entered a period of inactivity that lasted until 1999, when it was reactivated through a combination of private and state funding. Governor George Pataki and Theodore Roosevelt IV presided over the rededication. The RWLS began to support student internships at ESF's Adirondack Ecological Center, and in 2014 the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation provided $3.4 million in funding for wildlife research and management. 

Today, the RWLS focuses on the northeastern U.S. and southeastern Canada in the context of truly global issues: habitat loss and climate change. In addition to providing hands-on experience to students of wildlife science, its priorities are "protection of imperiled keystone and strongly valued species vulnerable to the impacts of rapidly changing landscapes and climate; and habitat management issues, such as maintaining effective habitat in private-land mosaics, protecting and expanding core habitat areas, and securing habitat connectivity.” In these efforts, the RWLS carries on the vision shared by Dr. Adams and Theodore Roosevelt a hundred years ago.

Patrick Randall
Community Manager
Expanding Access to Biodiversity Literature


Adams, C. C. (1919). The Roosevelt Wild-Life Forest Experiment Station. Science, n.s. 49(1275), 533-534.

Frair, J., & Gibbs, J. P. (2011, Spring). The Roosevelt Wild Life Station: Revitalizing a forgotten conservation legacy. Fair Chase, 30-34.

National Park Service. Roosevelt Lodge, 1920. Retrieved from

SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry. History of the Roosevelt Wild Life Station [PDF document]. Retrieved from

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

BHL Singapore representative and National Library Board staff visit Smithsonian Libraries

Wai Yin Pryke ( Director, National Library, National Library Board of Singapore) visited with BHL Program Director Martin R. Kalfatovic and Program Manager Carolyn Sheffield on 19 May 2016. Ms. Pryke is visiting various libraries and other institutions on an official visit to the United States.

It was also an honor to have Ms. Pryke accompanied by Elaine Ng. Ng is the Chief Executive Officer of the National Library Board (NLB) and initiated contacts that led to the creation of BHL Singapore.

Two other NLB staff, Grace Sim and Julia Chee, were also part of the visit to Smithsonian Libraries.

(pictured above, from the left: Julia Chee, Martin Kalfatovic, Carolyn Sheffield, Elaine Ng, Wai Yin Pryke, Grace Sim)

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Inspiring Discovery at the 2016 BioBlitz and Biodiversity Festival in Washington, D.C.

BHL participated in BioBlitz 2016 in Washington, D.C. on 20-21 May. A BioBlitz focuses on finding and identifying as many species as possible in a specific area over a short period of time. In this special edition of the BioBlitz, held in conjunction with the National Park Service's centenary, the D.C. BioBlitz was accompanied by a two-day Biodiversity Festival on the National Mall at Constitution Gardens. The event was co-hosted by the National Park Service and National Geographic.

Visitors at the BHL booth at the BioBlitz 2016 Biodiversity Festival on 20 May. Image Credit: Gil Taylor.

BHL and Smithsonian Libraries' staff hosted a booth at the Festival that featured hands-on activities including coloring projects, online exhibitions, and a plant ID challenge that demonstrated how BHL can help visitors identify nature around them. Booth volunteers interacted with over 320 people during the course of the 2-day event and had a unique opportunity to expose young people (K-12) to the rich variety of free resources that BHL has to offer.

BHL cards, coloring pages, and plant ID challenge at the BioBlitz 2016 Biodiversity Festival booth. Image Credits: Grace Costantino.

BHL staff at the booth included Martin R. Kalfatovic (BHL Program Director) and Grace Costantino (BHL Outreach and Communication Manager). Smithsonian Libraries staff at the booth included Sara Cardello (Education Specialist), Polly Lasker (Librarian), Gil Taylor (Supervisory Librarian), Bonnie White (Library Technician), Krista Aniel (Management Support Specialist), Barbara Ferry (Department Head, Natural and Physical Sciences Library), Hollis Gentry (Geology Specialist), and Michael O'Connor (Cataloger).

Booth Volunteers, from Left to Right: Polly Lasker, Sara Cardello, Gil Taylor, Krista Aniel, Bonnie White. Image Credits: Grace Costantino.

Booth Volunteers, from Left to Right: Barbara Ferry, Hollis Gentry, Martin Kalfatovic, Grace Costantino, Michael O'Connor. Image Credits: Grace Costantino.

Each booth was instructed to have a hands-on activity that participants could complete as part of the Festival's Biodiversity University. By completing five activities at the Festival, visitors received their Biodiversity University Bachelor's degree. Ten activities earned them a Master's and twenty activities a doctorate. BHL's activity was a plant ID challenge in which visitors used a book in BHL (A Guide to the Trees by Alice Lounsberry) to identify leaves from five trees native to the D.C. region. Over 200 students completed the activity, earning a sticker towards their Biodiversity University diploma!

Sara Cardello guiding visitors through the plant ID challenge at the BHL booth. Image Credit: Grace Costantino.

Additional BHL booth activities included coloring pages from BHL's Color Our Collections coloring book and a chance to explore BHL's online exhibitions (particularly Early Women in Science) and citizen science opportunities (including Flickr image tagging, field note transcription, Science Gossip, and online games).

Visitor coloring a BHL coloring page at the BHL booth. Image Credit: Grace Costantino.

The BioBlitz in D.C. was the cornerstone event of over 250 BioBlitzes happening around the country this year. So far this year, over 61,000 observations of over 6,800 species in 126 parks around the U.S. have been made. The largest percentage of observations were made of plants, followed by birds, insects, fungi, reptiles, mammals, mollusks, arachnids, and amphibians. Learn more about the observations made to date.

Grace Costantino guiding visitors through the plant ID challenge at the BHL booth. Image Credit: Barbara Ferry.

We were thrilled to have the opportunity to participate in the BioBlitz and show visitors how BHL's free resources can be a valuable tool to help them identify and learn more about biodiversity. We'd also like to extend a special thanks to all of the Smithsonian Libraries staff that volunteered at the booth. The BioBlitz and Biodiversity Festival were an excellent opportunity for us to inspire discovery through free access to biodiversity knowledge.

Gil Taylor (left) guiding visitors through the plant ID challenge at the BHL booth. Image Credit: Grace Costantino.
Malayan Flying Fox at the Organization for Bat Conservation #SavetheBats booth at the BioBlitz 2016 Biodiversity Festival. Image Credit: Grace Costantino.

Our neighbors at the BioBlitz 2016 Biodiversity Festival booth. Image Credit: Grace Costantino.
View all of our photos from the event in this slideshow:

Monday, May 23, 2016

Wikipedia Edit-a-thon for New Zealand Species, 29 May 2016!

Help improve Wikipedia articles about New Zealand species!

On Sunday, 29 May 2016, the Friends of Te Papa will be hosting a Wikipedia edit-a-thon focused on adding New Zealand plant and animal species to Wikipedia. The edit-a-thon will occur from 10:00-17:00 NZST at the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa in Wellington, New Zealand. You can sign up here to attend in person. You can find more information about the event here.

Participants from all over the world are also encouraged to join in remotely! Follow #NZspecies on Twitter to get updates from the event as it happens as well as to ask questions while you edit Wikipedia pages. Just be sure to add the hashtag #NZspecies to the edit summary for any content you create in Wikipedia prior to saving so that your contributions can be recorded. If you'd like to participate remotely, you can add your Wikipedia username to the “Attending remotely” section at the bottom of the Wikipedia Edit-a-thon page.

BHL has lots of great resources that you can use to do research on New Zealand species and enhance Wikipedia pages. These include:

One of the edit-a-thon organizers, Siobhan Leachman (whom we've interviewed on our blog before in relation to her extensive citizen science activities) also recommends the following resources in BHL:

We're excited to see how this event helps improve access to information about New Zealand species and how BHL's free resources can contribute to that process and knowledge. We'd like to extend a huge shout-out to the organizers, Siobhan Leachman and Mike Dickison, for putting together this wonderful opportunity, and we hope you'll join the fun during the New Zealand species edit-a-thon!

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Hen Fever and Heritage Breeds

Do you have hen fever?

Many in the 19th century did. From about 1845-1855, an obsession with owning and breeding the world's finest chickens swept across the United States. The epidemic started with Queen Victoria in England, whose royal menagerie of exotic species was enhanced, according to Wright's The Illustrated Book of Poultry, in 1843 with a selection of chickens known as Cochin China fowl. As the chickens bred, the queen sent eggs to her royal relatives, igniting a fire of breeding and selling exotic chickens that soon made its way to America.

Queen Victoria's Cochin China fowl. The Asiatics (1904). Digitized by Cornell University Library.
The domesticated chicken is descended from the red junglefowl (Gallus gallus), which was first domesticated nearly 10,000 years ago in Asia and dispersed around the world. Through natural and selective breeding, an astonishing variety of breeds now exist. The American Poultry Association began defining breeds in 1873. Definitions for the breeds were published in the Standard of Perfection. Many of these are now recognized as Heritage Breed chickens, which are defined by The Livestock Conservancy as follows:

"A Heritage Egg can only be produced by an American Poultry Association Standard breed. A Heritage Chicken is hatched from a heritage egg sired by an American Poultry Association Standard breed established prior to the mid-20th century, is slow growing, naturally mated with a long productive outdoor life."

Today, over three-dozen chicken breeds and 21% of the world's 8,000 livestock breeds are in danger of extinction. The loss of heritage breeds depletes the genetic diversity of the agricultural system, leaving it increasingly vulnerable to pests and diseases and less adaptable to changing environmental conditions. In an effort to raise awareness about endangered heritage breeds of livestock and poultry, The Livestock Conservancy organized the first Heritage Breeds Week campaign in May 2015. The success of that campaign prompted this year's International Heritage Breeds Week and Day, May 15-21, 2016, with a mission "To protect endangered livestock and poultry breeds from extinction." You can follow the campaign hashtag #HeritageBreedsWeek to learn more.

Two of the breeds predominantly responsible for the hen fever of the 19th century are heritage breeds: The Brahma chicken and the Cochin chicken.

Ideal Brahma. Illustrated by Franklane Lorraine Sewell. The Asiatics (1904). Digitized by Cornell University Library. 
Historic publications provide much valuable information about heritage breeds. For example, a history and description of the hen fever-related breeds is captured in The Asiatics; Brahmas, Cochins and Langshans, all varieties, their origin; peculiarities of shape and color; egg production; their market qualities. Breeding, mating and exhibiting, with detailed illustrated instructions on judging (1904). The work, digitized for BHL by Cornell University Library, is made up of many small articles or chapters, most of which were previously published in the Reliable Poultry Journal, also the publisher of this book. The title includes illustrations by notable poultry illustrator Franklane Lorraine Sewell, whose drawings are still used by the American Poultry Association’s Standard of Perfection.

The work provides some interesting insight into the history of hen fever. For example, regarding Queen Victoria's Cochin China fowl which launched the craze,

"A drawing of those birds was given in the Illustrated London News of that date, from which and the description it is manifest that they had absolutely no points of the Cochin at all, save perhaps yellow legs and large size...But one thing about them there was; these fowls were not only big, but they probably really did come from Cochin China, and from them and that fact came undoubtedly the name, which will now belong, while poultry breeding lasts, to another fowl that has no right to it at all."

Cochin chicken. The Asiatics (1904). Digitized by Cornell University Library.  
The breed which is today known as the Cochin is instead descended from the Shanghais breed. According to The Asiatics,

"The first Poultry Book of Wingfield and Johnson (1853) wrote of them as Shanghais, and all American writers strove for the same name years after the attempt had been abandoned in England; but it was no use. The public had got to know the new, big fowls as Cochins, and would use no other word, and so the name stuck, in the teeth of the facts, and holds the field to this day."

The Brahma chicken, according to The Asiatics, "were undoubtedly originated in America by selection and careful breeding of what was known as the Gray Chittagongs."

Burnham's shipment of Brahmas to Queen Victoria. The Asiatics (1904). Digitized by Cornell University Library.
George Burnham, who penned an account of hen fever in his The history of the hen fever. A humorous record, contributed to the Brahma's association with the fever by sending Queen Victoria nine of his finest stock in 1852, resulting in a significant increase in their popularity and price.

Postage detail for Burnham's shipment of Brahma chickens to Queen Victoria. A History of the Hen Fever (1855). Digitized by Cornell University Library.
The Asiatics recounts an interesting origin for the Brahma breed in America:

"In regard to the history of these fowls- very little is known. A mechanic by the name of Chamberlain, in this city, first brought them here. Mr. Chamberlain was acquainted with a sailor, who informed him there were three pairs of large imported fowls in New York, and he dwelt so much upon the enormous size of these fowls that Mr. Chamberlain furnished him with money and directed him to go to New York and purchase a pair of them for him, which he did...The man in New York, whose name I have not got, gave no account of their origin, except that they had been brought there by some sailors in the Indian ships...One strain of these fowls, according to Mr. Wright was first called 'Burram pooters,' evidently with the intention of having it believed they were of a different race from the Chittagongs and Shanghai, the name being subsequently dropped and replaced by 'Brahma-Pootre,' and eventually simplified into Brahmas."

Historic publications are useful not only for documenting heritage breeds, but also for providing practical tips for raising poultry, especially as part of the backyard chicken farming movement that has been gaining prominence in the 21st century. Cornell's Albert R. Mann Library highlighted this phenomena as part of a post exploring the most-downloaded book contributed to BHL by Cornell  University Library: Poultry diseases, causes, symptoms and treatment, with notes on post-mortem examinations. As cited in that article:

"A 2010 USDA survey of four major U.S. metropolitan areas (Denver, Miami, Los Angeles and New York) found that 4.3% of all households living on 1+ acre of land reported owning chickens."

A 2014 study published in Poultry Science found that, of 1,487 surveys received from people in 47 U.S. states, 37.7% of respondents had kept backyard chickens for 2-5 years, while 32.5% had done so for less than 2 years. As the authors note, "These results indicate the relative recency of and growing interest in backyard chicken keeping."

The survey also found that respondents' motivations for keeping backyard chickens included (from most to least popular) food for home use, pest control, to provide manure for gardening, and pets. 62.5% of respondents relied on books and magazines for information on backyard chicken husbandry. "Almost all respondents also stated that their birds’ health and welfare are better than on commercial poultry farms and that the eggs or meat produced by their flocks are tastier, more nutritious, and safer to consume than purchased poultry products" (Elkhoraibi et al.).

Historic publications like those in BHL can contribute significantly to efforts to preserve important international breeds, providing the genetic diversity necessary to maintain a stable agricultural system. They can also support activities like small-scale poultry keeping, which can help address concerns related to food safety, animal welfare, and the environmental impact of factory farming.

We encourage you to explore The Asiatics and Poultry Diseases in BHL, digitized by Cornell University Library. You can browse all 1.5+ million pages contributed by Cornell to BHL here.

Learn more about backyard chicken farming in the online exhibit Backyard Revival from Cornell's Mann Library and find out more about the importance of heritage breeds as part of the International Heritage Breeds Week campaign.

Forget hen fever. Here's hoping for a hen revival!

Elkhoraibi, C., R. A. Blatchford, M. E. Pitesky and J. A. Mench. "Backyard chickens in the United States: A survey of flock owners." Poultry Science first published online September 5, 2014 doi:10.3382/ps.2014-04154

Friday, May 13, 2016

We Challenge You to #DigIntoDyar

This post originally published on the Smithsonian Libraries blog Unbound

Important entomological work. The Bahá'í faith. Secret tunnels under Washington, DC. What do all of these elements have in common? Curiously, Smithsonian scientist Harrison Gray Dyar, Jr..

Dyar, Honorary Custodian of Lepidoptera at the United States National Museum (now, National Museum of Natural History) for over 30 years, was a prolific entomologist - studying sawflies, moths, butterflies and mosquitos and publishing his findings. He described hundreds of species and genera and brought new ones to light. “Dyar’s Law”, a standard rule used to measure premature insects, is named in his honor.

Harrison G. Dyar, Jr., third from right, with Entomology staff of the U.S. National Museum in 1905. Courtesy of Smithsonian Institution Archives.

Yet, the work of this successful entomologist is often overshadowed by his fascinating personal life. Dyar was a bigamist and consequently dismissed from the USDA for conduct unbecoming of a federal employee. He practiced the Bahá'í faith, a movement that seeks to reconcile science with religion. And perhaps most newsworthy: he dug a series of mysterious tunnels beneath his home in Northwest DC. Tunnels that many believed were the work of spies until Dyar finally fessed up.

Starting today, you can be a part of the scientific legacy of this interesting figure in Smithsonian science. The Smithsonian Institution Archives has uploaded five volumes of Dyar’s “blue books” (notebooks in which he jotted down scientific observations) to the Smithsonian Transcription Center. Volunteers are encouraged to dive into the books and help us transcribe Dyar’s work for future study.

Cover of “Bluebook 401-414”, by H.G. Dyar. Digitized by Smithsonian Institution Archives.

From now until May 20th, we’ll be encouraging everyone to #DigIntoDyar with a series of blog posts about Dyar’s work as well as a live Google Hangout on May 17th (2:30, EDT). Both will feature National Museum of Natural History research associate and Dyar biographer, Marc Epstein. Marc, who recently published Moths, Myths and Mosquitos: The Eccentric Life of Harrison G. Dyar, Jr., will help us understand Dyar’s work, his sordid personal life, and his legacy.

Along the way, we’ll be sharing other tidbits and images via social media. We hope you’ll tune in as we #DigIntoDyar and learn more about this fascinating part of Smithsonian history.

You can browse Dyar's field notebooks in BHL, digitized by Smithsonian Institution Archives as part of the Field Book Project. Below are the BHL links to the field notes that are part of this challenge, as well as the links to those projects in the Smithsonian Transcription Center to help you get started transcribing right away!

Happy Digging!

H. G. Dyar - Bluebook 401- 414, 1893-1894 |
H. G. Dyar - Bluebook 415-435, 1893-1894 |
H. G. Dyar - Bluebook 436-450, 1893-1894 |
H. G. Dyar - Bluebook 451-473, 1894 |
H. G. Dyar, Bluebook 474-491, 1894-1897 |

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Undergraduates and the BHL

"Is the bald eagle really bald?"

This was the question that a recent history of science undergraduate class at Harvard University had to answer with the help of BHL. Specifically, students were required to locate Mark Catesby's 1731 plate of the bald eagle in BHL and use the accompanying text to determine the accuracy of the bird's moniker.

The White-Headed Eagle. Catesby, Mark. The Natural History of Carolina, Florida and the Bahama Islands. vol. 1, 1731. pl. 1. Digitized by Smithsonian Libraries.

Mary Sears, Head of Public Services at the Ernst Mayr Library of the Museum of Comparative Zoology at Harvard University, instructed the class on how to use BHL to satisfy the assignment. Instructing students on the use of BHL is something Mary has done for some time now.

Mary Sears.

"We present the BHL to groups of students, when their class visits the library, and also use BHL as a reference tool when students are working on individual projects," explains Mary. "Typically, a class visit involves an exhibit of historical volumes in Special Collections, and a tour and orientation on electronic resources. Faculty and students receive a bibliography of their Special Collections exhibit, with links to those works that are in BHL. The quality, immediacy and scope of the BHL make it an important tool when working with individual students, who are usually working on short-term projects. I regularly direct students to BHL who need taxonomic and anatomical works (and walk them through how to use it). Especially for students who are not science majors, the BHL is a dependable central source of scholarly articles and books in zoology and natural history. Our print journals and older monographs do not circulate, so the BHL’s high quality scans fill the students’ needs for accessible sources. Warren’s monograph on Mastodon giganteus (image below) is a great example. I have the volume downloaded at the reference desk and send it to a student at least once a year. They can see the original in Special Collections during library hours but use the BHL version from anywhere, 24/7."

Skeleton of Mastodon giganteus. Warren, John C. The Mastodon Giganteus of North America. 1852. pl. XXVII. Digitized by Smithsonian Libraries.

Mary has been at the MCZ Ernst Mayr Library for twenty-five years. Her specialty is reference and research, but she also collaborates on circulation and other areas where the library intersects with the public. She is most active in the subject areas of marine biology, bryozoology, and scientific biography.

As the Ernst Mayr Library is a founding Member of the Biodiversity Heritage Library, Mary has been aware of BHL's existence since its launch in 2006. It has had an increasingly significant impact on her work over the past ten years.

"I have a very high opinion of BHL," affirms Mary. "It has impacted my work by making natural history journals and books easier to find and use. I am very fortunate to be in a library that contributes to the BHL: we have a solid collection of 19th century journals and many pre-1850 titles. As the repository has grown, I have experienced the shift from wondering whether a classic text will be in BHL to assuming that it will be. Now that so many important titles are there, I almost always use BHL scans instead of consulting a print volume in our Special Collections. Before BHL, I regularly went to Special Collections to confirm citations, make copies, etc. Being able to do those ordinary tasks remotely saves a lot of wear and tear on the collection. For works we do not own, I can have immediate access through the BHL to volumes that would have taken weeks and delicate negotiations (or microfilm!) [to obtain access to] twenty years ago."

Mary's favorite feature of BHL is the quality of the scans. As she describes, BHL's scan quality, "especially the plates, more especially the foldout plates, is vastly better than other online repositories." She also appreciates that downloading content from BHL "keeps getting better and easier." Thinking about future improvements, Mary hopes to see the runs of journal titles in BHL be extended to include more recent volumes. "It is difficult to negotiate copyrights, but it is a big win to have a whole run of a journal in the BHL," explains Mary.

Mary's favorite title in BHL demonstrates the value of having full journal runs in BHL.

"The Bulletin of the Museum of Comparative Zoology (1863-current) is the primary publication of my institution and covers a vast array of zoological topics over a 150 year time span," says Mary. "I get a lot of questions about the works published by the MCZ and authors/historical figures associated with the Museum. Having the Bulletin available through BHL makes works easier to find, download and send, as well as taking pressure off of our print volumes."

New species Cassiopeia ndrosia. Agassiz, A. and A.G. Mayer. Acalephs from the Fiji Islands. Bulletin of the Museum of Comparative Zoology, vol. 32 (9), 1899. pl. 14. Digitized by the Gerstein - University of Toronto.

BHL has an active permissions program, which is working to secure licenses for more and more in-copyright titles. Recent work by the Institute of Museum and Library Services-funded Expanding Access to Biodiversity Literature project has resulted in a significant boost to the number of permissions agreements that BHL has secured over the past few months. See our recent blog post to explore the most recent in-copyright titles for which we've secured permission and to learn more about EABL.

So, is the bald eagle really bald? Nope, as you should be able to tell from Catesby's illustration. According to the National Park Service, "The term 'bald' comes from the word 'piebald,' meaning markings that are two colors, usually black and white." As Catesby writes, "This bird is called the Bald Eagle, both in Virginia and Carolina, though his head is as much feather'd as the other parts of his body."

BHL to the rescue for students, librarians, scientists, and readers everywhere!


This post may contain the personal opinions of BHL users or affiliated staff and does not necessarily represent the official Biodiversity Heritage Library (BHL) position on these matters.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

BioBlitz 2016 in Washington, D.C.

BioBlitz 2016 is coming to the National Mall in Washington, D.C. May 20-21, and BHL is participating!

According to the National Geographic website:

"A BioBlitz is an event that focuses on finding and identifying as many species as possible in a specific area over a short period of time. At a BioBlitz, scientists, families, students, teachers, and other community members work together to get an overall count of the plants, animals, fungi, and other organisms that live in a place."

For the past ten years, National Geographic and the National Park Service have hosted BioBlitzes in various national parks each year. This year's event is particularly special, as 2016 marks the National Park Service's centennial. To celebrate, over 250 BioBlitzes are happening throughout the country this year.

The cornerstone BioBlitz is in Washington, D.C., May 20-21, and it will be accompanied by a two-day Biodiversity Festival on the National Mall at Constitution Gardens. The Festival, open 9am-5pm EDT, May 20-21, will feature hands-on science exhibits, food and art, as well as family-friendly entertainment and activities.

The Biodiversity Heritage Library (BHL) is participating in the Biodiversity Festival with a booth showcasing BHL's free online biodiversity collections. 

The booth will demonstrate how these resources can be used to help identify and learn more about the plants, animals, fungi, and other organisms that visitors might encounter both during the BioBlitz and around their own homes. We'll also have fun hands-on activities including coloring projects, online games, and image tagging which will help make it easier for people to find images of organisms from around the world.

Follow #BioBlitz2016 on social media to learn more about the BioBlitz and other planned activities around the country. If you're in the Washington, D.C. area, we hope you'll plan to participate in the BioBlitz and stop by our booth at the Biodiversity Festival:

WHERE: Constitution Gardens, National Mall 17th and Constitution Avenue, NW, Washington DC 
DATES: Friday and Saturday, May 20 and 21
TIME: 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday and Saturday

Learn more on the National Geographic website.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Report on the 2016 BHL Annual meetings, London

2016 BHL Group Photo
In conjunction with the BHL Day event at the Natural History Museum (NHM) in London, BHL partner representatives got down to work.

The combined 2016 BHL Joint Meeting was co-hosted by Natural History Museum, London and the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, 12-15 April 2016.

The first order of business was the 7th Global Meeting which took place on 12 April 2016 at the Natural History Museum. Representatives from all BHL's global partners (with the exception of BHL México) were in attendance. A key outcome of this meeting was to merge the existing Global BHL group into the BHL as the newly formed BHL Global Committee (BGC). The BGC recommended to the BHL Executive Committee Anne-Lise Fourier (BHL Africa) as the Chair of this new committee. The BGC and global BHL concerns are also now instantiated in the BHL Bylaws and the BHL's global partners will now have a clearer voice in the BHL.

Zheping Xu & Jinzhong Cui
Nancy E. Gwinn, Ely Wallis, Lawrence Monda
On the 13th, the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew hosted the Open Partners Meeting where the Secretariat and Partners reported out on initiatives and accomplishments since the last meeting. Attendees included BHL Members, Affiliates, and Partners as well as a handful of invited guests including Dmitry Schigel from GBIF, Rod Page (BioStor), and Laurence Bénichou and Alice Lemaire (Natural History Museum of Paris). Bob Corrigan from the Encyclopedia of Life (EOL) presented on current EOL activities and some plans for the 10th anniversary of EOL in 2017. The day concluded with a reception at the Shirley Sherwood Gallery of Botanical Art where we were welcomed by Acting Librarian Fiona Ainsworth and Chris Mills (former Kew Librarian and representative to the BHL Members' Council).

BHL Open Partners Meeting, RBG Kew
On the 14th, the Members’ Business Meeting was held at NHM. The agenda included discussions of bylaws revisions, a report from the Global Business Meeting, discussions of user-feedback, interlibrary loan, and a report from the Membership Committee (Jane Smith). BHL took this opportunity to thank Marty Schlabach, who will retire later this year, for his service as the BHL representative from Cornell University Library; likewise Eric Chin (National Archives, Singapore) was recognized. Eric is stepping down from his role as BHL Singapore representative and is succeeded by Wai Yin Pryke (National Library of Singapore).

Nancy E. Gwinn & Marty Schlabach
Nancy E. Gwinn & Wai Yin Pryke

Slides from the Secretariat presentations are available here:
Many thanks to Jane Smith (Natural History Museum), David Iggulden (Kew) and their teams for hosting these successful meetings and events!

Nancy E. Gwinn, Jane Smith & David Iggulden
Selected other photos from the meeting:

Nancy E. Gwinn & Fiona Ainsworth
Reception at RBG Kew

Reception at RBG Kew

Grace Costantino, Alison Harding, Constance Rinaldo
Periscope filming at Natural History Museum, Tring

Monday, May 9, 2016

BHL Day: Celebrating 10 Years of Open Access to Biodiversity Literature

2016 marks the 10th anniversary of the Biodiversity Heritage Library. As part of our #BHLat10 celebrations, and in conjunction with our Annual Members Meeting, we hosted a public BHL Day on April 12 at the Natural History Museum, London. The program highlighted BHL's impact on the global science community and featured speakers from biodiversity-related disciplines.

Richard Lane giving the opening keynote at BHL Day.

Speakers for BHL Day included Ian Owens, Director of Science at the Natural History Museum, London (NHM); Gowan Dawson and Geoffrey Belknap from the University of Leicester; Jane Smith, Head of Library and Archives at NHM; and Martin R. Kalfatovic, BHL Program Director. The program's opening keynote speaker was Richard Lane, Consultant and Independent Advisor in Science and Museums and former Director of Science at NHM. The closing keynote was provided by Rod Page from the University of Glasgow and creator of BioStor. See the links at the end of this post to view the presentations by each speaker.

Rod Page giving the closing keynote at BHL Day.

BHL Day also afforded us an excellent opportunity to share the exciting news that BHL Australia has joined BHL as our 16th Member! We marked the occasion with a ceremonial signing of the BHL Memorandum of Understanding between BHL, Museum Victoria, and the Atlas of Living Australia during the event. Learn more.

Dr. Nancy E Gwinn (left), Director of Smithsonian Libraries and Chair of the BHL Members' Council, and Dr. Elycia Wallis, BHL Australia Project Lead and Manager of Online Collections at Museum Victoria, signing the BHL MOU. Back Row, Left to Right: Constance Rinaldo (Librarian of the Ernst Mayr Library of the Museum of Comparative Zoology, Harvard University | Vice-Chair, BHL Members' Council); Jane Smith (Head of Library and Archives, Natural History Museum, London | Secretary, BHL Members' Council); Carolyn Sheffield (Program Manager, BHL); Martin R. Kalfatovic (Associated Director, Digital Programs and Initiatives, Smithsonian Libraries | Program Director, BHL).

And of course, no celebration is complete without a cake! BHL Day culminated in a reception which included a special #BHLat10 dessert.

BHL at 10 cake!

You can explore our live-tweeting of the event on our @BioDivLibrary account under the hashtag #BHLDay.

A toast to celebrate 10 years of inspiring discovery through free access to biodiversity knowledge.

BHL Day was a wonderful opportunity for us to celebrate the impact that BHL has had on scientific and historical research for the past ten years. We extend a special thanks to the Natural History Museum, London, for hosting the event and to the NHM Library staff who helped make this event a reality. We're also grateful to all of our marvelous speakers for showcasing the importance, history, and growth of our library. We look forward to continuing our work to inspire discovery through free access to biodiversity knowledge for many decades to come.

Links to BHL Day Presentations:

Thursday, May 5, 2016

Expanding Access (EABL) Project Brings New In-Copyright Content to BHL

In case you missed our last post recapping the in-copyright content in BHL over 2015, we secured agreements with 23 licensors to provide 34 in-copyright titles for free and open access via our online collection.

BHL is thrilled that for the first few months of 2016, we have gotten permission to add 20 new in-copyright titles! Why such a sudden bounty? We have the work of the new IMLS-Funded Project: Expanding Access to Biodiversity Literature (EABL) to thank for securing the large majority of these agreements and for performing the work of integrating this new content into our collection. Some of the titles below are from small natural history organizations that had previously digitized their content but lacked a way to have it represented in BHL. In the coming months, as larger content providers benefit from EABL assistance, the list will grow to include unique titles never before digitized.

Our latests in-copyright titles are:

  1. Arachnologische Mitteilungen from the Arachnologische Gesellschaft 
  2. Sage Notes from the Idaho Native Plant Society
  3. Roosevelt Wild Life Station:
    1. Roosevelt Wild Life Annals
    2. Roosevelt Wild Life Bulletin
  4. Long Island Botanical Society Newsletter from the Long Island Botanical Society
  5. California Native Plant Society
    1. The Bay Leaf from the East Bay Chapter
    2. Mimulus Memo from the Kern Chapter
    3. The Pipevine from the Mount Lassen Chapter
  6. “A short Flora of Berwickshire” by M E Braithwaite (2014)
  7. Golden Gate Audubon Society’s The Gull
  8. Quaestiones Entomologicae of the University of Alberta
  9. The Echinoderm Newsletter from the Smithsonian Institution
  10. Wisconsin Entomological Society 
    1. Wisconsin Entomological Society Newsletter
    2. Checklist of Wisconsin Dragonflies” (1993)
    3. Wisconsin Millipeds” (1995)
    4. “Checklist of Wisconsin Centipedes (Chilopoda)” (1997)
    5. Checklist of Wisconsin Butterflies” (2002)
  11. Linnaean Society of New York
    1. Transactions of the Linnaean Society of New York
    2. Abstract of the proceedings of the Linnaean Society of New York
    3. Proceedings of the Linnaean Society of New York

As a reminder, our in-copyright titles are availble under a Creative Commons license as specified in the volume metadata. Would you like to learn more about reusing CC licensed content? Please see our Licensing & Copyright page as linked from the footer of our website:

The future of in-copyright content in BHL is sure to surge under the leadership of the EABL project. With a goal of acquiring content from over 100 first-time contributors over 2 years, EABL will bring free and open access to invaluable content to benefit scientific research for years to come.

-Bianca Crowley | Digital Collections Manager