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Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Holmes, Shells, and the Intersection of Art & Science

William Henry Holmes, about 1875. Random Records of a Lifetime. v. 1. http://www.biodiversitylibrary.org/page/52009570. Digitized by Smithsonian Libraries.

From November 28th through December 9th, BHL is joining the Smithsonian Libraries, Smithsonian Institution Archives, Smithsonian Field Book Project, and Smithsonian Transcription Center in hosting the #ManyHatsofHolmes transcription event. This event challenges volunteers around the world to help us transcribe William Henry Holmes' archival materials. Learn more on the Smithsonian Libraries' blog.

As the hashtag implies, William Henry Holmes (1846-1933) studied a variety of topics throughout his distinguished career, including anthropology, archaeology, art, and geology. He spent much of his career affiliated with the Smithsonian Institution. He studied art under Theodore Kauffman and went on to work as a scientific illustrator with Smithsonian staff. In 1872, he was appointed artist-topographer to the United States survey of the territories under Ferdinand V. Hayden and in 1874 was appointed assistant geologist. He went on to work with the United States Geological Survey (USGS) and the Bureau of American Ethnology (BAE) before returning to the Smithsonian's United States National Museum (USNM). Holmes eventually became head curator of the Smithsonian Institution's Department of Anthropology and Director of the National Gallery of Art.

Many of Holmes' field notes and personal records have been digitized by Smithsonian Libraries and Smithsonian Institution Archives as part of The Field Book Project. These are available in BHL. In addition to these archival materials, BHL also holds a number of publications by Holmes.

Top figure: Vessel made from a lightning whelk (Sinistrofulgur perversum) - synonym Busycon perversum - shell. Bottom figure: Earthen vessel made in imitation of a shell. Holmes, William Henry. Art in Shell of the Ancient Americans. 1883. http://biodiversitylibrary.org/page/11258636. Digitized by Smithsonian Libraries.

One of those publications is Art in Shell of the Ancient Americans, which was published in 1883 as part of the second annual report of the Bureau of Ethnology.

Holmes intended this publication to be a preliminary study of the ways in which Native Americans in the distant past used shells as a medium for artistic expression and how this artwork represents a phase in the evolution of human culture. It discusses the use of shells as implements, utensils, and objects of ornamentation (such as jewelry).

Most of the objects presented in the publication were obtained from graves and tumuli (ancient burial mounds), which explains how such delicate pieces survived throughout the centuries. But, while these pieces can be deemed ancient, Holmes did not have enough data to provide a reliable estimation of age.

At this point, you might be wondering why a book about shell art would be relevant for a biodiversity library and what bearing it might have on scientific research. The simple answer is that these shells are remnants of living creatures - mollusks that died long ago but still left behind a legacy in shell. However, Art in Shell has relevance for scientific research beyond this vague connection with the natural world.

Shell spoons made from Lampsilis ovata (synonym Unio ovatus) - top and center - and Potamilus alatus (synonym Unio alatus) - bottom. Holmes, William Henry. Art in Shell of the Ancient Americans. 1883. http://www.biodiversitylibrary.org/page/11258608. Digitized by Smithsonian Libraries.

In the publication, Holmes attempts to identify the species (or most-specific taxa possible) to which the shell used for the object belongs. This information provides a valuable record of human interaction with various mollusk species and helps document the diversity of species present in ancient America. The presence of shells in various regions, when coupled with species distribution data that demonstrates the transport of these shells from their source, can also provide insight into historic Native American migration paths, tribal contacts, and trade.

Thus, this book is not just a book about art. It represents a beautiful union of art and science. And considering the many disciplinary hats that Holmes wore throughout his career, it's no surprise that his publication would bridge these two worlds. Art in Shell is therefore not only a very fitting book to highlight as a representation of the union of Holmes' many interests, but the insights it provides into Native American culture also make it particularly relevant this month as we celebrate Native American Heritage Month.

Implements made from Unio vericosus (figs. 1 and 2), Cyclonaias tuberculata (synonym Unio tuberculosus, figs. 3-5) and Pecten (fig. 6). Holmes, William Henry. Art in Shell of the Ancient Americans. 1883. http://www.biodiversitylibrary.org/page/11258618. Digitized by Smithsonian Libraries.

So, can we tie this publication back to the Random Records of a Lifetime series that is the subject of our #ManyHatsofHolmes transcription event? Holmes' discussion about his work with shell art in these records seems to be fairly limited, but in his biographical sketch in volume I, Holmes does report that, "The years 1882-3-4 and 5 were devoted largely to Museum work and the study of primitive art in its various branches." As Art in Shell was published in 1883, this account is likely a reference in part to his work on this publication (as well as the many others on ancient American art that he produced during this time period).

As you participate in the challenge, can you find additional references in the Random Records that can be linked back to Art in Shell? If you do, share them on social media with #ManyHatsofHolmes.

Additionally, if you need a break from transcription or want another challenge, try taxon tagging the illustrations from Holmes' Art in Shell on Flickr. By tagging the shell art with the taxonomic name of the species to which the shell belongs, you can help researchers more easily discover which species ancient Americans were using to create these objects. Learn more about taxon tagging in this article and see our detailed instructions here. Find the Art in Shell images in Flickr here.

See this video for basic instructions on how to tag the illustrations in Art in Shell:



Holmes was truly a man of many trades and talents. As you dig deeper into his work during the #ManyHatsofHolmes event, be sure to share your findings on social media with the hashtag. Thanks so much for participating in our Holmes extravaganza!

Beads and pearls. Figs. 1, 7, 12, and 9: Sinistrofulgur perversum (synonym Busycon perversum); Fig. 2: Crassadoma gigantea (synonym Hinnites giganteus); Fig. 3 and 13: pearls, latter from Haliotis californianus; Fig. 4: unknown univalve; Fig. 5: ivory?; Figs. 6 and 11: unknown dextral whorled shell; Fig. 14: Strombus or BusyconHolmes, William Henry. Art in Shell of the Ancient Americans. 1883. http://www.biodiversitylibrary.org/page/11258675. Digitized by Smithsonian Libraries.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Black Friday Sale Nov. 23-27! Save 10% Off in the BHL Store

Are you planning to do some shopping for Black Friday? Do you want your purchase to make an impact on biodiversity conservation and research?

Then the BHL Black Friday Sale is perfect for you!

Save 10% off select products in the BHL store for our Black Friday Sale. 100% of the proceeds will be used to digitize more books for BHL. Hurry! Sale ends Sunday, Nov. 27.
SHOP NOW!

From November 23-27, save 10% off select products in the BHL store. In our Black Friday Sale Collection, you'll find notebooks, greeting cards, mugs, home decor, and more great items featuring beautiful scientific illustrations from the BHL collection.


Not only are these products 10% off for our sale, but 100% of the proceeds will be used to digitize more books for BHL. Researchers around the world rely on the information contained in books and archival materials to study and conserve biodiversity. Learn more about how BHL helps save biodiversity and how your purchase can have a lasting, positive impact on our planet.

You'll find this badge in our store and on all of our marketing materials. It means that your purchase will help support research around the world. SHOP TODAY and help save biodiversity!

Shop today to find that perfect gift and help support biodiversity research around the world! Hurry! The sale ends Sunday!

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Notes accompanying collection of useful plants made by W. J. Fisher at [Kodiak] in 1899

By: Lesley Parilla
Cataloger, The Field Book Project
Smithsonian Libraries

In honor of Native American Heritage Month, we would like to highlight a field book that documents Native American knowledge of natural resources. The field book was created by William J. Fisher, who lived in southern Alaska from 1879 until his death in 1903.

Fisher's notebook documents his final years collecting and looks at the relationship between the Alutiiq (Aleut) and their plants by recording medicinal and food uses for 48 specimens. Only a handful of the specimen entries include the taxonomic names of plants; instead, entries focus on recording the Russian and Sugpiat/Alutiiq names of plants, how the plants were used, and plant distribution. Detail varies, as seen below in entries three and forty-seven.

Entry three describes Fritullaria kamschathensis [Fritillaria camschatcensis], also known as the Kamchatka Fritillary, and lists general use and preparation: "Used as an article of food by natives. The bulbs are boiled mashed and after a liberal supply of seal or whale oil has been thoroughly mixed therewith, it is put away for winter’s use.”

Specimen entry three from "Notes accompanying collection of useful plants made by W. J. Fisher at [Kodiak] in 1899," Smithsonian Institution Archives, SIA Acc. 12-038. http://www.biodiversitylibrary.org/page/46428854. Digitized by Smithsonian Institution Archives.
Image of Fritillaria camschatcensis from Encyclopedia of Life, provided by Biopix. http://eol.org/data_objects/19162439.

Entry forty-seven for Ledum palustre [Rhododendron tomentosum], also known as Northern Labrador Tea (also pictured below), takes up an entire page describing the plant's habitat, the appearance of its flowers, and multiple local medicinal applications: "(1) As a tea it is freely drunk in alleviating the hacking cough of consumptives. (2) As a gargle in sore throat. (3) Administered as tea it is efficacious in relieving asthmatic complaints."

Specimen entry forty-seven, from "Notes accompanying collection of useful plants made by W. J. Fisher at [Kodiak] in 1899," Smithsonian Institution Archives, SIA Acc. 12-038. http://www.biodiversitylibrary.org/page/46428831. Digitized by Smithsonian Institution Archives.
Image of Rhododendron tomentosum (Northern Labrador Tea), from Encyclopedia of Life. Image by Biopix. http://eol.org/data_objects/19183248.

Fisher's ethnographic focus while collecting plants is clear. The field book provides detailed information regarding local names and knowledge, but leaves out basic information often found in botany field books like date and detailed locality information. This lack of information may relate to a note Fisher wrote on the title page: "dried plants with Mr. Kearney, alcoholics in seed collection." "Mr. Kearney" was Thomas Henry Kearney (1874-1956), a botanist with the Bureau of Plant Industry at the US Department of Agriculture (USDA). Kearney was in Alaska to work with Frederick Coville from April 1898 - August 1899, and along the Northwest Coast from Puget Sound to the Bering Strait in 1899. He then served as a member of the Harriman Alaska Expedition of 1899.

It is unclear how the two men became acquainted. Fisher had a relationship with the Smithsonian Institution; Coville as a USDA employee worked with Smithsonian, and perhaps he introduced the two. Whatever the reason, Kearney's field notes for his work in Alaska are also available on BHL through the Smithsonian Field Book Project, and they provide a tantalizing overlap in content and geographical coverage.

A field book at the end of a collecting career 


Fisher's field book is also interesting because it document's his collecting focus and interests as they evolved over a lifetime. Fisher’s initial scientific interest was in marine biology. During the 1870’s he was a curator of conchology at the California Academy of Sciences and served as a marine biologist for the U.S. Fish Commission on several cruises in the Pacific headed by William Healey Dall.

In 1879, Fisher accepted a position as tidal recorder in St. Paul, now known as the city of Kodiak, Alaska. After accepting the position, he wrote to Dall, who was affiliated with the Smithsonian Institution, and offered to collect natural history specimens. The offer was accepted, and Fisher was instructed that the museum was also interested in ethnographic artifacts from the region.

The town of St. Paul where Fisher settled was originally established by the Russians as a center for fur trading. By the time Fisher arrived, it was a town of approximately 500 residents, primarily of Russian and Native Alaskan heritage. According to an article in Arctic Anthropology (no. 1, 1992) the community was still significantly mixed regarding the adoption of European culture in terms of religion, language, and beliefs.

Fisher initially focused on collecting natural history specimens, but as he began to correspond with Smithsonian’s Secretary Spencer Baird, his interest and collecting shifted to ethnography. He even began to commission works by Native Alaskans. Fisher’s main source of income was his position as tidal recorder; Smithsonian was frequently unable to finance his work. This lack of funding apparently did not dim Fisher’s enthusiasm, but it did lead to financial hardship. During an extended collecting trip to Bristol Bay in the summer of 1885, his assistant successfully petitioned for Fisher’s job. Fisher’s collecting came to an end by the 1890’s; the ethnobotany field notes document the end of his work with the Smithsonian Institution.

Interested in learning more? We encourage you to learn about the William J. Fisher collection at the National Museum of Natural History, which was highlighted as part of a book Looking Both Ways: Heritage and Identity of the Alutiiq People, in the online exhibit featuring artifacts created by the Alutiiq people and collected by Fisher during his years in Alaska.

Other resources include:

Aron L. Crowell, 1992, Postcontact Koniag Ceremonialism on Kodiak Island and the Alaska Peninsula: Evidence from the Fisher Collection. Arctic Anthropology 29(1):18-37. Retrieved on November 16, 2016 from https://www.jstor.org/stable/40316240?seq=3#page_scan_tab_contents

Highlights of the William J. Fisher collection at the National Museum of Natural History: http://naturalhistory.si.edu/arctic/features/fisher/collect.html

The field books of William Healey Dall, available on Biodiversity Heritage Library: http://www.biodiversitylibrary.org/search?searchTerm=Dall+%22field+notes%22#/titles

Field Book Project blog post by Sonoe Nakasone: http://nmnh.typepad.com/fieldbooks/2012/02/sharing-culture-through-plants.html

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Kirtlandia and the Cleveland Museum of Natural History

Origins of the Cleveland Museum of Natural History


The story of the Cleveland Museum of Natural History (CMNH) begins in the1830s, when a small group of men filled a two-room wooden building in Public Square, downtown Cleveland, with mounted animals. This building was known as the "Ark," and the men who gathered there, united in their passion for natural history, were called "Arkites."

The Arkites were led by William Case, who would later become mayor of Cleveland. He, his brother, and his father had used the Ark as a place to retreat from work, and in the absence of any other museums in the city, it became a hub for all kinds of collection and research.

Case Hall, engraving by William Payne,
courtesy of Special Collections,
Cleveland State University Library

In 1876, the Ark was relocated to Case Hall. It shared the space with other organizations, including the Kirtland Society (formerly the Cleveland Academy of Natural Sciences), named after renowned naturalist and fellow Arkite Jared Potter Kirtland, who died the following year. Case Hall remained the home of the Ark until 1916, when it was demolished to make way for the U.S. Post Office, Court House, and Custom House.

Kirtland's Warbler, namesake of Jared Potter Kirtland,
from C.J. Maynard's The Birds of Eastern North America, 1896,
Plate XXI. Digitized by Smithsonian Libraries.

The collections of both the Ark and the Kirtland Society found a new home in the Cleveland Museum of Natural History, founded in 1920. CMNH relocated several times as its collections grew, settling eventually at Wade Park, where it is today. William Case's bird collection can still be viewed there, as well as many of the specimens provided by the Kirtland Society. Other exhibits include Balto, the hero dog of Nome, Alaska; "Dunk," a large specimen of Dunkleosteus terrelli; and, most famous of all, "Lucy," discovered in 1974 by former CMNH curator Donald Johanson.

The collections and physical space of the museum continue to grow today; this spring, CMNH unveiled the Ralph Perkins II Wildlife Center & Woods Garden, where visitors can view Ohio flora and fauna in their native habitat.

Kirtlandia


In 1972, CMNH began publishing Kirtlandia, a journal of original, peer-reviewed research by Museum staff. Wendy Wasman, Librarian and Archivist of the Harold T. Clark Library at CMNH, notes that Kirtlandia has a "long history of publishing cutting edge research in the natural sciences...Over the years, there have been articles on dinosaurs, fossil sharks, archaeology, botany, herpetology, mussels, moths, and even an entire issue devoted to paleontological research of the Kenya Rift Valley." 

Partial skeleton of "Lucy,"from Johanson, et al.,
"A New Species of the Genus Australopithecus...",
Kirtlandia
, no. 28, 1978. Digitized by Smithsonian Libraries.

Early on, Kirtlandia issues focused on a single topic. In the late 1970s, however, issues began to contain multiple articles, and the length of those articles increased. They also featured more photographs and diagrams, though they retained their simple, sparse design. 

Kirtlandia is supported by the Kirtlandia Society, founded in 1976 to advance research and education at the museum. Wasman says that because the CMNH library (named the Harold Terry Clark Library in 1972) had an active publications exchange program from the beginning, Kirtlandia can now be found in over 200 university and museum libraries worldwide, and that while publication is currently in hiatus, BHL has given it an even wider reach. 

Kirtlandia was digitized by the Smithsonian Libraries as a part of the IMLS-funded Expanding Access to Biodiversity Literature (EABL) project. Susan Lynch, an EABL team member at the New York Botanical Garden, worked with Rod Page and BioStor, using metadata provided by Wendy Wasman, to define all of the articles in Kirtlandia. This allows users to search for and navigate to individual articles in the journal without having to scroll through an entire volume or set of volumes. 

In search results, Kirtlandia articles can be found under the Articles/Chapters/Treatments tab:


When browsing from the title page, articles can be found by clicking View Identified Parts:


Thank you to the Cleveland Museum of Natural History and the Harold T. Clark Library for giving us permission to make Kirtlandia available in BHL!

Patrick Randall
Community Manager
Expanding Access to Biodiversity Literature


Reference

"ARK." The Encyclopedia of Cleveland History. Last modified July 10, 1997. Accessed November 16, 2016. http://ech.case.edu/cgi/article.pl?id=A16.

"Case Hall." The Encyclopedia of Cleveland History. Last modified November 9, 2005. Accessed November 16, 2016. http://ech.case.edu/cgi/article.pl?id=CH.

"History." Cleveland Museum of Natural History. Accessed November 16, 2016. https://www.cmnh.org/about-the-museum/history.

"Kirtlandia Society." Cleveland Museum of Natural History. Accessed November 16, 2016. 

Splain, Emily. "Cleveland Museum of Natural History." Cleveland Historical. Accessed November 16, 2016. https://clevelandhistorical.org/items/show/41.


Thursday, November 10, 2016

Cetaceans and Cephalopods: Supporting the Work of Collections Managers One Specimen at a Time

Have you ever been to a museum and wondered about the history of the specimens on display?

If you have, then you'd probably be interested in talking to the museum's collections managers, as their jobs include not only caring for and improving accessibility to the collections, but also serving as a living knowledge repository for information about the history of the collections.

William Flower's drawing of the bottlenose dolphin (lower). The skeleton from this individual is on display in the Oxford University Museum of Natural History. Flower, W. H. (1880), I. On the External Characters of two Species of British Dolphins (Delphinus delphis, Linn., and Delphinus tursio, Fabr.). The Transactions of the Zoological Society of London, 11: no 1. Digitized by the Natural History Museum, London. http://www.biodiversitylibrary.org/page/28725656.

Take the Oxford University Museum of Natural History, for example. Amongst the many treasures on display in that museum are five whale skeletons suspended from the roof. Where did those specimens come from? Mark Carnall, Collections Manager for the Life Collections at the museum, knows that these specimens are linked to some very prestigious individuals in the world of ‘whaleologists’, including Daniel Frederick Eschricht and William Henry Flower. Curious? Learn more in Mark's blog post for More than a Dodo.

Mark Carnall. Image by John Cardwell courtesy Oxford University Museum of Natural History.

As a collections manager for the Oxford University Museum of Natural History, and during his tenure at other major UK museums, Mark has spent a great deal of time researching the history of the specimens in his care. BHL plays an important role in this research.

"Having worked at some of the older UK natural history museums, including the Grant Museum of Zoology at University College London, the Natural History Museum London and currently the Oxford University Museum of Natural History, I’ve been very fortunate in that some of the early references to the specimens that I curate are ‘THE’ original works when it comes to unravelling the physiology, taxonomy and ecology of major groups of animals, and it is rare that these aren’t already on BHL," says Mark.

British Sea-Anemones, showing many of the species in the Oxford University Museum of Natural History series. Gosse, Philip Henry. Actinologia britannica (1860). Digitized by Smithsonian Libraries. http://biodiversitylibrary.org/page/12042290.

Mark first discovered BHL when looking for references and citations for specimens during his time at University College London. Today, he uses BHL about once a week as part of his research to answer inquiries about the museum's collections. This research can be very time-intensive, and thus having online access to relevant publications is very important.

"As a collections manager, my role is dictated by priorities in improving accessibility to the collections, so often there isn’t much time for going in to depth with the history of specimens," explains Mark. "Some specimens could be researched for weeks or months; however, with easy access to biodiversity heritage publications through BHL, it means that I can do some of this research on the fly rather than earmark it to return to later."

In addition to discovering publications as part of his research process, Mark also discovers additional content of personal interest through BHL's social media activities.

"One of my favourite features of BHL is the 'curated content' such as the blog posts that BHL users and staff write about discoveries or fascinatingly esoteric publications," says Mark. "I am also a huge fan of the Flickr sets. As a collections manager, I’m always thinking about how people can access our specimens and content. A dry item by item database is fine for people who know what they are specifically looking for, but it doesn’t facilitate browsing such a vast amount of content or expose people to new knowledge or information. I’ve spent more than a few evenings starting by browsing a Flickr album I’ve been directed to by a BHL blog and ending up reading papers completely unrelated because making those fluid connections is so easy. The BHL social media team is also fantastic at raising awareness about the latest content on BHL. Additionally, I really appreciate that it’s clear how to reuse and credit resources, be it from reusing an image on Twitter to a bibliographic reference."

When it comes to favorite content, Mark has a soft spot for the cephalopod material.

"I’m a huge cephalopod nerd," admits Mark. "For such an interesting group there’s actually a paucity of published material. Browsing through BHL images, however, I’ve gone from sea monsters to beautifully illustrated plates (see for yourself), which I would have otherwise not stumbled upon or overlooked in the hunt for a taxon description."

The rather sad-looking but earliest bona fide remains of a giant squid. Verrill, A.E. The cephalopods of the north-eastern coast of America. (1879-1881). Digitized by MBLWHOI Library. http://www.biodiversitylibrary.org/page/11826545.

Currently, his favorite item on BHL is the poem Spirula spirula by C. W. Johnson in the Nautilus (1926). According to Mark, "It’s a quirky (but accurate at the time) poem about the ram’s horn squid and formally captures a geekery and whimsy that you just don’t see as much in modern formal science publishing."

While the historic collections and curated content on BHL are extremely valuable to Mark, he would love to see the amount of content from the mid-twentieth century expanded. This content, especially that from the 1930s-1970s, can be extremely difficult to access but can contain very valuable information for research.

You can help us obtain permission to include this content in BHL! If you or an organization you work with owns the copyright to a biodiversity-related publication, you can help us broker permission to digitize the work. Learn more on our website.

So, the next time you're at a museum, take a moment to think about the history of the specimens on display and the people who work so hard to care for and preserve knowledge about those pieces. And just maybe, indulge your curiosity by searching for some related publications or browsing related images in BHL. You never know what kind of history you might dig up.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

BHL Recognized for Award at the DLF Forum

BHL Program Director Martin R. Kalfatovic accepts the Community/Capacity Award on behalf of the BHL consortium at the 2016 DLF Forum in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

During an award ceremony at the Digital Library Federation (DLF) Forum in Milwaukee, Wisconsin on November 7, the Biodiversity Heritage Library was recognized as a co-recipient of the inaugural DLF Community/Capacity award, along with the American Archive of Public Broadcasting.

The Community/Capacity Award honors cross-institutional collaboration and constructive, community-minded capacity building in digital libraries, archives, and museums. During the month of June, DLF member organizations voted on an impressive list of 16 nominees to determine the award winner. In a tie-vote, the DLF community selected BHL and AAPB as the first-ever winners of the Community/Capacity Award.
The Biodiversity Heritage Library collaborates to build and maximize capacity across its international consortium of over 30 institutions in order to provide free and open online access to library collections from around the world. This highly collaborative approach serves BHL’s users with a constantly growing collection of open access biodiversity literature, including materials often physically available in limited locations throughout the world.

The DLF Community/Capacity Award celebrates BHL’s commitment to collaboration, openness, and community spirit, which has transformed the way researchers around the world access biodiversity information. As former Smithsonian Secretary G. Wayne Clough stated in Best of Both Worlds, BHL is "an impressive example of what can be accomplished by digitization of library resources through a collaborative approach."

Joining BHL Program Director Martin R. Kalfatovic on stage to accept the award from DLF Director Bethany Nowviskie were BHL Member representative Kelli Trei (University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign), and Jacqueline Chapman and Joel Richard from Smithsonian Libraries. Additional representatives from BHL included Anne Kenney (University Librarian, Cornell University Library), Keri Thompson (Smithsonian Libraries), and Karl Blumenthal (Internet Archive).
We are honored to have received this award along with the American Archive of Public Broadcasting. We would like to thank the DLF community for selecting BHL as a co-recipient of the award and to especially recognize the contributions of each and every one of our consortium partners whose dedication, support, and unwavering commitment make BHL a reality.

The 2016 DLF Forum also included a presentation by Trei, "The Impact of the Biodiversity Heritage Library on Scientific Research." The presentation details a study evaluating the scientific impact of the digital Biodiversity Heritage Library (BHL) through topic modeling and analysis of a series of interviews with scientific researchers featured in a BHL blog.

Kelli Trei, BHL Member representative, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, presenting at the 2016 DLF Forum on "The Impact of the Biodiversity Heritage Library on Scientific Research."

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

BHL Program Director attends the Global Biodiversity Information Facility, 23rd Governing Board Meeting

Celso Pansera (left) and Peter Schalk (right)
The Biodiversity Heritage Library participated in the Global Biodiversity Information Facility's 23rd Governing Board meeting, 25-26 October 2016 in Brasilia, Brazil. I attended the meetings as the Head of Delegation for the BHL, substituting for Constance Rinaldo (Museum of Comparative Zoology/Harvard University). The two days of meetings brought together both the voting members (at the national level) and associate members (including the BHL).

The meeting proved a fertile ground to meet with BHL users to discover new ways that the BHL can partner in the global biodiversity community. The BHL is fortunate to work with GBIF Chair Peter Schalk and Executive Secretary Donald Hobern on collaborative projects.

Governing Board Chair Peter Schalk (Netherlands) officially opened the meeting and gave the official report for the year. Schalk specifically noted:
GBIF continues to grow both in numbers (data, users, publication) as in importance (relevance, connections). The field of biodiversity informatics has come of age. The many different national, regional and globally funded initiatives are slowly becoming part of a powerful ‘research machine’, organizing into a coherent network of collaborative efforts on a global scale.
Bruno Umbelino
Schalk also reported on the various interim meetings held by the Secretariat (in person and virtually). He also noted that GBIF continues to grow through partnerships with other international biodiversity organizations and noted work done by the Secretariat to becoming:
aligned with the Catalogue of Life (COL), Encyclopedia of Life (EOL), Biodiversity Heritage Library (BHL), and the Barcode of Life (BOL), resulting in a better and more complete service to the users. I applaud the proactive role of the Executive Secretary in this.
Schalk completed his report by noting:
It is my strong believe that GBIF is on the right way in terms of developing its own role and place in science and society, as well as in taking a lead to strengthen the field of biodiversity informatics by forging collaborations and bringing synergy in the agendas of the numerous initiatives that have come into existence in the past decade.
Report from the Science Committee (Rod Page)
Page reported on the past year's activities from the Science Committee. Main activities include:
  • Ebbe Nielsen Challenge, theme this year was "Mind the Gaps"; winners will be announced at the Science Symposium on 26 October
  • Young Researcher Awards (Juan Manuel Escamilla Molgora, Mexico, based in the UK; and Bruno Umbelino, Brazil) 
  • Working with the Programme Officers and Informatics team

Looking forward, the Committee would like to continue the Nielsen Challenge, perhaps with some refactoring. It's very important to continue to engage with young researchers. How best to engage with these researchers needs to be looked at in new ways. The Committee is also looking at new communications tools and methods.

Page also outlined the overall recommendations of the Committee:
  • Review the effectiveness of the Ebbe Nielsen Challenge.
  • Review the effectiveness of Young Researchers Awards in engaging young researchers.
  • Develop plans to increase the taxonomic coverage of names in GBIF. 
  • Develop plans to de-bureaucratize the publication process and enable individual researchers to more easily add data to GBIF
  • Develop plans to add missing data, with emphasis on data or data-types that fills gaps or is timely (e.g., related to a disease outbreak or other events).  

Executive Secretary Report
Donald Hobern, GBIF Executive Secretary, provided a report on main activities. There was also a review of the Work Programme 2014-2016 which included three streams and 16 areas; the streams were:
  • Stream 1: Advance the Informatics – Persistence and validation 
  • Stream 2: Advance the Engagement – Communication and implementation 
  • Stream 3: Advance the Content – Relevance and fitness-for-use 
Hobern also provided an overview of the development of GBIF plans for 2017-2021. These include the GBIF Strategic Plan 2017-2021, GBIF Implementation Plan 2017-2021, and the GBIF Annual Work Programme 2017.  Also discussed was the Biodiversity Information for Development (BID) project. BID is a five year, €3.9M programme, funded by the European Union. Hobern noted:

In its first year of operation, 23 projects from 20 African countries, selected from 143 concept notes originally submitted, began implementation under the initial BID project call. Involvement of GBIF Participants both within Africa and beyond, especially through contribution of trainers and mentors to support the selected projects, has been invaluable in enabling effective data mobilization and capacity outcomes from the BID investment.

In preparation for a discussion of the future of GBIF, Hobern outlined the various key assumptions that went into the planning for the 2017 budget. Using the financial background, Hobern touched on the key priorities of the Implementation Plan 2017-2021. These include:
  • Priority 1: Empower the Global Network
  • Priority 2: Enhance Biodiversity Informatics Infrastructure
  • Priority 3: Fill Data Gaps
  • Priority 4: Improve Data Quality
  • Priority 5: Deliver relevant data
Excursion
An all day excursion was offered on 28 October 2016 to Chapada Imperial in the Cerrado biome area. During the 4 km/3.5 hour hike, it was possible to see seven vegetation zones of the cerrado (phytophysiognomy): vereda, gallery forest, campo úmido, campo sujo, campo limpo, cerrado senso stricto, and campo rupestre. The trail included 30 waterfalls and 11 arborism trails and a vertical elevation change of 150 meters.

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GBIF Public Symposium 

A public symposium held in conjunction with the GBIF23 Governing Board Meeting
Brasilia, Brazil | 26 October 2016

The first half of the symposium reported on progress GBIF has made on a variety of topics, including licensing, supplementary funding programmes, and engagement with other intergovernmental bodies. The second half introduced future directions either underway or under discussion. These include the new strategic plan and 2017 implementation plan (including participant pledges), the next version of GBIF.org, the "socialification" of GBIF.org, data rescue and data liberation.

During the report from the Nodes Committee Chair (Anne-Sophie Archambeau on behalf of Hanna Koivula), Archambeau reported on the different programs and plans from the Committee. She also thanked Hanna Koivula for her work and noted there will be an election of a new chair.

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Glaucius Oliva (left); Peter Schalk (right)

Engaging GBIF in BrasilSiBBr - Sistema de Informação sobre a Biodiversidade Brasileira Symposium
27 October 2016 | Conselho Nacional de Desenvolvimento Científico e Tecnológico

GBIF participants were invited to attend the SiBBR Symposium at CNPq (Conselho Nacional de Desenvolvimento Científico e Tecnológico | National Council for Scientific and Technological Development). The president of CNPq (Glaucius Oliva) welcomed the group as did a representative of the Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation. Peter Schalk (GBIF Chair) gave a brief introduction and thanks to SiBBR and the Ministry for their support of the GBIF 23 meeting.

Donald Hobern gave the keynote talk (“GBIF - Empowering a Global Network”) with an overview of GBIF activities and services. This was followed by a session by Andrea Portela (Director General of SiBBR) and Rafael Fonseca (SiBBR Participation Coordinator) speaking on “SiBBR: Engaging Stakeholders Communities” and a third panel that discussed the activities of the “SiBBR: Brazil Node of GBIF.”

Amazonas, Brazil