Thursday, January 19, 2017

The New York Zoological Society

This is part of a series of monthly posts related to the IMLS-funded Expanding Access to Biodiversity Literature (EABL) grant. The project, which solicits new content through 2017, is aimed at enhancing BHL's collection by digitizing valuable and unique material from natural-history related organizations in the U.S. that are outside the BHL consortium. Learn more, and find past blogs, at the EABL wiki.

Boston Rd. entrance, Bronx Zoo, 1911
(courtesy New York Public Library)

The New York Zoological Society (NYZS) was chartered in 1895. Its founders were Andrew H. Green, planner of some of New York City's most important cultural institutions; Henry Fairfield Osborn, professor and curator at the American Museum of Natural History; and Madison Grant, a lawyer and conservationist. The latter two were members of the Boone and Crockett Club, a group of hunters and conservationists founded by fellow New York naturalist Theodore Roosevelt. From the start, this influential coalition dedicated itself to the three "objects of the society," outlined in the first Annual Report of 1897:

  1. The establishment of a free zoological park containing collections of North American and exotic animals, for the benefit and enjoyment of the general public, the zoologist, the sportsman and every lover of nature.
  2. The systematic encouragement of interest in animal life, or zoology, amongst all classes of the people, and the promotion of zoological science in general. 
  3. Co-operation with other organizations in the preservation of the native animals of North America, and encouragement of the growing sentiment against their wanton destruction.
The first goal was realized in 1899 with the opening of the Bronx Zoo, originally called the New York Zoological Park. William Hornaday, the founder of the National Zoo, selected the site, chose curators and staff, and became its first director.

William T. Hornaday
(courtesy New York Public Library)

In 1902, New York City gave the NYZS control of the New York Aquarium, located at the time in Battery Park, Manhattan (and since 1957 in Coney Island, Brooklyn). By 1993, when the NYZS changed its name to the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), the city had handed over the reins of three other wildlife parks: the Central Park Zoo, the Queens Zoo, and the Prospect Park Zoo

Just as it had wasted no time in opening a "free zoological park," the NYZS set about accomplishing its second and third goals in short order. On the conservation front, Hornaday was particularly concerned about the state of America's large mammals, decimated by unchecked hunting. He acquired seven American buffalo (bison) for the Bronx Zoo in 1899; these were used several years later to help reestablish western U.S. populations teetering on the brink of extinction.

"Winter on the Buffalo Range," from
Fourth Annual Report of the New York Zoological Society, 1900, p.50

Also in 1899, Hornaday hired William C. Beebe as curator of ornithology. Beebe traveled the world doing field research for the Zoo, but his interest was not confined to birds; in 1922 he founded a Department of Tropical Research, and in 1934—on behalf of that department—he descended in a bathysphere to observe the deep sea in the waters off Bermuda. Later on, he turned his attention to insects and reptiles. Much of his research is presented in Zoologica, the scientific journal that NYZS published from 1907 to 1973.

Black sawtoothed eel, Serrivomer brevidentatus,
from Zoologica v.20, no.3, 1936, p.94

In 1940, Henry Fairfield Osborn Jr, son of the NYZS founding member of the same name, was appointed director. Over the next 22 years, he worked to expand the conservation work of the NYZS, establishing programs in Africa and Southeast Asia. William Conway, who took over as director of the zoo in 1962 and president of the NYZS in 1992, used the zoo to breed endangered species. Today, as the Wildlife Conservation Society, the organization is at work in hundreds of conservation programs around the world and continues to attract visitors to its wildlife parks in New York City.

BHL and the EABL team are grateful to the WCS for granting permission to digitize the complete run of Zoologica, a journal of tremendous scientific importance. Zoologica has been digitized by Smithsonian Libraries and the Ernst Mayr Library of the Museum of Comparative Zoology at Harvard University. It is now indexed by article and, together with the other NYZS publications in BHL, chronicles the history and research of one of the world's most important conservation organizations.

Patrick Randall
Community Manager
Expanding Access to Biodiversity Literature


"History." WCS Library & Archives. Accessed January 18, 2017.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Be Like a BHL Librarian and Edit Wikipedia for #1Lib1Ref

By Siobhan Leachman
BHL Citizen Scientist (Learn more)
Twitter: @SiobhanLeachman

You too can be like a librarian … a Biodiversity Heritage Library librarian! The Biodiversity Heritage Library wants people to use its resources, and Wikipedia is encouraging librarian-minded folk to add citations to articles via their #1Lib1Ref campaign (15 January - 3 February 2017). Talk about a perfect match. You can help by adding citations from BHL to Wikipedia.

Don’t worry if you haven’t edited Wikipedia before. What follows is an easy “How to” guide to adding a citation from works held in BHL to a Wikipedia article.

Create a Wikipedia Account 

Your first step is to create a Wikipedia account. Although you can edit Wikipedia without an account, if you create one, you can use Wikipedia’s fabulously easy “Visual Editor” tool. This comes with a feature which allows for ease of citation of references. Click here to see how to create an account and how to enable the Visual Editor tool.

Find an Article 

Your second step is to find an article that needs to be improved with added citations. One way is to use the Wikimedia Citation Hunt tool. When using this tool, I narrow my search to articles which need the Biodiversity Heritage Library resources. I do this by filling in the “What makes you tick” box with a search term. In the example below, I’ve added “Beetles” to find beetle articles that need citations, but there are many other terms you could use. For example, try “mosses”, “Fish of Canada”, “lizards” or any subject you are interested in.

In the above case, to find the needed citation I would put “Myxophaga” (a suborder of Coleoptera or beetles) in the search box on the BHL website and see if I could find any article, journal or book in BHL supporting the statement in the Wikipedia article to which I want to add a citation.

You can also work from the other end and find an article in BHL that you can then cite in Wikipedia. So for example I found this article which first describes the Pericoptus frontalis beetle. This is an article that can and should be cited in the Pericoptus frontalis beetle Wikipedia page.

Citing Reference in Wikipedia 

So you’ve logged in to Wikipedia, enabled the Visual Editor tool, and found the article in BHL you want to cite. Now go to the page you want to edit and click on the “Edit” tab so that the Visual Editor edit bar appears.

Place your cursor in the Wikipedia article where you wish to add the citation and then press “cite” on the edit bar.

The “add a citation” box should then appear.

You then have a choice of either using the “Automatic”, “Manual” or “Reuse” citation method. If you have the URL, DOI or PMID of the article, you can use the “Automatic” citation tool to generate a citation. Alternatively, use the “Manual” citation, which will give you different options to choose from depending on where you obtained your citation. The image above shows you the manual citation options.

In this case, I’m citing an article in a journal rather than a book or a newspaper article, so I would choose the “Journal” option. Clicking on “Journal” brings up a template. Fill in all the information you can in the appropriate boxes and then press “Insert” on the top right of the box.

Pressing “insert” brings up a “Save your changes” box asking you to briefly describe the changes you’ve made to the article. Make sure you add the hashtag #1Lib1Ref to your edit summary as this will add your edit to the campaign total.

You then press the “Save changes” button and with that you have added a citation to Wikipedia!

For further Information on the Wikipedia #1Lib1Ref campaign, click here.

Follow #ILib1Ref on social media, 15 January - 3 February 2017 to learn more about the campaign and see how adding citations to Wikipedia can improve the resource for everyone!

If you have questions or get stuck, see this page to learn more about the various outlets you can use to find help and information. You can also tweet BHL at @BioDivLibrary or Siobhan at @SiobhanLeachman

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Catesby in the Classroom: Students Explore the Intersection of Art and Science

In the early eighteenth century, English naturalist Mark Catesby set foot in a New World. After spending the better part of ten years, spread across two separate trips, exploring and documenting North America's rich biodiversity, he would eventually publish his research and original artworks as the first fully illustrated book on the flora and fauna of North America.

Catesby, Mark. The Natural History of Carolina, Florida, and the Bahama Islands. v. 1, ed. 1. pl. 19. Digitized by Smithsonian Libraries.

Published over eighteen years between 1729-1747, The Natural History of Carolina, Florida, and the Bahama Islands contains 220 plates based mostly upon Catesby's own watercolors, which he worked up based on sketches he made in the field.

The success of Catesby's work was based largely on his emphasis on personal observation and use of art to convey a visual record of his research.

Over 250 years later, students in South Carolina are following Catesby's example.

As part of a collaboration with the Catesby Commemorative Trust, Dr. Tracey Hunter-Doniger used illustrations from The Natural History of Carolina, Florida, and the Bahama Islands as the foundation for lesson plans designed to help students learn more about the importance of observation and the relationship between art and science.

"Before photography, scientists used drawings to record what they saw. Scientists also had to be artists. These lessons are an opportunity for students to see how art and science are connected while also understanding the importance of Catesby's work and his role in natural history," emphasizes Tracey.

Dr. Tracey Hunter-Doniger. Image Credit: College of Charleston website

A fifteen year K-8 visual art education veteran, Tracey has spent the last five years at the College of Charleston as an Assistant Professor of Creativity and Creative Arts in Education. In the fall of 2016, Tracey teamed up with her friend Erin Russell, the art teacher at Memminger Elementary School in Charleston, SC, to implement a trial run of her lesson plans in the 1st, 3rd, and 5th grade art classes at Memminger.

All three classes were challenged to use their powers of observation to record what they saw, just as Catesby had done centuries before. Students were given copies of Catesby's illustrations, which Tracey downloaded and printed from the Biodiversity Heritage Library. The first edition copy of Catesby's masterpiece in BHL, digitized from the Joseph F. Cullman Rare Book Library at Smithsonian Libraries, is one of the few known perfect copies of this edition in existence.

"Having access to this resource through BHL is a treasure," praises Tracey. "Being able to show the students the prints of the original artworks and use them to explain that these represent what Catesby saw and what he wanted to convey speaks volumes to the students."

The first grade students were instructed to use the illustrations as a reference to draw their own copy of the specimens. The third and fifth graders were asked to flex their observational skills even further by not only copying the illustration as they saw it, but also homing in on a specific section of the image and creating a more detailed depiction of that area, as though they were looking at it through the lens of a microscope.

Example of the 3rd and 5th grade Catesby lesson, whereby students "zoom" in on details in the specimen being observed. Example by Dr. Tracey Hunter-Doniger.

While the trial runs of each class were limited to one, 45-minute session, Tracey believes that the lessons helped the students understand how art can be a scientific tool. For future iterations, she hopes to run the classes as three-week lessons where students start by observing and copying Catesby's art in the classroom and then extend their learning to the outdoors by taking nature walks and drawing in the field, as Catesby did. She would also love the students to have the opportunity to explore Catesby's publication in full through the BHL website.

"Access is key," stresses Tracey. "In an ideal scenario, we would go into the website, we would do research, and then we would practice the skills we learn by going into the field. We would 'do' as Catesby did. We would 'be' Catesby in the field."

The lessons that Tracey created are just two of several that are being developed as part of a collaboration with the Catesby Commemorative Trust and the College of Charleston. For example, a science lesson, written by William Veal, Cyndi Hall, and Rodney Moore, uses Catesby's art to help students assess how adaptations contribute to a species' ability to survive in a given environment. Lesson activities include drawing a bird inspired by a Catesby illustration, noting characteristics (such as beak shape), and performing experiments to see how various adaptations might help that species survive.

The lessons plans resulting from this collaboration are being made available to teachers in South Carolina through the LearningWhy site created by South Carolina ETV. The plans are also available to teachers across the country through PBS LearningMedia.

Catesby, Mark. The Natural History of Carolina, Florida, and the Bahama Islands. v. 2, ed. 1, pl. 17. Digitized by Smithsonian Libraries.

From Tracey's perspective, the use of Catesby's material in these lesson plans is a powerful way to integrate primary source material that is not only historically significant but also highly relevant to the area where she and her students live.

"Living in an area that's so rich in history, it's very impactful to be able to show the students how Catesby's story fits into that history," says Tracey. "The art is the visual side of that narrative. It helps explain who Catesby was, what he did, and why he was important. If you're telling the Catesby story, the art is a critical part of that story."

Thanks to the Biodiversity Heritage Library and Smithsonian Libraries, students in South Carolina and others around the world can freely and easily access Catesby's work and countless other natural history treasures, no matter where their classroom journeys take them.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

BHL Welcomes the Arboretum Library at the LA County Arboretum and Botanic Garden

This quarter, the Biodiversity Heritage Library was pleased to welcome The Arboretum Library at the Los Angeles County Arboretum and Botanic Garden as its newest Affiliate. The BHL consortium, which has grown substantially over the past year, now consists of 17 Members and 16 Affiliates.

The Arboretum Library holds an extensive collection of books, magazines, government documents, pamphlets, and audio-visual materials covering a wide range of topics, including gardening and garden design, plant lore, medical botany, botanical art, ethnobotany, California native plant life, and Mediterranean-climate botany.

Twenty-four magazine titles published by the Los Angeles County Arboretum and Botanic Garden are already available through BHL as a result of The Arboretum Library Good Family Foundation Digitization Project, a collaboration between the Arboretum, BHL, and the Missouri Botanical Garden. The publications, dating back to the 1950s, include information about the institution's history, Los Angeles area horticulture, and research conducted by Arboretum staff. The articles have been indexed for author, title, date, and subjects (including people and plant names), all of which are searchable.

The articles in the Arboretum publications have both a scientific and popular appeal. For example, among the many interesting topics covered is the history of coffee, which Leonid Enari explores in the June 1976 issue of Lasca Leaves.

According to the article, coffee was used as food at least by 800 AD, but the "habit of coffee drinking seems to have started in Arabia in the 15th century" (Enari 1976). The first beverages created from the berries of the coffee plant were likely alcoholic, made from the pulp of the berries. It is unknown when the practice of roasting the seeds (beans) and using them to prepare today's familiar coffee beverage was discovered, but its consumption in Europe was popularized through coffeehouses that were often regarded, particularly in England, by the church and state as "centers of political agitation."

Leaves and berries of Coffea arabica. Enari, Leonid. "Coffee." Lasca Leaves. v. 26 (1976). Digitized by the Missouri Botanical Garden. CC-BY-NC-SA.

The Arabian coffee tree (Coffea arabica) is used for the majority of the world's commercial coffee production. The all-important coffee beans are the seeds of the coffee plant (found inside the plant's fruit) which have been dried and roasted. After being roasted and ground, coffee will lose most of its aroma and flavor within 10 days. You can learn more about the history of coffee and its commercial production in the Lasca Leaves article.

The existing and future contributions from the Arboretum Library will provide valuable access to information about the history of botany and horticulture, botany in Southern California, and the Arboretum's impact on these research areas. We look forward to working with our newest Affiliate to enhance BHL's collections and expand our service to the global botanical, horticultural, and wider research communities. 

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Introducing the BHL Field Notes Project

By: Adriana Marroquin 
Project Manager, BHL Field Notes Project

In 2015, the Council on Library and Information Resources awarded the Biodiversity Heritage Library a grant to fund the BHL Field Notes Project. Part of CLIR’s Digitizing Hidden Special Collections and Archives initiative, this project is a collaborative undertaking which will provide open access to field notes from several different institutions. By project end, BHL users will have access to over 450,000 pages of natural history field research material. This rich source of field notes includes diaries, journals, correspondence, and photographs.

[Logbook of the yacht “France”]. v. 1 (1922-1926). Digitized by the American Museum of Natural History.
The importance of field notes is well known to researchers. To natural scientists, field notes offer records of the flora and fauna of a location at a certain point in time. These records serve as reference points when observing how a certain habitat has changed over time. They can also offer information on expeditions, or the source of museum collection items. Field notes also present narratives that give insight into the scientists as people and their relationship with the locations and cultures they studied, making them an important resource for science historians. 
George Engelmann : botanical notebook 5 : Mammilaria, Leuchtenbergia, Discocactus, and Melocactus. Box 3: Folder 13: Cactaceae: Mammillaria: 1857-1883 (1856).
The BHL has already started adding field notes to its collection, and the Field Notes Project hopes to add great value to the field notes already available. This project brings together the efforts of eleven institutions:

  • American Museum of Natural History 
  • Field Museum of Natural History Library 
  • Harvard University Botany Libraries 
  • Harvard University, Museum of Comparative Zoology, Ernst Mayr Library 
  • Internet Archive 
  • LuEsther T. Mertz Library, The New York Botanical Garden 
  • Missouri Botanical Garden, Peter H. Raven Library & Center for Biodiversity Informatics 
  • Museum of Vertebrate Zoology, University of California, Berkeley 
  • Smithsonian Institution Archives 
  • Smithsonian Libraries 
  • Yale Peabody Museum Archives 

We are excited to be part of the effort to add more archival material to the BHL. Stay tuned for upcoming features which will highlight contributions from—and go behind-the-scenes at—some of our partners. In the meantime, explore some of the great field notes already digitized in the BHL Field Notes Project collection.