BHL and Our Users: Dr. Petra Sierwald

View Full Size Image

This week we feature a researcher from one of our partner institutions, the Field Museum in Chicago. So without further ado, meet Dr. Petra Sierwald, a woman with a passion for spreading biodiversity knowledge to ensure equal participation among researchers in all parts of the globe and educating the younger generation on the importance of biodiversity conservation.

Q: What is your title, institutional affiliation, and area of interest?
A: Associate Curator, Arachnida & Myriapoda, Zoology, at the Field Museum of Natural History, Chicago. Interests and Research include biodiversity and evolutionary research in spiders and millipedes. Currently, my special interests are: building scientific infrastructure. In my case (a) a global millipede species database with complete literature citations; and (b) teaching the next generation the importance of biodiversity for the health of our planet.

Q: How long have you been in your field of study?
A: Over thirty years.

Q: When did you first discover BHL?
A: At the beginning of BHL (2007) – the Field Museum library and Field Museum’s Biodiversity Synthesis Center are both closely involved with BHL.

Q: What is your opinion of BHL and how has it impacted your research?
A: Libraries are the stewards of the knowledge on which all human civilization is based. BHL is the modern virtual library we desperately need right now and must expand: by capturing the literature digitally, the original paper books can be preserved to last through the coming centuries (in case something should happen to digital storage). Making the biodiversity data, which were initially accumulated within the Western European tradition, available to the rest of the world is our duty and responsibility, as it will allow equal participation of everbody in biodiversity research and thus invite new young talented people from every corner of the world. Finally, the participation of a diverse group of new researchers will benefit all of us, as more students study the biodiversity of their region and protect habitats important for the environmental health of the planet.

Q: How often do you use BHL?
A: Currently almost daily, together with other digital online libraries. All my students (in courses and at the Museum) have to work on species pages and search for literature. BHL is one of the first sources they search in. I always check whether they properly searched in BHL.

Q: How do you usually use BHL (read the titles online/download whole PDFs/Select Pages to Download/Download High Resolution Images/etc.)
A: At the current pace I am using BHL, I read online. Since BHL is always available, I do not need to download, print or store articles and volumes electronically. I save that step. I use BHL the same way I use Field Museum’s excellent library. I find the book or volume, check what needs to be checked and put the volume back (or close the window in BHL). I know BHL rather well; I always find what I need. This saves me the work of organizing a separate library on my computer.

Q: What are your favorite features/services on BHL?
A: That I can read entire articles, cross check bibliographic information (title, publication dates), and that I can search in many articles for key words. The scanning quality is very good.

Q: If you could change one thing about BHL, what would it be, or what developmental aspect would you like the BHL team to focus on next?
A: Filling gaps in journal runs and the author list must be cleaned up. For example, Snodgrass is in BHL twice, as Snodgrass R.E. and as Snodgrass, Robert Evans. Both author entries (referring to the same person) are linked to different publications. Since I am using BHL heavily as a bibliographic reference tool, I would greatly appreciate to have clean author lists. BHL needs support and the scientific community must help in this endeavor.

Q: If you had to choose one title/item in BHL that has most impacted your research, or one item that you prefer above any other in BHL, what would it be and why?
A: My co-authors and I were able to determine that the species Euzonus zonatus does not exist, but that the name is based on a misinterpretation by Giebel. The original publication: Giebel, C.G. (1856) Die Insecten und Spinnen der Vorwelt mit Berücksichtigung der Lebenden, monograph. dargestellt. 2. Bd. Gliederthiere. 1. Abth. Insecten und Spinnen, is available in BHL.

Resulting Publication: Brewer, M.S., Sierwald, P. and Bond, J.E., 2011. A Generichomonym Concerning Chordeumatid Millipedes (Arthopoda: Diplopoda) and Opheliid Worms (Annelida: Polychaeta). Zootaxa 2744: 65-68.

Thank you all at BHL.

And thank, you Dr. Sierwald, for taking the time to share your thoughts and experiences with us. We have, per your notification, merged the duplicate author entires for Snodgrass in BHL. De-duplicating author lists is definitely of concern for BHL (and indeed for any collaborative digital library project where multiple contributors submit data in various formats), but we need the support of our users, as Dr. Sierwald points out. If you notice multiple entries for the same author in BHL, send us a message via our feedback form and we’ll take care of it. As we continue to explore options for author de-duplication en mass, we highly appreciate the eyes of our users to take care of this issue one author at a time.

For more information on Dr. Sierwald, visit the Insects page on the Field Museum’s website.

Photo Credit:© The Field Museum, Z94083_1c, Photographer John Weinstein.

Avatar for Grace Costantino
Written by

Grace Costantino served as the Outreach and Communication Manager for the Biodiversity Heritage Library from 2014 to 2021. In this capacity, she developed and managed BHL's communication strategy, oversaw social media initiatives, and engaged with the public to excite audiences about the wealth of biodiversity heritage available in BHL. Prior to her role as Outreach and Communication Manager, Grace served as the Digital Collections Librarian for Smithsonian Libraries and as the Program Manager for BHL.