BHL and Our Users: Dr. Jose Nunez-Mino

For the past couple weeks you’ve seen a lot from us on the blog, Twitter and Facebook about Charles Darwin with our recent release of the Charles Darwin Library on BHL. This week, we feature a user dedicated to saving the remaining two endemic non-flying mammal species of Hispaniola, and his project, “The Last Survivors,” is funded by the Darwin Initiative Fund. The beauty of this story from a socially-networked perspective? This user actually discovered BHL via Twitter! Social Media is a beautiful thing! So, without further ado, meet Dr. Jose Nunez-Mino!

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Q: What is your title, institutional affiliation, and area of interest?

A: Dr. Jose Nunez-Mino. I work for the Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust (DWCT). I am the field project manager for “The Last Survivors” which is financed by the United Kingdom government Darwin Initiative Fund. The project is a collaboration between organizations in the United Kingdom (DWCT and the Zoological Society of London) and the Dominican Republic (Hispaniolan Ornithological Society and the Dominican Republic National Zoo).

I am a forest ecologist and conservation biologist. My work involves carrying out research and trying to conserve the last two endemic non-flying mammal species of Hispaniola (Haiti and the Dominican Republic) which are the Hispaniolan solenodon (Solenodon paradoxus) and Hispaniolan Hutia (Plagiodontia aedium). Both species are currently listed as endangered by the International Union of Conservation of Nature (IUCN). We take a very holistic approach which includes investigations on current and past distributions of both species, behavioral studies, genetic studies, capacity building (training) of in-country biologists and raising awareness of both species. You can find out about our project from our website:

Q: How long have you been in your field of study?

A: I have been involved in conservation in one way or another for the whole of my life but have been involved professionally for eight years. I started my current job in October 2009.

Q: When did you first discover BHL?

A: About six months ago – via Twitter! It was quite a discovery for me. Having spent many hours in old, dusty libraries (oddly I grew quite fond of old, dusty libraries) during my academic years, it was great to discover a resources like this which offers you so much from the comfort of your desk.

Q: What is your opinion of BHL and how has it impacted your research?

A: BHL is an amazing resource. Not only is it useful but I love the way it has been put together so that it is also very user friendly. For me it means that we can look up information relating to the two species we are studying. Both were described in the 1830s but very little is known about them though some information is available in the historical literature. For example, Gonzalo Fernández de Oviedo was one of the original Spanish colonizers to come to Hispaniola (modern day Haiti and Dominican Republic) and was the first to write about hutias in 1535 when he mentions that they were widely eaten and very tasty! Confirming that this species was killed and eaten in that period. We have also been able to access some great drawings of the species which we can use to both raise awareness and educate – my favorite is one from 1910 of a solenodon.

Q: How often do you use BHL?

A: Not as much as I’d like. My job takes me from my desk quite regularly (which is a good thing!) to areas where there is no phone receptions or internet (yes, there are still some places like this left). On average, probably once a month.

Q: How do you usually use BHL (read the titles online/download whole PDFs/Select Pages to Download/etc.)?

A: I start by having a look and reading online, but usually end up downloading the material to read it offline.

Q: What are your favorite features/services on BHL?

A: The way you can download a list of all your search results which allows you to come back and have a look at the material later on.

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: I’d like to save my favorite articles on the website and then make them available to look at by other people. That would enable visitors to our website and Facebook page to easily access the fantastic historical material available on BHL. Maybe you can do that already and I just haven’t discovered it yet!

It would also be great if BHL could link directly into something like Amazon so that you can download books and articles to reading devices with one click.

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: Undoubtedly if would have to be Solenodon Paradoxus which was written in 1910. Although this book is over 100 years old, our level of knowledge about this species (actually both species) has not moved on much since then. This book provides a baseline of knowledge for anyone wanting to know more about these amazing endangered and venomous mammals.

Thank you, Dr. Nunez-Mino, for taking the time to share your experiences with BHL and tell us about the critical work that you do to save two such adorable creatures.

As to your suggestions for BHL, while a partnership with Amazon might be (at least currently) out of our reach, a project that has long been in development for BHL may provide some of the functionality related to saving and sharing articles that you desire. The project is called Citebank, and it will eventually serve as an article repository for BHL, indexing and allowing users to find items at the article level. Currently, any PDFs that you create using the “Select Pages to Download” feature on BHL for which you enter at least title-level information during the generation process are stored and indexed on Citebank. You can search the repository for these articles, and others can access them (including the full PDF that you originally generated) as well. While Citebank is still in development, we have hopes that this service will eventually meet the critical article needs of our users.

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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.