BHL and EOL co-host a Smithsonian Associates event

On May 28, the Biodiversity Heritage Library (BHL) and the Encyclopedia of Life (EOL) co-hosted an evening program on digital volunteerism.  The event was organized by The Smithsonian Associates (TSA) and was attended by 74 people.

Carolyn Sheffield (BHL), Katja Schulz (EOL), and Jen Hammock (EOL) presented on BHL, EOL, and examples of how people could contribute to growing our knowledge of the planet’s biodiversity.  Presentations were followed by a hands-on session where attendees were encouraged to start machine tagging images in BHL’s Flickr Photostream, cropping and rating images, and exploring the iNaturalist platform.

BHL has hosted similar events in the past for Smithsonian staff to learn about–and add–machine tags to the images in BHL’s Flickr Photostream.  A machine tag is a tag that is structured in such a way that a machine can read and understand it. In our case, we’re assigning machine tags of scientific names to the BHL illustrations in Flickr so that EOL can recognize those as images that can be harvested and associated with the appropriate species page in EOL.  See an example of an EOL species page with a BHL image here:

The structure that we use for the machine tags is:

taxonomy:binomial=”genus species”

You can replace “binomial” with another taxonomic tag, such as “genus” or “family, if you can only identify the organism at that level.  Learn more about the Flickr tagging process and machine tag formats in the instructions we provided to session attendees.

The TSA event was not only an opportunity to expand our cadre of machine taggers but also gave us a chance to share multiple ways that people could get involved with BHL and EOL. For example, images that depict multiple species can create confusion when associated with a single species page in EOL.  Attendees were shown how to replace such images with a cropped version showing only the relevant species.  The evening also provided a chance to showcase EOL’s recently launched iNaturalist Collections.

All told, it was a very successful event.  Several guests said they were delighted to learn about EOL and BHL and, by the end of the day, 129 more images in BHL’s Flickr Photostream boasted machine tags.  We look forward to the continued contributions of these amazing Smithsonian Associates session attendees!

Looking for a way that you can get involved?
Check out the instructions on machine tagging or visit EOL to sign up for an account and to learn more about recording your own observations of the natural world through EOL’s iNaturalist collections.

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Carolyn Sheffield served as the BHL Program Manager from July 2013 - February 2019. She is currently the Associate Director of Library Technology and Digital Strategies at the Albin O. Kuhn Library and Gallery of the University of Maryland, Baltimore County. She holds a Masters of Library Science from the University of Maryland.