Illuminating BHL’s Dark Data
Citizen Scientists and AI Unlock Key Biodiversity Data in GBIF
Flora, Fauna, and Photography
Five Years of Digitising Content for BHL in Aotearoa
Interlinking BHL Data
in the Wikimedia Project Ecosystem
In the face of climate change and environmental challenges, understanding and documenting Earth’s biodiversity is essential. The Global Biodiversity Information Facility (GBIF) serves as a global repository for biodiversity data, playing a pivotal role in this critical mission of safeguarding our planet’s biodiversity. Species occurrence data sourced from the Biodiversity Heritage Library (BHL) provides insights into species distributions, behaviors, and interactions much deeper into time, offering key species baseline data required to effectively address the climate crisis. Without accurate and comprehensive data in GBIF, our collective ability to track environmental changes and make informed decisions is severely hampered.
As a GBIF participant node, BHL is committed to sharing biodiversity data openly, adhering to FAIR (Findable, Accessible, Interoperable, Reusable) and CARE (Collective Benefit, Authority to Control, Responsibility, Ethics) data principles, and collaborating with a global network of biodiversity organizations to bolster and build capacity to strengthen the biodiversity information infrastructure. To honor our commitments, technical staff from BHL are working to establish a scalable data pipeline of occurrence data currently trapped in archival field notes, journals, letters, correspondence, and other primary source materials. The journey has been an arduous one due to poor OCR (optical character recognition) data quality for BHL’s sub-corpus of handwritten materials.
The Biodiversity Heritage Library is pleased to welcome two new Affiliates in 2023: Dumbarton Oaks in Washington, DC, and Meise Botanic Garden in Meise, Belgium. The BHL Consortium now includes 19 Members and 23 Affiliates.
Auckland Museum joined the Biodiversity Heritage Library (BHL) in 2018 and currently remains the only organisation in Aotearoa New Zealand contributing to the consortium. During my four years working as a technician and coordinator on the project, and with the help of a volunteer, Brianna Vincent, we have added over 25,000 pages, increasing our library of contributions from three to over 100 biodiversity literature items. These items span from 1790 to 2004, covering over 200 years of biological knowledge, and range from field notebooks and sketches to identification guides, records and proceedings, educational textbooks, plant material, cyanotypes (blueprints), and hand-painted illustrations.
The planet is at a critical juncture, where urgent action is required to combat climate change, biodiversity loss, and secure a sustainable future for our planet. With the release of the recent BHL Wikimedia white paper entitled Unifying Biodiversity Knowledge to Support Life on a Sustainable Planet, the Biodiversity Heritage Library Secretariat hopes that an expanded data vision for the BHL community presents new opportunities to take bold steps forward into Wikimedia projects and the emergent semantic web. The white paper sheds light on BHL’s crucial role as a member of the biodiversity informatics community and reveals a series of key use cases and big data challenges that, if addressed, could be opportunities to enhance global biodiversity data infrastructure.
Originally scheduled for 2020, the BHL Annual Meeting finally made it to Paris after two years of virtual meetings and a break to hold the 2022 BHL Annual Meeting in conjunction with the Society for the Preservation of Natural History Collections (SPNHC) and the Natural Sciences Collections Society (NatSCA) meetings in Edinburgh, Scotland.
The host for the 2023 meeting was the library of the Muséum national d’Histoire naturelle (MNHN), led by Alice Lemaire, Clément Oury, and Gildas Illien. The meeting took place 17-21 April 2023 and included BHL business meetings, tours of library and museum sites, and a BHL symposium titled “Fostering Data Driven Natural Science through Open Digital Libraries”. In total, the meeting gathered 38 attendees (both in-person and virtually) from 22 BHL partners from around the world.
BHL’s existence depends on the financial support of its patrons. Help us keep this free resource alive!
The Biodiversity Heritage Library (BHL) is the world’s largest open access digital library for biodiversity literature and archives. Headquartered at the Smithsonian Libraries and Archives in Washington, D.C., BHL operates as a worldwide consortium of natural history, botanical, research, and national libraries working together to digitize the natural history literature held in their collections and make it freely available for open access as part of a global “biodiversity community.”
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