ECN, NEON, and iDigBio Together at EntSoc2018: Benefits of Togetherness

by Deborah Paul (iDigBio), Katherine LeVan (NEON), and Kevin Love (iDigBio)

Benefits of Togetherness.

Conferences are a great opportunity to access expertise and new knowledge, but can be a challenging venue to find just the right information (especially when you didn’t know you needed it in the first place!). To make the search easier, the Entomological Collections Network (ECN), the National Ecological Observatory Network (NEON), and iDigBio - combined resources to offer a Data Help Desk at the Entomological Society of America 2018 Conference.

Our adventure began with the Entomological Collections Network 2018 Conference (program) on 10-11 November. Compelling talks touched on such topics as collection metrics and care, Tales From the Field (Vol. 3), pinning, pointing, labeling, collecting, conservation, digitization, Canadensys, Nagoya, GGBN, and more. You will find the complete talk abstracts and recordings here.

This Data Help Desk collaborative effort spanned 4 days and added 42 more people to the iDigBio Newsletter mailing list and community. Bringing collections and ecology together, Katie LeVan, joined us from NEON. As a research scientist, she brought expertise in insect ecology and data science. And, by-the-way, NEON advertised a new open position for a Vector-Borne Disease Ecologist. Know anyone?

ECN members offered collections expertise and experience in with entomological collections digitization and data use. Several ECN members spent time in the booth including: Crystal Maier (Field Museum), Nicole Gunter (Cleveland Museum of Natural History), and Luciana Musetti (Triplehorn Insect Collection, Ohio State).

From iDigBio, Kevin Love offered many one-on-one looks at the data in iDigBio from the front-end user interface, the iDigBio Search API, and the ridigbio package  for those excited to discover just what their R skills make possible. Deb Paul shared iDigBio resources, contacts, and some tutorials (OpenRefine anyone?).

An Unexpected Visitor?

In a serendipitous(?) moment, we noticed a booth visitor wandering around the booth swag on the table. Reaching into her bag, Deb pulled out a vial (because who doesn’t have one of these at EntSoc!) and scooped up our vagabond and headed for the @ColeopteristsSoc Booth for an ID. Isn’t is good to have a lot of taxonomists around? You will not be surprised that Stegobium paniceum stopped in.

Topics from this Data Help Desk.

We conducted lots of searches for data and images at iDigBio, GBIF, and NEON. From biodiversity data collection in the field, to downstream use of the data for research, applications, and policy -- the data topics we covered at EntSoc were myriad! We had conversations with collections interested in contributing data to iDigBio ( Several researchers (from undergraduates to faculty) were interested in using iDigBio specimen data for biodiversity analyses, including a graduate project revising the genus Hylaeus (a widespread genus of bee). Others learned about the neonUtilities package in R and downloaded NEON data for the first time. Andrea Glassmira downloaded some NEON plant isotope and diversity data, which she is excited to use in her research. Quite a few people from environmental consulting firms dropped by and we showed them how NEON and iDigBio data sources can help them in modeling species of interest for their work. We also shared tips and tricks on working with the GIS data provided by NEON and iDigBio. Some researchers were interested in specific taxonomic groups (Nesidiocoris, Miridae, Acari, Hymenoptera, Hemiptera, and Lepidoptera were discussed); others were interested in the nexus between crop pests and plant communities, stored-product pests, insects within forests, or the urban ecology of insects. No matter their interests, NEON and iDigBio had data to offer related to the topic.

Although we were excited to share our data resources with new users, we also learned about projects where people are already using our data to great effect. As an example from another continent, researchers in South Africa are using iDigBio Libraries of Life cards for outreach in local schools.

A Ripple from Ecological Society of America 2016.

The Broward Insect Collection shares data on SCAN now, and this data mobilization success story started in the iDigBio Booth at Ecological Society of America 2016. Elizabeth Ellwood (then @iDigBio Post Doc), put these folks in contact with SCAN and the rest is in the poster! We also learned about “caterpillar inflation” as a preservation method to avoid alcohol.

At each of these events we learn so much and we hope that at this one we succeeded in giving a lot back to the entomological community in support of their data knowledge needs. We seek to do this at future meetings. Are you interested in getting in the booth with us?