iDigBio at ESA 100: Booth and Ignite Session on Using Biodiversity Data in Research

From Libby Ellwood (iDigBio Post Doc) and Deb Paul (iDigBio Data Specialist)

iDigBio returned to the annual Ecological Society of America (ESA100) conference for the second year in a row. ESA celebrated its 100th conference this year and saw over 4000 participants!  In addition to the informational booth that made the trip last year as well, we organized an Ignite session of ten speakers highlighting biodiversity specimen use in ecological research.

Did you miss it? Want to hear a talk again? You can find the talks on the Ignite Session Wiki: Enhancing Ecological Research with iDigBio Specimen Data ESA 2015 and on Vimeo.

Through the booth and the Ignite session, we reached dozens of ecologists who were curious to learn more about natural history collections, digitizing specimen data, integrating biodiversity specimens into educational resources, and using specimen data to address timely research questions.

Our Ignite session consisted of ten speakers from around the country, each giving a five minute talk about using specimen data in research. Ignite presentations follow a common format of 20 slides that advance automatically after 15 seconds. They require a substantial amount of preparation and practice, and every speaker navigated the rapid-fire design with ease and expertise. It's quite a format - try it sometime for a very dynamic and fast-paced symposium. Thanks Libby, for moderating the session and keeping everything running smoothly.

Deb Paul, session co-moderator, began the session with a storyline introducing folks to iDigBio and highlights from some current research going on in the community. Tom Miller kicked off the research talks with a presentation of his long-term lichen study in New Mexico. iDigBio postdoc Charlotte Germain-Aubrey followed with examples from her research that uses specimen data to inform niche models of plants in Florida. Jonathan Koch, Katja Seltmann, and Sedonia Steininger each provided unique examples of using specimens in entomological studies for conservation and research on invasives. Alex Landy and Jason Knouft spoke about using fish specimens in morphological studies. The last two talks shifted to crowd-sourcing the inventorying of biodiversity data, as presented by Rob Guralnick, and best practices in data use, by Yiwei Wang from DataONE.

Immediately following the talks, 30 minutes was allotted for discussion among the panel of speakers and 50+ audience members. Many participated in the discussion, asking on-point, thought provoking questions about, among other things, the future of using specimens in research, working with citizen scientists, and issues of data quality. Conversations continued after the session ended, through lunch, and at the iDigBio booth throughout the week. Speaking of the booth, we added more than 50 people to our newsletter, found some more data for iDigBio, helped some graduate students find faculty sponsors, and made some tentative plans for next year's ESA 101st meeting in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

See you there? Would you like to present your research? Or perhaps, put together a workshop on using R with iDigBio data? Talk to us.

The full list of contributors, and their abstracts, can be found at the Enhancing Ecological Research with iDigBio Biological Specimen Data wiki.

Thanks for reading!,

Libby Ellwood and Deb Paul