Registration Now Open: Emerging Innovations for Biodiversity Data

Second Annual Digital Data in Biodiversity Research Conference

4-6 June 2018, UC Berkeley Campus

This year's conference has five major themes, each of which should be construed broadly when submitting your abstract for a poster or oral presentation. Our goal is to be inclusive, recognizing that there may be topics beyond those we list here. If you are interested in presenting on the use of digital data in biodiversity research, please plan to submit. Here are the themes:


  1. Addressing the fundamental questions of evolutionary biology and ecology,
  2. Meeting the research challenges of the Anthropocene,
  3. Biodiversity data archives for education and science outreach,
  4. New tools for data discovery and analysis,
  5. Future, untested frontiers for natural history collections.

The Berkeley Natural History Museums, the Berkeley Initiative for Global Change Biology, and iDigBio are pleased to announce the second annual Digital Data in Biodiversity Research Conference, to be held in Berkeley, CA, 4-6 June 2018. The rapid mobilization of digitized biodiversity data, led largely in the United States by the National Science Foundation’s Advancing Digitization of Biodiversity Collections program, has resulted in a substantial increase in available data for research and related activities. The 2018 conference will again encompass the uses of digitized data across all biodiversity disciplines, with special emphasis on digitized specimen data and the potential for “big data” analytics in organismal biology. Planning is in process and further details will be released in several successive mailings later this autumn and in early 2018. A call for papers will be circulated in January. Please save the date and watch for further announcements via several listservs and on the iDigBio website ( This conference will provide an important opportunity to explore digital data tools, techniques, discoveries, and outcomes across the biodiversity sciences. For further information or to ensure that you are on the email list, please contact Gil Nelson at iDigBio (

Registration: Registration fees are a modest $100.00 for professionals, $50.00 for students.
Registration fees include the conference, workshops, and refreshments and hors d'oeuvres at Monday's poster session and Tuesday's reception.

Click here to register and submit an abstract.

  • Registration deadline for those submitting an abstract: 30 April 2018.
  • Registration deadline for those taking advantage of the economy lodging option: 30 April 2018.
  • General registration deadline: 15 May 2018.

For conference program and logistics click here.

Featured speaker list currently includes (continue to monitor for new additions):
  • James Hanken, Alexander Agassiz Professor of Zoology; Professor of Biology, Department of Organismic and Evolutionary Biology and Director, Museum of Comparative Zoology, Harvard
  • David Blackburn, Associate Curator of Herpetology, Florida Museum of Natural History, University of Florida
  • Jeannine Cavender-Bares, Professor, Department of Ecology, Evolution and Behavior, Institute on Environment Fellow, University of Minnesota
  • Robert J. Full, Professor, Department of Integrative Biology, University of California, Berkeley
  • Dena Smith, Program Director, Division of Earth Sciences, Sedimentary Geology & Paleobiology Program, U.S. National Science Foundation
  • Scott V. Edwards, Professor of Organismic and Evolutionary Biology, Harvard University, and Curator of Ornithology and Alexander Agassiz Professor of Zoology in the Museum of Comparative Zoology
  • Paula M. Mabee, Professor of Biology, University of South Dakota, formerly Director of the Division of Environmental Biology in the NSF’s Directorate for Biological Sciences (BIO)
  • Cindy Schmidt, Associate Program Manager, Applied Sciences Ecoforecasting Program, ARSET Land Management team lead, Bay Area Environmental Research Institute, NASA Ames Research Center
  • David Thau, Manager of Developer Relations for Google Earth Engine and Google Earth Outreach

Workshops, embedded meetings, field trips, collections tours, unconference events

Collections tours at California Academy of Sciences
Exact time: TBA
Capacity limited to 20 participants
Cal Academy is offering space for 20 people to do tours in two groups of 10 each. Included are tours of two scientific collections plus an aquarium tour for each group. The tours will take about 2 hours, after which participants will be invited to explore the public floor including catching a planetarium show. First come, first served. Must provide your own transportation. Start time is being worked out and will be announced. The entire event could take about a half day.

Field Trip: Pt. Reyes National Seashore
Cost: $25.00
8:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m.
Capacity limited to 16 participants
Join us on a field trip to Point Reyes National Seashore, over 100 square miles of unique coastal wilderness and open space that hosts an estimated 2.5 million visitors every year. The tour will include a visit to UC Berkeley’s Point Reyes Field Station, which is located within park boundaries in bucolic Olema Valley and facilitates science education and research in the park. Participants will also attend a presentation of NOAA’s Science on a Sphere and its real-time earth sciences data at the park’s visitor center, purchase lunch to go at a nearby deli (or bring your own), learn about decades of fire ecology research after a fire swept through the park’s coastal plant communities in 1995, have a chance to see resident Tule elk, and explore one of the most scenic beaches in the park. Photograph shorebirds, stroll along the sand, and dip a toe in the chilly Pacific Ocean before heading back to Berkeley.

Approximate itinerary: 
8 am pick up vans from Enterprise
8:30 am depart campus
9:45 am arrive at PRFS for ~30 minute tour
10:15 am depart PRFS
10:30 am arrive at Inverness Market for people to purchase lunches to go
11 am depart Inverness Market
11:15 am arrive at Bear Valley Visitor Center (walk around exhibits, visit shop, use restrooms)
11:30 am Science on a Sphere presentation in Bear Valley Visitor Center theater hosted by Ben Becker (about 30 minutes long)
12-1 pm lunch in picnic area near Bear Valley Visitor Center
1pm depart Bear Valley Visitor Center for drive to Limantour Beach
1:20 pm stop for short walk and fire ecology show and tell (stay about 45 minutes)
2 pm depart for Limantour Beach (stay about 1 hour)
3 pm depart for UC Berkeley
4:30-5 pm arrive at UC Berkeley
Self-guided Botanical Tour at the UC Botanical Garden
The 34-acre UC Botanical Garden is one of the most diverse landscapes in the world, with over 10,000 types of plants including many rare and endangered species.  Organized geographically, the Garden features 9 regions of naturalistic plantings from Italy to South Africa, along with a major collection of California native plants.  The Garden was established in 1890 and its living collections are invaluable resources for international research and conservation.
The Botanical Garden has free admission on Wednesday June 6th. The shuttle stop is next to the conference location, costs $1 for a short 10 minute ride up to the gardens. We encourage you to visit while you're in town. 
Preconference Invited Workshop, Sunday 3 June, 8:30 a.m. - 4:00 p.m.
Biodiversity Literacy in Undergraduate Education:
A Workshop to define competencies for the core undergraduate biology curriculum
Leader: Anna Monfils, Central Michigan University 
The NSF funded RCN-UBE Biodiversity Literacy in Undergraduate Education - Data Initiative (BLUE Data) is working to bring together communities of biodiversity, data, and education specialists to identify core biodiversity data competencies for undergraduates, develop strategies for integrating these competencies into the introductory biology curriculum, and build capacity for sustained development and implementation of biodiversity and data literacy education. This is the first of several invited workshops to generate community consensus on a core set of biodiversity data literacy skills. The goal of this specific meeting is to review the current landscape of data literacy competencies from k-12 to graduate education in biodiversity data science, identify gaps in student learning related to data and biodiversity science core skills, and begin to generate community consensus on defined biodiversity data literacy competencies. Results from this workshop will inform efforts to develop competencies, materials, and strategies designed to facilitate broad-scale adoption of transferrable data literacy competencies that can improve undergraduate biology training and meet increasing workforce demands in both data and biodiversity sciences.
Preconference Invited Meeting, Sunday 3 June, 1-5 p.m.
2018 Regional Meeting of GBIF Participant Nodes in North America
Leader: David Jennings, iDigBIo
This is an invited meeting of node managers. The 2018 Regional Meeting of GBIF Participant Nodes in North America is being hosted by iDigBio in conjunction with the Second Annual Digital Data in Biodiversity Research Conference. The North America Regional Nodes meeting brings together representatives from the GBIF nodes in the North America region to inspire collaboration and discussion of shared goals, challenges, and opportunities. The meeting will focus on progress updates from the represented nodes, preparations for the Governing Board meeting, and a discussion of strategies/goals for the coming year.
Unconference Event, Tuesday afternoon
The Digital Data un-un-conference: Leveraging Data Science for Digital Biodiversity
Leaders: Carl Boettiger, Matt Collins, Deb Paul
Now that you’ve seen two full days of wonderful talks, come join your fellow attendees to discuss your reactions. Pitch your new research ideas, or just come to hear the how others see the biodiversity and data science domains moving forward together. There will be a public session to introduce project ideas followed by an opportunity to self-organize into focused groups to prepare a plan for tackling them. Learn about new domains and share your expertise in your field, while exploring ideas inspired by the main conference.Products: Written project plans w/collaborators and plan for the next 6 months.
Other workshops and events, Wednesday, 6 June
BCoN: Data integration and attribution
Leader: Andy Bentley, University of Kansas
This workshop will expand on the BCoN February needs assessment workshop and will focus on finding mechanisms to facilitate the integration of data and attribution of collections within the data pipeline. All conference attendees are welcomed to attend. A white paper from the February workshop will be used to highlight areas of need, topics of discussion, further development, and to discuss specific ways in which we can bridge the existing gaps and provide the necessary mechanisms to create robust integration and attribution pathways for collections data.
Next generation biodiversity data: developing an international traits system
Leaders: Hamish Holewa, Robina Sanderson, John La Salle, CSIRO, Canberra Australia
Biodiversity “trait data” refers to a variety of species or specimen level attributes that can contribute to our understanding, assessment, conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity data (e.g. morphology, species interactions, derived genomic information, life history/stage/behaviour, ecological attributes and tolerances, medicinal or food uses, etc.). There are several initiatives around the world that are starting to make computable trait data available to the biodiversity research community.  There is now an opportunity to work together to create an international traits system that will facilitate the sharing, integration and use of this data, and bringing it into eResearch infrastructures to fully integrate it with other data streams, environmental layers, phylogenetic tools and mapping and analysis capability.  This workshop is the start of developing a coordinated international effort to meet this vision.
Google-sponsored Workshop: Hands-on Training on Google's Planetary-scale Geospatial and Imagery Analysis Tools
Leader: Dave Thau, Google
NOTE: All participants for this workshop should sign up for Google's Earth Engine prior to the workshop.
At Google we've been busily creating geospatial and imagery analysis tools that are being used in forest conservation, water monitoring, malaria elimination, camera trap species recognition and a host of other applications. This workshop will provide hands-on training on some of these tools, including Google Earth Engine and machine learning tools, with an eye toward their application to biodiversity data management and analysis. There will also be plenty of time to discuss where these tools can be improved, and to brainstorm around future projects where they might be leveraged. If this sounds good to you, sign up for Earth Engine and we'll see you there.
Invited Workshop
Meeting of oVert collaborators
Leader: Dave Blackburn, Florida Museum of Natural History, University of Florida
This meeting will afford the opportunity for oVert collaborators to review progress, discuss issues and solutions, share workflows, and troubleshoot image uploads and management.
Invited Workshop
Sharing and Mobilization of Massive Specimen Image Databases from Collections of Tropical Island Biodiversity
Leader: Alex Vandam, University of Puerto Rico
Tropical Islands are global biodiversity hotspots, this combined with their remote locations has led to many undescribed species on tropical islands. In order to further our taxonomic knowledge of tropical island biodiversity rapid dissemination of expertly identified specimens is needed. Here we start with tropical islands that we have strong holdings of in our collections, and discuss which geographic regions should have highest priority for digitization. We will discuss new methods for capturing specimen images and sharing massive databases of specimen image files. We will also discuss how to best mobilize these specimens from our collections in the most efficient manner.
Key features of the conference
  • Plenary and Keynote speakers
  • Invited and contributed talks from industry and academic leaders
  • Poster sessions and breakout discussion groups
  • Affiliated technical workshops
  • Optional field trips to UC Berkeley reserves: Point Reyes Field Station and Blue Oak Ranch Reserve
Tentative conference location: Bechtel Engineering Center, UC Berkeley campus

The inital planning team for this conference includes (watch for additional planners and sponsors to come onboard): David Ackerly, Michael Nachman, Carl Boettiger, Brent Mishler, Carla Cicero, Carol Spencer, Michelle Koo, and Heather Constable from UC Berkeley, and Gil Nelson, Larry Page, Pam Soltis, Alex Thompson, and Jill Goodwin from iDigBio.