Research Spotlight

The goals of the monthly iDigBio Research Spotlight are to highlight:

1) the use of iDigBio data in research projects,
2) the importance of vouchered specimen collections and their data for research,
3) different ways that collections data can be used in research projects, and/or
4) positive outcomes, such as policy changes or conservation actions, as a result of research using vouchered specimen data.

If you would like to contribute content to the monthly Research Spotlight, please contact us!

Research Spotlight: February 2019 (Mollusks)

Fri, 2019-02-15 13:37 -- sellis

Research Spotlight: July 2018

Fri, 2018-06-29 12:18 -- maphillips

Digital Coyote; an online archive of skulls

Contributed by: Osrica Mclean and Declan McCabe

How can you provide an authentic opportunity for undergraduate students to study geographical variation without hauling them to major metropolitan museums and arranging access to valuable specimens?  This question started a slightly obsessive odyssey that began with a single coyote skull and now stands at 125 skulls….and counting.

Research Spotlight: January 2018

Tue, 2017-12-12 12:24 -- maphillips

New Insights from Old Herbarium Specimens

Contributed by Richard B. Primack (Boston University; primack@bu.edu) and Charles G. Willis (Harvard University; charleswillis@fas.harvard.edu)

“Live in each season as it passes - breathe the air, drink the drink, taste the fruit & resign yourself to the influence of each.”  Thoreau, in his Journal. 1835

Natural History Collections as Primary Data in Ecological Research

Wed, 2017-10-18 08:45 -- maphillips

Prologue: Many of us in the ADBC world look for ways to expand the community of users of museum collections data and to increase the ways in which collections data are used. Recently, in Trends in Ecology and Evolution (TrEE), an opinion piece was published by Scott A. Morrison, et al. titled "Equipping the 22nd-Century Historical Ecologist." In this paper, Morrison, et al.

Research Experiences for Undergraduates in Digitized Collections Data

Tue, 2017-10-17 14:58 -- maphillips

Contributed by Pam Soltis and Adania Flemming

iDigBio supported five students in its inaugural mini-REU site program during summer, 2017. This program, modeled on NSF’s Research Experiences for Undergraduates Program, was developed to provide undergraduates with research opportunities using digitized natural history collection data.

Research Spotlight: July 2017

Thu, 2017-06-01 10:19 -- grungle

Data Curation Profiles—An Information Science framework for data managers

-- Contributed by Wade Bishop and Kelly White, The University of Tennessee, School of Information Sciences

Data curation profiles (DCPs). DCPs give scientists, researchers, and data managers an enhanced and detailed understanding of the “data story” from the perspective of the data. A DCP “captures requirements for specific data generated by researchers articulated by the researchers themselves” (http://datacurationprofiles.org/purpose) and provides data managers a framework to acquire an in-depth understanding of the particular data curation needs of producers and their intended users. Read more about Wade & Kelly's work with the iDigBio community here.

Research Spotlight: May 2017

Mon, 2017-05-01 15:05 -- grungle

Using specimens to create a pollinator community assessment of restored tallgrass prairie

-- Contributed by Heather Cray, Department of Environment and Resource Studies, University of Waterloo

Animal species need space – a place to forage, grow, and nest. This is especially true of Lepidoptera (butterflies and moths), whose caterpillars generally feed exclusively on one genus or species of host plant (think monarch butterflies and milkweed). For the 4,000 or so species of native bees in North America, required forage plants and nesting sites vary from common suburban offerings (e.g., patches of bare ground, maples, willows, clover), to specialized needs which are ecosystem-specific.  Enter tallgrass prairie – a grassland ecosystem with high forb diversity that supports a dizzying array of invertebrate life. As our continent’s most endangered ecosystem, the 1-3% that remains is a mix of remnant and restored habitat, and restoration efforts-- both large and small, are ongoing. Read more here.

Research Spotlight: April 2017

Sat, 2017-04-01 14:00 -- grungle

Publishing a new species?  Add the unique identifiers!

Citation of voucher specimen data can be problematic.  There are currently no formulated rules for how to cite a digital specimen in a publication, but data aggregators such iDigBio, GBIF, and VertNet offer suggestions. Pensoft is leading the way by providing efficient methods for publishing digital data (see their blog post here) - but it still rarely happens, or occurs in a non-systematic way.  Recently, with my colleague Dr George Argent, a new species of Rhododendron from Mount Yule, Papua New Guinea was published in the February 2017 online volume of the Edinburgh Journal of Botany. The digital data for the isotype housed at the Bishop Museum is available through iDigBio and we wanted to cite this information in the published paper.  As a test case, we added the Darwin Core occurrenceID and a link to the iDigBio record page. Read more here.

Research Spotlight: March 2017

Wed, 2017-02-08 09:33 -- grungle

Collecting trends: how wars and human history influence biological collections

-- Contributed by Vaughn Shirey, The Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University

A large portion of my research in The Gelhaus Lab at The Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University relies heavily on digitized specimen data and metadata, specifically the who, when, and where of specimen collection. “Big data” research has risen in popularity since high-performance computing has made it easier for researchers to conduct analyses of groups of organisms overnight; however, additional considerations to the use of large datasets should be taken into account. My research focuses on the historical biases present in natural history collection data, including identifying collection bias and gaps in data due to human history. Read more here.

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