Data Without Borders ICE 2016

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Digitizing the Past and Present for the Future
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Quick Links for Data Without Borders ICE 2016

ICE 2016 Symposium Abstract

Summary Statement: Many new and updated methods for collecting biological specimens now result in faster access for everyone to richer, more robust data for research. Scientists are learning new skills for collecting and managing field and lab data using relevant data standards, and publishing enhanced data sets as a result. Best practices for describing data sets with metadata are leading to improved data discovery. Researchers now have access to ever larger data sets for visualization, analysis, and modeling. In our symposium, we present a broad array of examples of the latest developments in biodiversity research using biological specimen data, including genomics, habitat, and trait data. We present current trends in collecting and vouchering of specimens and field data, methods and tools for digitizing the specimen data, and tools and skills needed for visualizing the data. We then highlight how the data are being used, especially for research that expands our understanding of biodiversity. Our Data without Borders session naturally fits the Entomology without Borders theme, addressing the world-wide need for fit-for-research-use data. An underlying theme for Data without Borders is International Collaboration for Biodiversity. In the last ten years, many changes such as powerful hand-held devices, apps, and computing in-the-cloud have made it possible to collect, use, and share data more easily, and in ways that support re-use. Collaboration makes it possible not only to document biodiversity more quickly but also to provide better tools and better data. We will provide examples of this type of collaboration in this symposium.

Short Description

Description: In Data without Borders, we feature talks about collecting museum specimens and digitizing the specimen data to support biodiversity research. Scientists show us how they are using biological specimen data in their research and we include presentations on career skills needed for 21st century digital collections and collaborative research.

time talk presenter / authors
Specimen Data in Integrated Biodiversity Research Pamela Soltis (, University of Florida, Gainesville, FL
Cross-pollination in the 21st Century: Integrating entomologists and botanists to explore the island biogeography and conservation of Caribbean orchids Peter Houlihan (, Florida Museum of Natural History, Gainesville, FL
Like blood from that stone we always hear about: a quest to extract meaningful data from historical grasshopper specimens Derek Woller ( and Hojun Song, Texas A & M University, College Station, TX
Acquisition, management, and analysis of historical and contemporary data to discern legacy effects of ecological extinction on insect biodiversity Robert Kula (, USDA - ARS, Washington, DC
Digitizing natural history collection specimens to investigate the future of species conservation Jonathan Koch (, Utah State University, Logan, UT
Harnessing specimen data to visualize and investigate the ecology of species Sarah Schmidt (, University of Kansas, Lawrence, KS
The usefulness of DNA-barcoding databases for routine taxonomic research and identification of Lepidoptera Andrei Sourakov (, University of Florida, Gainesville, FL
From field to genome, and beyond Chia-Hua Lue (, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, DC
The intersection of data domains underlying insect systematics: case studies in parasitic Hymenoptera Norman Johnson (, The Ohio State University, Columbus, OH
Preventing Bugs in Data Analysis: Data Skills to Improve the Reliability and Effectiveness of Entomological Research Tracy Teal (, Michigan State University, East Lansing, MI
Developing Best Practices for Data Management Across all Stages of the Data Life Cycle
Best practices for empirical data collection (experimental design, laboratory techniques) are often well-covered in undergraduate and graduate training, yet there has been less emphasis on managing the resulting data effectively. This is an increasingly important skill set; many funding agencies require data management plans, and journals are requiring that data pertaining to published articles be accessible. Researchers with good data management skills will be able to maximize the productivity of their research program, effectively and efficiently share their data with the scientific community, and potentially benefit from the re-use of their data by others. In this talk, I will highlight some of the pitfalls to be avoided when working with data and introduce example best practices and tools that will improve your data management skills and research program.
Amber Budden (, DataONE, Albuquerque, NM
Data capture methodologies in digitisation of bee pollinators
Digitisation is an activity that museums and academic institutions increasingly recognize, though many still do not embrace, as a means to boost the impact of collections for global research and society through improved access. And as such, many researchers still fail to realise the importance of data capture methodologies used in digitisation. New opportunities exist to design and implement processes through use of the available technology that will support data capture to enable a range of research on biodiversity of pollinators in order to make scientific collections increasingly relevant. While the usefulness of specimen digitisation is true for all taxa, immense additional benefits come from the digitisation of bees. This group of organisms is of prime importance as they provide most of the world’s pollination ecosystem services. Through international collaborative efforts, the wealth of data in natural history museums and collections about the diversity, distribution and biology of bees may be utilised for international biodiversity efforts.
Nicole Fisher (, Australian National Insect Collection (ANIC), Clayton, Australia
Arthropod collection digitization and networking across the New World Neil Cobb Northern Arizona University (NAU), Edward Gilbert (, Arizona State University, School of Life Sciences, Tempe, AZ
Database before you label – the key to a digitized collections future
Digitization of millions of historic entomology specimens remains an enormous challenge. Our community should not make this challenge worse by generating newly collected, undigitized specimens. Entomologists in North America currently generate many tens of thousands of new specimens annually, that get added to our undigitized backlog. The University of Alaska Museum Insect Collection contains over 1 million specimens represented by ~230,000 database records, of which, 82% have been collected since the year 2000. This talk will describe the rapid growth of our collection and database. Methods used are similar to those established by Costa Rica's INBio in the 1990s.
Derek S. Sikes (, University of Alaska, Fairbanks, AK
Troubleshooting industrial insect digitisation
Natural history collections are one of the most important sources of biodiversity information and their digitization is essential for providing greater access to both researchers and the general public. Industrial approaches are needed in order to mobilise the vast numbers of specimens (up to 10 billion) accumulated by the natural history museums in the world. Following the experience of the Digital Collection Programme (DCP) in the Natural History Museum we explore several ways of optimising the digitization process of insect collections. Success is impossible without an organised approach to project management, staff buy-in and administrative support on all levels. Key elements of industrial digitisation are: detailed yet flexible workflows which can accommodate different kinds of digitised material; automation through software and hardware; appropriate staff management; and community involvement.
Vladimir Blagoderov ( and Laurence Livermore, The Natural History Museum, Cromwell Road, London, England
Bulk samples, is crowd sourced tagging useful in making them more accessible? Paul Flemons (, Atlas of Living Australia DigiVol, Sydney, Australia
Moving Mountains: Motivating Digitizers Lawrence Gall (, Yale University, New Haven, CT
Involving undergraduates in the digital community: Leveraging collections preservation, research, and outreach through a network of natural history collections clubs
In February of 2013 nine students at Arkansas State University came together to form the Natural History Collections Curation Club (NHC3). This club was an innovative approach to resolving many issues facing the natural history collections at A-State. The university houses collections in many disciplines. The collections were primarily built in the 1960s and 1970s and by 2013 several of the collections were in disrepair due to a lack of funding and support. The students of the club made it their goal to restore the collections by dedicating their time and helping to secure funding. These efforts have resulted in funding from the Dean of the College of Sciences and Mathematics for a part-time student worker in the collections, supplies for several projects including jars and ethanol for restoring the fish collections and materials to create two large specimen mounts, and trips to visit several natural history museums. The NHC3 has helped A-State become recognized in the collections field where it was previously unknown. The club has also helped other universities increase student interest and involvement in collections. To date, two other universities have active natural history collections clubs as a result of the A-State model. Beginning in the fall of 2015 these three clubs will form a network to outreach to other universities that may benefit from this model. Our goal is to use the Natural History Collections Club Network (NHCCN) as a platform to motivate students across the United States to become more involved in university specimen collections.
Kari Harris (, Arkansas State University, Jonesboro, AR