iDigBio API Overview

This document serves as the starting page of official documentation for the iDigBio Application Programming Interfaces (APIs).

Integrated Digitized Biocollections (iDigBio) is the National Resource for Advancing Digitization of Biodiversity Collections (ADBC) funded by the National Science Foundation. Through ADBC, data and images for millions of biological specimens are being made available in electronic format for the research community, government agencies, students, educators, and the general public. iDigBio is a data aggregator. This means that data is provided to iDigBio through various publishing mechanisms.

Many consumers of the iDigBio aggregated data will choose to use the iDigBio Portal web site. Although our portal has many features and is the easiest interface to use, to facilitate integration of iDigBio data with other web sites, services, or research uses, iDigBio provides APIs in order to provide direct access to our data. We ourselves make use of these APIs in our portal and other data services so any functionality you see there, as well as functions not available through the portal, can be done through APIs yourself.

The iDigBio APIs are an abstraction layer for retrieving data from the iDigBio back-end data systems. This abstraction allows reuse and mashup of aggregated data without needing to understand the complex underlying details of the back-end data storage. Currently, the public APIs support HTTP GET and POST requests for data read operations only. The iDigBio APIs are RESTful web services that delivers data primarily as JSON documents.

All iDigBio APIs are publicly available with no user authentication required or rate limits applied.

Quick Start Example

The search API is our most useful for most people. Below is a simple example of searching for all records in a given genus to provide you with an example of how this API looks. You can simply click the link in your browser to make the API call and get results:{"genus":"acer"}

(You might want to install a JSON viewing plugin in your browser such as JSONView for Chrome.)

iDigBio API Mailing List

Please join our list at if you are using our APIs. Besides providing notification of API changes, the mailing list gives direct access to the iDigBio API developers and is a good place to ask questions or give and receive feedback.

You can join via the web at:

iDigBio APIs

There are several APIs you can use to retrieve data from iDigBio: Search, Download, Record, and Media.

Search API

The version 2 Search API was released in June 2015 and is the current API that the portal and other iDigBio services are based on. Full documentation for this API is available in the idigbio-search-api Github wiki with the source code. The search API allows you to retrieve limited sets of data in response to custom queries and is typically the one people use.

You can see more iDigBio Search API examples in the github wiki.

Download API

The Download API can be used to generated Darwin Core archives containing any amount of data up to everything that is in iDigBio. This API is documented on the iDigBio Download API wiki page. This API is useful when the size of the data you want exceeds what you can get through the search API. Be aware that this is not an interactive API; requests will result in a queued job being started to make the Darwin Core archive and you will be informed when it is ready to download later.

For a detailed discussion of the data included in one of our downloads, you can read our Understanding iDigBio's Data Downloads blog post.

Record & Media APIs

The record and media APIs are of limited use for most people outside iDigBio. They are intended to return a single specimen or media's unprocessed information. You must know the iDigBio record or media identifier to be able to request data from this API. The most common use of the media API is to retrieve a link to an image as stored at iDigBio from a media record identifier. The significant additional functionality the record API provides is access to prior versions of records stored in iDigBio. Other APIs only interact with the most recent record version.

ToDo: Make documentation for v2 of this API publicly accessible.

Other Ways of Accessing Data

Specimen Web Map Module

The iDigBio Portal Search page map is also provided as a stand-alone module for use in any third-party web site. If you are a software developer interested in integrating this map, please see the documentation on Github provided as part of the portal source code.

Client Libraries

Client libraries, packages, and modules are pieces of software that make it easier to interface with the iDigBio API from a specific programming language. We have developed and maintain libraries for the following languages:

ridigbio R Package for the Search API

R is a free software environment for statistical computing and graphics. It compiles and runs on a wide variety of UNIX platforms, Windows and MacOS.

The production version of this package is in CRAN. The latest development version is available at

The ridigbio R package is an "official" client library in the iDigBio code repository.

iDigBio Python Library for Search API

The Python client library is available via PyPI:

or just use pip:

pip install idigbio

The client code can also be found at github if you wish to help develop the library:

The iDigBio Python library is an "official" client library in the iDigBio code repository.

idigbio_client Ruby Gem for the Search API

The idigbio_client ruby gem is available:

which can be installed via:

gem install idigbio_client

The idigbio_client ruby gem is a "community-supported" client library with software repository currently at:


If you are in need of other client libraries or iDigBio API features, please use the feedback button to submit your request.

Technical Details

We describe the iDigBio API Software used to provide these APIs in a separate document.