Rafe, Robin and Matt at iDigBio Summit
The Integrated Digitized Biocollections (iDigBio; https://www.idigbio.org/) is the national resource for digitization of vouchered natural history collections and was established by the community strategic plan for the Network Integrated Biocollections Alliance (NIBA). iDigBio is supported through funds from the NSF’s Advancing Digitization of Biodiversity Collections (ADBC) program. The vision of the ADBC is a permanent database of digitized information from all biological collections in the United States. It is anticipated that this effort will lead to new discoveries through research, a better understanding and appreciation of biodiversity through improved education and outreach, and subsequent improved environmental and economic policies. Key partners in this effort are the Thematic Collections Networks (TCNs), which form a national grid of institutions that are digitizing specimens and associated resources. Within this context, animal vocalizations (like that of birds and anurans) and electrical signals (such as by fishes), which also form vital specimen-associated resources for research, are currently being digitized and archived by the Macaulay Library at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology (http://macaulaylibrary.org/) and other institutions around the country. Avian and anuran calls recorded by researchers at KU have been being digitized and contributed to this repository, with a substantial part of the collection already accessible to the public.
Exhibit at the Florida Museum of Natural History
The 2 day iDigBio IV summit, which was held in Gainsville between October 27–28, 2014 saw Rafe and I, along with Matthew Medler (who represented Mike Webster, Director of the Macaulay Library) as the attending members of the fledgling TCN devoted to digitizing animal vocalizations and electric signals. Eighty-four on-site attendees and nine remote attendees from TCNs, iDigBio, NSF, USGS and other biodiversity informatics initiatives convened for the summit. A series of brief presentations and demonstrations were made by representatives of the various TCNs and Matthew made a presentation of the basic components of our TCN and the progress made so far. One of the more inspired demonstrations was that of John La Salle, who showcased the Atlas of Living Australia portal (http://www.ala.org.au/), which was supported by a $45 million investment by the Australian Government. I guess I would be very inspired too, had I had that kind of money backing me. Another interesting demo was that of augmented reality for public outreach, education and research purposes, where digitized 3D images of specimens can be viewed through a device such as a mobile phone, iPad, or a desktop webcam; the following video illustrates the point: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=STc8Nsx36MI. Following the talks and demos, we then spread out between a set of four breakout discussion groups. The afternoon saw a poster session that was offered in a unique format, where posters were displayed on 55-inch high-definition flat screen televisions instead of the traditional posters printed on paper. The day culminated in a reception at the Florida Museum of Natural History at Powell Hall on the University of Florida campus, where a sensational Megalodon exhibition had just opened to the public. Overall, the Summit offered valuable insight into the ongoing multi-dimensional digitization and archival processes and the efforts to make them openly accessible, along with networking opportunities in this respect.
A few interesting webpages that were highlighted at the Summit:
- The Society For The Preservation of Natural History Collections: http://www.spnhc.org/
- Digital Morphology library: http://www.digimorph.org/
- Photosynth, a software application that analyzes digital photographs and generates a three-dimensional model of the photos and a point cloud of a photographed object: https://photosynth.net/preview/
We recently received the photograph above from Steven Hallstrom, who owns and operates a sustainable farm just north of Tonganoxie. These photographs are of a frog that Steven observed in abundance earlier this season. Steven notes this frogs apparent similarity with the Pine Barrens Treefrog (Hyla andersonii) and is wondering if this identification could be correct given that this species isn't known from anywhere even close to Kansas (it occurs only in a few isolated patches of pine barren habitat along the Gulf and eastern coasts of the United States).
A Lawrence resident spotted the snake seen above on a walk along a levee about 4km S of downtown Lawrence. In this resident's opinion, the pattern and headshape were somewhat atypical for a Kansas snake. Who knows what species it is?
A resident of Gardner, in Johnson County, KS just sent us this image of a salamander. They photographed this salamander after catching it on their porch on Oct. 23, 2014 (which was a pretty cold night). Who knows the species and its life history?
Brant Faircloth, LSU Professor and co-inventor of the protocol for sequencing ultraconserved elements that is now widely used by KU researchers, is in town this week for a seminar and workshop. This afternoon (Wednesday, Oct. 22nd) at 4PM, Rob Moyle will be hosting a workshop by Brant on UCE probe set design. This workshop will be held in the 7th floor conference room of Dyche Hall. If you don't have access to the 7th floor of Dyche Hall, please contact someone in the BI for assistance or meet on the steps to the 7th floor at 4PM.
The sister of KU Herpetology student Karen Olsen took the photograph above at her house in Florida. Anybody know the species of snake that was in her mailbox?
We just received this report from undergraduate herper Kyle Atkins-Weltman about a recent snake encounter in Lawrence: "As I came back to my apartment from campus, someone from the maintenance crew saw me and asked me if I was the "snake guy," and when I said yes they told me they had found a snake while cleaning an empty apartment and asked if I could identify it. It turned out to be an absolutely BEAUTIFUL Pantherophis emoryi - cute little bugger, too! My guess is that it got in there to escape cold nights or perhaps there were some tasty vittles lying around. I'm going to release it back to the wild in a minute."
PhD student Scott Travers just reported back from the Solomon Islands, where he is in the midst of a National Geographic funded expedition. As you can see from the image above, Scott has already seen one of earth's most amazing lizards - the prehensile tailed skink (Corucia zebrata). Because it is so unusual, Corucia is one of those species that just about every herpetologist knows about. They have amazing tails capable of movement in nearly any dimension, a topic that was the focus of one of my first scientific papers. To the right of Scott, you can see Rafe trying to recreate Scott's moment using a plastic lizard.