Specimens and associated data from natural history collections are a cornerstone of biological sciences. A lot of what we know about life in our planet comes from collection specimens. Advances in computer technology in recent years have allowed collections to expedite the process of making the enormous wealth of biological information more accessible to the community, but there’s still a lot of work to be done.
Every specimen in a research collection has label(s) with information on where it was captured, when, and by whom. Often we find additional biological data on the labels, like the host plant that an insect was feeding on, the habitat in which it was collected, or the method by which it was collected.
Digitization means capturing and storing the information contained on each specimen label and storing it in a database. It also may include producing images and videos of specimens.
We currently have two specimen digitization projects going on at the Triplehorn Insect Collection, one on beetles and one on butterflies. We are also embarking on a citizen science project for transcription of butterfly label data in collaboration with Notes from Nature.