$7.5M for biodiversity; UF digitizing collections


An aerial view of parts of the University of Florida campus in Gainesville from the ShandsCair Flight Program helicopter on Dec. 8, 2011.

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Published: Monday, September 1, 2014 at 5:33 p.m.
Last Modified: Monday, September 1, 2014 at 5:33 p.m.

Several institutions involved in a nationwide project overseen by the University of Florida’s iDigBio to digitize biodiversity collections received $7.5 million in the latest round of funding from the National Science Foundation.

The effort is being led by Larry Page, a zoology professor, curator of fishes for the Florida Museum of Natural History and director of the Biodiversity Institute, which oversees the National Resource for Advancing Digitization of Biodiversity Collections. The project is already three years into a $14 million, five-year grant to coordinate the digitization of 154 institutional collections throughout the U.S. — mostly at colleges, universities and field museums. That represents about 10 percent of the 1,500 known collections in the U.S., Page said.

The latest round of grants will expand the number of participating institutions to 200, Page said.

An online search engine allows researchers anywhere in the U.S. to access data on 20 million specimens and 3 million images with the click of a button, Page said. They can have the specimens shipped to where they are, rather than having to travel to UF or to other collections.

This is the fourth round of grants from the NSF, said Paul Ramey, a spokesman for the Florida Museum of Natural History at UF.

The new projects focus on the collection of “dark data,” specimens that are 100-200 years old stored in a drawer somewhere that few people have access to, Page said in a news release.

Another by the University of Wisconsin-Madison looks at the impact of non-native invasive species of mollusks, algae and plants threatening the Great Lakes.

Another by the Field Museum of Chicago examines invertebrates to analyze the causes and consequences of biodiversity shifts.

Appalachian State University will look at how to build and sustain a database for biodiversity hotspots.

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