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Microarray showing a snapshot of active genes in spleen cells in four different House Finches (Carpodacus mexicanus) with variable plumage. Photo: Camille Bonneaud

MCZ Initiatives

Biodiversity Informatics

New information in the field of comparative zoology is generated continuously, and the MCZ is proud to participate in innovative efforts to capture, integrate, manipulate, and share these data.

Informatics projects that develop and integrate specimen databases and collection records provide unprecedented access to primary biodiversity information, fostering interdisciplinary research across diverse fields. MCZ’s comprehensive and historic collections play an integral part in these endeavors, and actively foster several Biodiversity Informatics initiatives:

BHL—Biodiversity Heritage Library

EOL—Encyclopedia of Life

Filtered Push Project—In the NSF funded FilteredPush project (NSF BDI:0960535), a networked solution is being developed to enable annotation of distributed biological collection data and to share assertions about their quality or usability. FilteredPush uses natural science collections as a domain for a reference implementation for a cyberinfrastructure with which any community can render an expert opinion about the quality of data, and the fitness for use of a data set or a subset of records.

Lepidoptera Digitization Project—The MCZ's butterfly collection is engaged in an innovative project for efficient data capture in entomological collections. A workflow has been developed that involves isolating rate limiting steps, and improving through-put by scaling up effort at those bottlenecks. Specimen handling is separated from data input by capturing digital images of labels and separately entering label text into a database off of the images rather than the physical labels. Efficiency is increased by pre-capturing current identifications and other collection info, encoding them in machine-readable barcodes, and using software to automatically create minimally populated database records for the specimens from the encoded information in the images. The interpretation of text data found on the pinned labels is a major data-entry bottleneck. This potential block will be addressed by the scaling-up of a web application for community-sourcing, whereby label interpretation is presented to a broader entomological community, followed by internal vetting of these interpretations.

In addition, the following Biodiversity Informatics collaborations are active in the MCZ at this time:

  • FishNet 2—Ichthyology Network
  • GBIF—Global Biodiversity Information Facility
  • HerpNET—Herpetology Network
  • MaNIS—Mammal Networked Information System
  • ORNIS—Ornithological Information System
  • VertNet—Vertebrate Networked Information System