Digitizing AMNH Marine Invertebrates

Illustration of Catalog No. 9864, Gnathophyllum sp.
Illustration of Catalog No. 9864, Gnathophyllum sp.

The Division of Invertebrate Zoology received a grant from the National Science Foundation to database and image its marine invertebrate collection as part of a collaborative effort with 18 other institutions. For two centuries, America has amassed an unparalleled collection of specimens from exploring the world's oceans. They were pulled up with nets, scooped up from seabeds with grabs, and hand-collected by divers, all contributing to a library of biodiversity that captures the state of life in the ocean - year after year, decade after decade. The broadest evolutionary scope of those collections is in the marine invertebrates, animals without backbones - sea stars, corals, worms, jellyfish, crabs, and thousands of other animals. That library of preserved marine invertebrates is our essential guide to the diversity of ocean life across the globe. And because they encapsulate data from the moment they were picked up, these institutional collections also act as a time machine, letting us use the past to understand how our present will become the future. But there is a problem - vast numbers of these specimens are essentially invisible outside of a tiny community of museum specialists. The only record of these specimens' existence is on labels enclosed in the jars with the preserved animals or in paper logbooks on a shelf. These specimens will remain nearly undiscoverable on museum shelves until their core descriptive information is made digitally available. Therefore, this project will create public digital records for over 7.5 million specimens from our nation's legacy of marine exploration, thereby making the immense investment in the specimens' acquisition available to 21st Century biodiversity and ecosystems research. Because these specimens provide a visible and tangible window into our oceans' enchanting biodiversity, this project will involve STEM educators and student educators in the digitization effort, so that they will be able to reflect their science experiences directly back to the classroom. The public can get involved by contributing remotes transcriptions of specimen label data. Data and images from the project are available to the greater scientific community and public by searching "Documenting Marine Biodiversity" in the Project Title Field of AMNH’s portal, as well as with GIBF, iDigBio and SCAN aggregators.

You can DigIn[vertebrates] and find out more about this TCN here.

In August, we received a valuable donation of fiddler crabs collected by and research on by Frank H. Barnwell that were curated and digitized by students and Carl Thurman at the University of Northern Iowa! It is a great collection to receive.You can see our busy day on our social media links below and in a piece by Scientific American - 13,000 Crabs Crawl into the Museum.



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We are incorporating it into our collection. You can see the work the students have done here!

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Past Digitizers