UMMZ Fish Division's NSF grant for georeferencing fish collection
Tuesday, August 07, 2012
The University of Michigan Museum of Zoology Fish Division is part of a three-year National Science Foundation grant involving 15 institutions to collaboratively georeference the estimated 800,000 fish collection locality records in U.S. fish collections whose location has not been defined. U-M received over $125,000 from NSF.
“This project will allow us to greatly refine the locality data associated with the largest collections of the largest group of aquatic vertebrates,” said Professor Bill Fink, curator of the Museum of Zoology Fish Division. “These improvements will allow much greater accuracy in assessing just where the various fish species are located and in investigating changes in ranges of fishes over the decades. These data enhancements have very positive implications for assessing climate change, impacts on biodiversity, effects of exotic species, and the results of commercial fishing on these faunas.
“It is worth emphasizing that the museums involved have made long term investments, decades long, in accumulating the data and the specimens that allow confirmation of species identifications and species ranges,” Fink continued. “Also note that the data will be available to citizens as well as private and public agencies over the internet, hopefully to be included in analyses of development projects and environmental assessment.”
According to the project summary, technicians at each of the collaborating institutions will receive training on use of the community software called GEOLocate’s Community Georeferencing system. Researchers plan to add several new data providers to the Fishnet2 network. The added data providers will increase the number of localities in need of georeferencing to two million records.
Results from this analysis will be used to guide future georeferencing projects. To accomplish the task, researchers will divide the world into 15 regions each with roughly equal numbers of collection localities. Collaborative georeferencing begins in fall 2012 and will continue for 18 months. In the final year of the project, georeferenced data will be returned to data providers for incorporation in their databases.
Georeferencing natural history collection data is a critical step in a progression that starts with digitizing collection records, continues through databasing and networking, and ultimately gives researchers access to the vast specimen and data resources of natural history museums. It allows them to use natural history data to address important scientific and societal needs such as conservation, environmental restoration, and preparing for global climate change.
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