This project will create InvertNet, an on-line virtual museum comprising >50 million insect and related arthropod specimens housed at 22 Midwestern institutions, focusing on the research theme of effects of land use changes on the biota of the Great Lakes and upper Mississippi River drainage basins. These collections document 160 years of environmental change and are an invaluable and irreplaceable resource but, at present, are largely inaccessible to scientists and the general public. Most previous efforts to capture and disseminate invertebrate collection data have focused on label data alone. InvertNet will use advanced digitization and networking technologies to capture and display 2D and 3D images of specimens and labels, and incorporate them into a searchable database. These new techniques should reduce the cost of digitizing insect specimens substantially.
By allowing users to find and view detailed images of specimens of particular species and their associated data labels, InvertNet will provide universal access to collections previously restricted to researchers. It will include links to the popular BugGuide.net insect identification website and to other biodiversity data portals used by researchers, educators, and the general public. This will facilitate and support many aspects of biological research and education, including species discovery and identification, pest management, ecology and biogeography. InvertNet will serve as a model, applicable to other kinds of biological collections, for the use of efficient, computer-assisted procedures to increase the speed and accuracy of collection data capture. This award is made as part of the National Resource for Digitization of Biological Collections through the Advancing Digitization of Biological Collections program and all data resulting from this award will be available through the national resource.