This award will support databasing and imaging at the Louisiana State Arthropod Museum (LSAM) and consolidation of data from five additional arthropod collections. Products will include an online database of arthropod diversity that will serve as a taxonomic identification tool useful throughout the southern United States. Data representing ~500,000 specimens will become available online via SilverCollections software. SilverCollections harvests data from the LSAM Specify database and posts it to the internet in a DarwinCore-compliant format. Features include a taxonomy, checklist and image browser, autocomplete smart filters, real time search engine, biodiversity comparison charts, Google distribution maps, and BioGeomancer approximations. Data entry and imaging will be accomplished by undergraduates trained by a Research Associate and Principal Investigators. The workflow procedure is a lockstep plan that permits simplified training, data entry, and quality control. Taxonomy, locality, and collection event data are entered, and images are produced by different students responsible for those tasks. Products are checked and integrated into Specify before being posted online. Migration of data to the internet enables the global community to benefit from the wealth of data contained within the LSAM. Our system puts arthropod names and images on the web and makes taxonomic, geographic, and habitat information instantly available. Having these materials available online will save thousands of work-hours in problem diagnoses. Interacting with the public and other user groups through a database rather than the time-consuming method of finding specimens and checking labels makes fiscal sense. Louisiana has a rich mosaic of natural ecosystems, many of which are threatened or have undergone dramatic declines. Data concerning the state?s fauna and habitats will transition from obscurity to universal accessibility through implementation of an interactive, web-based inventory. Funding provided by this grant will educate students in curation, web-based data management, and the science of entomology. The Louisiana State Arthropod Museum can be found at www.entomology.lsu.edu/lsam/.
The Louisiana State Arthropod Museum (LSAM) is a major systematic entomology research collection and agricultural voucher collection in the mid-south region of the U.S., and the only major research collection of terrestrial arthropods in the state. With over 1,000,000 collection objects, proper curation and documentation of specimen holdings are critical to the long term prognosis of the LSAM as a dynamic, useable resource in the region. Major products of this databasing and specimen imaging project include a publicly accessible online database of specimens housed in the collections of the LSAM and linked image archive. Specimen records databased to date may be viewed and sorted on the internet portal linked on our museum website. The internet portal is updated weekly to add newly databased specimen records, and currently approximately 160,000 records are posted (http://data.lsuinsects.org/). Physical curation of the collections benefited from the need to have taxa consolidated and arranged according to the latest classification schemas for efficient, error free data entry. As a result, the LSAM is in the best curatorial condition it has ever been in, with near 100% of the cabinets stocked with drawers and approximately 5 years of growth space, assuming the current rate of specimen addition. Our image archive contains high resolution, deep focus photographs of approximately 4000 of the estimated 12,000 Louisiana species in the collection, with an ultimate goal of imaging all species housed in the collections. These images are available on the Louisiana State Arthropod Museumâ€™s photosharing Flickr website (www.flickr.com/photos/12666884@N00/collections/72157631890441830/). Databasing and imaging progress is prioritized by research interests and taxa that are of interest/concern to other researchers and our public stakeholders in Louisiana and elsewhere in the southern U.S. These products have allowed us to transition the collection from a research voucher and identification resource unknown to the general public to an online resource that can be referenced by anyone with a computer. The availability of specimen level data allows specialists around the world to query the collection without involving time and effort on the part of curators to determine presence and numbers of taxa relevant to their research. In a state that has its share of tropical and subtropical introduced insect species, the database serves as a quick reference for regulatory agencies and monitoring projects to access information about the presence/absence and distributions of insect and other arthropod species of concern. The combination of the database and image archive is significant progress towards the goal of an authoritative insect identification guide for the southern U.S. LSAM outreach efforts have informed a broad base of Louisiana citizens about the existence of a major important collection of arthropods in their state. We have traditionally provided the identifications of pest species or other species of concern via public inquiries, but the availability of a much larger informational infrastructure allows us to educate the public about a much broader range of entomological subjects, including insect conservation, the value of biodiversity to ecosystem health, and unique and unusual aspects of insect life histories. This public awareness campaign has been expedited by our administrative position within the LSU AgCenter, which has, as its primary directive, service and information transfer to the public about everything from large scale agriculture to urban life and health management. Arthropods play an important role in all aspects of life, especially in a semitropical place, and we are the primary resource for arthropod information for the State of Louisiana. Our ability to conduct this information transfer has been dramatically enhanced by this NSF funded project. Specimen databasing and imaging are high priority goals of virtually every major institutional natural history collection, and students graduating from these programs are expected to be knowledgeable about current software and imaging technology, and be competent in implementing them. During the project, we have trained two Masterâ€™s and three Ph.D. students in the use of relational databases and image stacking photographic systems. A Research Associate employed during the project is now a highly qualified databasing specialist. Approximately 20 undergraduates have also been involved in various aspects of the project, have developed a better understanding of the contributions of natural history collections to the scientific community and public good. They have also experienced the challenges and complexities of curating and documenting large numbers of insect specimens, and learned skills that can be applied to other aspects of their lives and careers within the biological sciences or in other fields of endeavor.