Integrated Digitized Biocollections (idigbio.org) at the University of Florida (UF) and Florida State University (FSU) is the national resource for Advancing Digitization of Biodiversity Collections (ADBC). The ADBC program was developed in response to the need for a sustained effort to digitize, and make available online, the vast amount of information in the nation's biodiversity collections, which may contain up to 1 billion specimens. For biological specimens, information digitized include names of species, localities and dates of collection, digital photographs, sound, video, and 3-D models created from a variety of sources. This community digitization effort is supported by ADBC through Thematic Collections Networks (TCNs), groups of institutions that digitize specimens to address a major research topic such as the relationship between agricultural crops and insects or the impacts of invasive species on natural ecosystems. iDigBio assists in coordinating activities of the TCNs by facilitating development of standards and workflows for digitization of specimens and related information, providing cyberinfrastructure resources to enable long-term preservation of digital data, promoting novel and traditional uses of collections data in research and outreach, and working with the collections community to plan for the long-term sustainability of the national program and the resources that program has produced. The availability of digitized information about specimens greatly enhances the ability to conduct research on biological diversity and to address some of the most fundamental questions in biology.
In the past five years, the national effort to digitize information in the nation's biodiversity collections has been successfully catalyzed by funding from NSF and advanced by activities of iDigBio. Collaborations with data providers and users have been developed, goals and priorities defined, and best practices related to digitization identified. Cyberinfrastructure resources, including a national search portal, have been provided. These community-driven activities have led to improved digitization practices, increased involvement in digitization and training, and adoption of instruments and informatics tools that improve the efficiency and scalability of digitization and research workflows in all types of biodiversity collections. iDigBio works with staff in more than 450 collections in 270 institutions distributed in all 50 states. Communication among stakeholders to increase access to collections data has been established through workshops, webinars, and the use of social media. iDigBio has sponsored attendance of more than 2,200 participants from 511 institutions to over 65 workshops and symposia that targeted digitization. iDigBio has ingested more than 670 record sets containing 48 million records and 13 million images. All data ingested are indexed so that queries and other types of index-based access are supported. Searches for data can be done through a Web-based graphical interface or through programmatic APIs. Search and analytical tools enable users to mine diverse data such as taxonomy, location, images, traits, and vocalizations. Funding for another five years, will allow iDigBio to continue its successful strategies with an increasing emphasis on data improvement and use in research and outreach. This national resource created by the ADBC program is increasingly recognized as an essential resource for information on biodiversity and digitization. As the scientific and societal benefits of validated collections data are realized, digitization will become a common and sustained practice in natural history collections.