Florida Museum of Natural History uses grant to digitize invertebrate collection

By on October 5th, 2012

Web searchers will soon be a few clicks away from one of the largest collections of invertebrates in the world.

Using a $339,000 grant from the National Science Foundation, researchers at the Florida Museum of Natural History, located at the corner of Museum Road and Newell Drive on the UF campus, are digitizing their entire collection of invertebrate specimens.

The Florida Museum’s collection, which is open to anyone interested in learning more about invertebrate species, is the second largest of invertebrate specimens in the country, containing numerous species of corals, crustaceans and mollusks.

Collections Manager John Slapcinsky is a lead facilitator in the new digitization process, which will hold all the information on invertebrates the museum has in a single online catalog.

“The collection is basically like a really big library,” Slapcinsky said. “We have a lot of information about animals, about biodiversity. We want to try to make this information as accessible as possible to as many people as we can.”

Digitizing specimens allows researchers who are interested in searching for a specific sample can to easily find it on a computer.

The grant from the National Science Foundation has made it easier for the museum to organize its information and add it to the Web at a faster pace.

“It’s a very rapidly growing collection,” Slapcinsky said.

This year, the museum expects to add 20- to 40,000 records, he said.

The museum’s digitization system has attracted researchers, including field associate Harry Lee.

“This is a center of excellence,” Lee said. “Since I’ve lived in Florida, I’ve seen it grow and mature and become a very useful international resource.”

To digitize the specimens, specialized labels are made for each one. The labels, which are made from materials that help keep the integrity of the specimens, include the name of the genus and species of the specimen, when it was collected and where it was collected on it.

Hana Engroff edited this story online.

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