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Northeastern Region

Maine New Hampshire Vermont Massachussetts Rhode Island Connecticut New York Pennsylvania Delaware West Virginia New Jersey Maryland Virginia

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Specimens

The biological collections housed in Natural History museums are amazing, yet untapped, resources of taxonomic, geographic, and temporal information on the world's species. This information is crucial for understanding and properly managing both biodiversity and ecosystems, but these data are often difficult to access.  Invertebrates, especially pinned insect collections, are often the largest holdings (in terms of the number of actual specimens) in Natural History museum collections. However, recent surveys of federal science agencies indicated that these collections on average only have a fraction (~5%) of their specimens databased and readily searchable online1,2 for direct use and consumption by the broader scientific community. The situation at other non-profit museums may be similar, or worse due to a lack of available funding or staff. Typically, it is the larger, well funded museums that are further along in databasing efforts, whereas, smaller collections (small museums, Universities and private collections) generally have few, if any, specimens databased.

This website is a step toward making data from these collections accessible to the conservation community. This project was undertaken as part of an RCN grant from the Northeast Association of Fish & Wildlife Agencies (NEAFWA), with the goal of creating a specimen database for the northeastern states that was accessible to state and federal fish and wildlife agencies, natural heritage programs, and other conservation organizations. Critical occurrence and distribution data can be obtained from museum collections which can aid in species conservation efforts. These collections also add an historical element, since many collections were started more than 100 years ago and contain representative collections from that period. Often, these older occurrence records are missing from conservation planning efforts.

This database focuses on data from what is arguably the most  economically important and ecologically diverse group of organisms: the invertebrates (e.g., insects, crustaceans, mollusks, etc.).  Tools will be available on this site for other institutions, organizations or private collections to upload their specimen data to the website so that they can be used by conservation managers to preserve species and their natural habitats.


References:

  1. Report from the National Science Foundation based on a survey of collections which had received federal support for projects over the past twenty years.
    http://www.nsf.gov/pubs/2009/nsf09044/nsf09044.pdf
  2. National Science and Technology Council, Committee on Science, Interagency Working Group on Scientific Collections (IWGSC). Scientific Collections: Mission-Critical Infrastructure for Federal Science Agencies. Office of Scientific Policy, Washington, DC, 2009. ISBN 978-0-9819500-0-6.
    http://www.nescent.org/wg/digitization/images/d/d1/Collections2.pdf