iDigInfo Projects

iDigBio

Since 2011, iDigBio has served as the US National Science Foundation’s National Resource for Advancing Digitization of Biodiversity Collections. “Digitization” in this context means the creation of digital data and media (e.g., digital images) about biodiversity specimens. These specimens include insects on pins, fish in jars, fossils in drawers, and plants on sheets and are critical to research that puts present day diversity and distribution in context and models the future of Earth’s biome. These collections can be found in such diverse institutional settings as museums, botanical gardens, universities, field stations, government research centers, and elsewhere.

iDigBio has historically been composed of five domains, with four at University of Florida and the fifth—the Digitization, Workforce Development, and Citizen Science Domain—at Florida State University’ Institute for Digital Information and Scientific Communication. FSU’s iDigBio activities focus on increasing the rate, scope, efficiency, quality, and downstream fitness-for-use of digital data creation about specimens and collecting events, identifying and building core data creation and management competencies among biodiversity collections staff, and building support for digitization, data management, and workforce development among biodiversity collections administrators to sustain the activities. The FSU iDigBio domain accomplishes its goals through leadership and participation in a mix of deliverables, including workshops, symposia, conferences, webinars, working groups, white papers, peer-reviewed papers, professional meeting talks and posters, professional organization liaisons, and online content.

iDigInfo Director Austin Mast is co-PI on the current iDigBio Phase 2 grant and the new, 5-year, Phase 3 grant (2021–26; $20 million) with four co-PIs from UF’s Florida Museum of Natural History and UF’s Advanced Computing and Information System’s Laboratory, as well as important new collaborators from Arizona State University’s Biodiversity Knowledge Integration Center. The grant supports graduate students, as well as three full-time staff at iDigInfo. For more information on the iDigBio Phase 3 grant, visit https://nsf.gov/awardsearch/showAward?AWD_ID=2027654

Rapid Pandemic Response: Enhancement of Digital Data about Horseshoe Bat Specimens

The US National Science Foundation awarded iDigInfo Director Austin Mast a $200,000 grant from the Rapid Response Research funding mechanism to enhance data about the world’s 90,000+ horseshoe bat specimens. Horseshoe bats harbor a variety of coronaviruses—the closest viral relative to SARS-CoV-2 (the virus responsible for the COVID-19 pandemic) discovered to-date was found in a horseshoe bat. The project is, among other things, mapping historical horseshoe bat collection locations and has found that about 28% of the records represent extensions of known species distributions. The project’s data and protocols are shared at Zenodo, and the latter will serve as a template for digital data enhancement during future crisis responses (e.g., in the face of an oil spill). The award is a collaboration with the Head of Biodiversity Informatics and Data Science at Yale University’s Peabody Museum of Natural History. It started July 1, 2020, and supported three Data Curators and staff time at iDigInfo. For more information on the grant, visit https://nsf.gov/awardsearch/showAward?AWD_ID=2033973. To hear more about the research, you can view Austin’s talk to the COVID Information Commons community at https://covidinfocommons.datascience.columbia.edu/content/meet-researchers