Florida State to Take Part in $10 Million Project to Digitize Nation's Biological Collections
The National Science Foundation has awarded a five-year, $10 million
grant to Florida State University and the University of Florida to
coordinate 92 institutions in 45 states working to digitize the
nation’s biological collections.
FSU’s Center for Information
Management and Scientific Communication, in the College of
Communication & Information, will work with UF’s Florida Museum of
Natural History and its College of Engineering Advanced Computing
Information Systems Laboratory to create software and databases the
nationwide participants will use to transfer and store the data. FSU
will receive $2.8 million of the grant.
“We will be a
facilitating hub,” said FSU’s Greg Riccardi, director of the Center for
Information Management in Scientific Communication and a co-principal
investigator on the grant. “This project puts us in the center of U.S.
efforts to digitize collections for biodiversity research.”
Integrated Digitized Biocollections or iDigBio, the information in the
digitized collections will include field notes, photographs, 3-D images
and information on associated organisms, geographic distribution,
environmental habitat and specimen DNA samples.
anyone online, the natural history data and its increased accessibility
will help researchers identify gaps in scientific knowledge and could
assist government agencies and others making decisions related to
climate change, conservation, invasive species, biodiversity and other
“There are probably a billion specimens in the
United States, but information isn’t easily accessible,” said principal
investigator Larry Page, research scientist at the Florida Museum of
Natural History on the UF campus. “This program is about making that
information available to researchers, educators, policymakers and the
general public — anyone who wants it.”
The value to policymakers, in particular, will be both immediate and long term.
are seeing the impact of biodiversity on policies related to climate
change, conservation and customs issues today,” said Riccardi, a
professor in FSU’s School of Library & Information Studies. “When a
bug crawls out of a crate in a shipping warehouse, customs officials
need to determine if that species will create environmental problems
and what to do about it.”
UF and FSU also plan to share their work
with the public through the use of social media and an exhibit at the
Florida Museum of Natural History.
“This project is a great
opportunity for the faculty and the graduate students at FSU,” said
Larry Dennis, dean of the College of Communication & Information.
“It provides funding as well as an opportunity to lead a project of
great national importance.”
The grant is part of the NSF
Advancing Digitization of Biological Collections program. The other
institutions selected by the NSF will receive two- to four-year grants
to fund the digitization process.
investigators on the iDigBio grant are José Fortes, director of UF’s
Advanced Computing and Information Systems Laboratory, and Pamela
Soltis, curator of botany at the Florida Museum.
previous work in biodiversity and digital collections includes
Morphbank, a joint project involving FSU, the University of Kansas, the
University of Texas and the Swedish Museum of Natural History that
created a repository of images of insects, plants and other organisms.
He and the Center for Information Management in Scientific
Communication also are part of the Military Suicide Research
Consortium, a joint project of FSU and the Denver Veterans Affairs
In addition to Riccardi, other FSU faculty
working on the project are Austin Mast, an associate professor of
biological science and the director of FSU’s Robert K. Godfrey
Herbarium, a scientific collection of more than 200,000 plant
specimens, and Marcia Mardis, an assistant professor in the College of
Communication & Information’s School of Library & Information
Studies and associate director for the Partnerships Advancing Library
Media (PALM) Center. She has led eight research grants relating to use
of digital libraries within the NSF’s National Science Digital Library