One of the greatest threats to the health of North America’s Great Lakes is invasion by exotic species, several of which already have had catastrophic impacts on property values, the fisheries, shipping, and tourism industries, and continue to threaten the survival of native species and wetland ecosystems. Additional species have been placed on watchlists because of their potential to become aquatic invasives. This project will create a network of herbaria and zoology museums from among the Great Lakes states of MN, WI, IL, IN, MI, OH, and NY to better document the occurrence of these species in space and time by imaging and providing online access to the information on the specimens of the critical organisms. Several initiatives are already in place to alert citizens to the dangers of spreading aquatic invasives among our nation’s waterways, but this project will develop complementary scientific and educational tools for scientists, students, wildlife officers, teachers, and the public who have had little access to images or data derived directly from preserved specimens collected over the past three centuries.
This bi-national Thematic Collections Network of >25 institutions from eight states and Canada will digitize 1.73 million historical specimens representing 2,550 species of exotic fish, clams, snails, mussels, algae, plants, and their look-alikes documented to occur in the Great Lakes Basin. It is one of the first efforts to digitize liquid preserved specimens and to integrate cross-kingdom taxa and these methods could become national standards for cross taxon digitization. Students will be provided with hands-on experience in modern methods of specimen curation and this cross-taxon network will provide greater flexibility to existing web platforms for integration of data. This award is made as part of the National Resource for Digitization of Biological Collections through the Advancing Digitization of Biological Collections program and all data resulting from this award will be available through the national resource (iDigBio.org).
Read the iDigBio press release
Read the UW-Madison news story