Discover Life in Parks Via the Web
Midwest Region: Centennial Initiative Signature Project Proposal
Illustrated by Cheryl Reese
Phlox pilosa L.
Updated: 6 April, 2007
Midwest Region: Centennial Initiative Signature Project Proposal|
Project/Program Title: Midwest Region, Discover Life in Parks Via the Web
Project Narrative Description: Our mission is to gather, assemble and share knowledge about Midwest Region park's biodiversity and ecosystems via the internet, in order to improve the parks ability to instruct visitors, educators and students about the prodigious biological communities and ecosystems managed by each park and promote conservation of park biodiversity throughout the Midwest Region. With Harvard University, Discover Life, The National Biological Information Infrastructure, Missouri Botanical Garden, Smithsonian Institution, Sun Microsystems, Topozone.com and other partners, our goal is to help build an interactive encyclopedia of park life that will enable everyone to better study, monitor, manage, and enjoy each park's biodiversity. Empowered by recent advances in digital imaging technology and by Web tools that enable us to work together efficiently, we propose to put high-quality images, identification guides, real-time high-resolution maps, and other valuable information for ten thousand Midwest park species on-line by 2016. To accomplish this, we will utilize the help of scientific experts, land managers, local naturalists, citizen scientists, teachers, students, and other contributors.. We propose to establish a Midwest Region Biodiversity and Training Center to help each Midwest Park collect biodiversity information and share their knowledge. Based on each park's current capacity and needs, we propose to equip and staff this center to place ten thousand species on-line so that park biodiversity can be enjoyed via the internet.
The Biodiversity Center will work with scientists, naturalists, photographers, and artists within their region to build and illustrate seasonal identification guides to local schools, parks, and other areas of interest. These local guides both draw from and contribute to information in guides to larger geographic regions. They greatly simplify the identification process by reducing the number of possible species a user must consider to just those found locally at a particular time of the year. We propose to work with Discover Life and its partners, who have developed, integrated, and tested software that allows people with minimal computer skills to collect, manage, and serve information on the Web. This will give us the ability to rapidly link information from multiple databases and Websites into composite pages that contain images, maps, identification guides, and other information. The Discover Life search engine, for example, presently enables participating Websites to retrieve and serve pages on over 200,000 species. This and other Discover Life database tools have navigation bars that Websites can customize to link users back to any of their pages.
Project funding will enable everyone to use our software tools without charge, and partner with others to tackle together the task of getting knowledge of the Midwest park's flora and fauna into high-quality, interactive, up-to-date Web pages. Our initial goal is to recruit and train a staff of 3 biologists and a computer specialist for the Midwest Biodiversity Center, ideally a botanist, entomologist, and a wildlife biologist. By working with scientists and other experts, these individuals will be able to assemble and integrate information on a large number of species, covering everything from charismatic mega fauna, to invasive species, to overlooked micro fauna. They will work with museums, herbaria, libraries, and other organizations to get checklists, identification guides, maps, images, and text about the Midwest Region's flora and fauna on-line. We propose to equip the center with high-resolution imaging systems that can photograph small things, such as the Thaumatomyrmex ant, to larger organisms, such as plants. Gary Alpert at Harvard University will be responsible for overseeing the imaging systems and for training individuals to use them and the associated software. The Biodiversity Center will process the images, and curate associated reference material. Thus, the center will provide regional support to those wishing to put high-quality images on the Web. This capacity is critically needed by the world's taxonomic experts. By sharing images of type specimens and unidentified ones, it allows them to determine rapidly what is new to science. Hence, it greatly speeds the process of naming and describing species.
We also propose to equip the center with computers that will mirror Discover Life's databases locally and, once translations have been made of text, serve the information in local languages in addition to English. The center's staff will manage and have full control of the data contributed by volunteer cooperating scientists. Park biodiversity information should be like oxygen -- free and equally available to everyone on the planet. By implementing this project, we will ensure that park biodiversity information is always available to everyone, both to the citizens who can physically visit a park and to those who are physically impaired, but want to enjoy park science via the internet. Confirmed or Proposed Partners to Provide Matching Funds:
* Academy of Natural Sciences, Philadelphia
Project Status (choose one):
__Ready to Go _x__In Progress/Not Final ___Just an Idea
PMIS Number?_Will be entered into PMIS if project is considered for funding by the Midwest Regional Office
What assistance is needed to more fully develop the idea?_Coordination Assistance from the MRO Science and Resource Management Staff.
Park/Program Name: Buffalo National River
Contact Name and Phone: Mark DePoy, (870) 741-5446 Ext. 270
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