skip to main content


Title: Collections Management and High-Throughput Digitization using Distributed Cyberinfrastructure Resources
Collections digitization relies increasingly upon computational and data management resources that occasionally exceed the capacity of natural history collections and their managers and curators. Digitization of many tens of thousands of micropaleontological specimen slides, as evidenced by the effort presented here by the Indiana University Paleontology Collection, has been a concerted effort in adherence to the recommended practices of multifaceted aspects of collections management for both physical and digital collections resources. This presentation highlights the contributions of distributed cyberinfrastructure from the National Science Foundation-supported Extreme Science and Engineering Discovery Environment (XSEDE) for web-hosting of collections management system resources and distributed processing of millions of digital images and metadata records of specimens from our collections. The Indiana University Center for Biological Research Collections is currently hosting its instance of the Specify collections management system (CMS) on a virtual server hosted on Jetstream, the cloud service for on-demand computational resources as provisioned by XSEDE. This web-service allows the CMS to be flexibly hosted on the cloud with additional services that can be provisioned on an as-needed basis for generating and integrating digitized collections objects in both web-friendly and digital preservation contexts. On-demand computing resources can be used for the manipulation of digital images for automated file I/O, scripted renaming of files for adherence to file naming conventions, derivative generation, and backup to our local tape archive for digital disaster preparedness and long-term storage. Here, we will present our strategies for facilitating reproducible workflows for general collections digitization of the IUPC nomenclatorial types and figured specimens in addition to the gigapixel resolution photographs of our large collection of microfossils using our GIGAmacro system (e.g., this slide of conodonts). We aim to demonstrate the flexibility and nimbleness of cloud computing resources for replicating this, and other, workflows to enhance the findability, accessibility, interoperability, and reproducibility of the data and metadata contained within our collections.  more » « less
Award ID(s):
1702289
NSF-PAR ID:
10073069
Author(s) / Creator(s):
; ; ;
Date Published:
Journal Name:
Biodiversity Information Science and Standards
Volume:
2
ISSN:
2535-0897
Page Range / eLocation ID:
e25643
Format(s):
Medium: X
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
More Like this
  1. Abstract Natural history collections (NHCs) are the foundation of historical baselines for assessing anthropogenic impacts on biodiversity. Along these lines, the online mobilization of specimens via digitization—the conversion of specimen data into accessible digital content—has greatly expanded the use of NHC collections across a diversity of disciplines. We broaden the current vision of digitization (Digitization 1.0)—whereby specimens are digitized within NHCs—to include new approaches that rely on digitized products rather than the physical specimen (Digitization 2.0). Digitization 2.0 builds on the data, workflows, and infrastructure produced by Digitization 1.0 to create digital-only workflows that facilitate digitization, curation, and data links, thus returning value to physical specimens by creating new layers of annotation, empowering a global community, and developing automated approaches to advance biodiversity discovery and conservation. These efforts will transform large-scale biodiversity assessments to address fundamental questions including those pertaining to critical issues of global change. 
    more » « less
  2. Grant-supported digitization projects over the past 20 years at the Illinois Natural History Survey (INHS) have yielded over 1,000,000 occurrence records (representing over 2.7 million specimens), one of the most successful digitization efforts within the United States. However, receiving multiple grants at the cutting edge has led to numerous projects left at various stages of completeness, several relational databases, orphaned data, and specimens at various stages of curation. TaxonWorks (taxonworks.org), an integrated web-based workbench developed by the Species File Group and supported by the INHS and the National Science Foundation, has provided the digital infrastructure to unify multiple workflows, projects, databases, and even historical accession books into one easy to access, open-source platform. We demonstrate the practical utility of this platform and summarize past, present, and future efforts at the INHS towards integrating all our data within TaxonWorks. 
    more » « less
  3. Premise

    The digitization of natural history collections includes transcribing specimen label data into standardized formats. Born‐digital specimen data initially gathered in digital formats do not need to be transcribed, enabling their efficient integration into digitized collections. Modernizing field collection methods for born‐digital workflows requires the development of new tools and processes.

    Methods and Results

    collNotes, a mobile application, was developed for Android andiOSto supplement traditional field journals. Designed for efficiency in the field, collNotes avoids redundant data entries and does not require cellular service. collBook, a companion desktop application, refines field notes into database‐ready formats and produces specimen labels.

    Conclusions

    collNotes and collBook can be used in combination as a field‐to‐database solution for gathering born‐digital voucher specimen data for plants and fungi. Both programs are open source and use common file types simplifying either program's integration into existing workflows.

     
    more » « less
  4. The management of security credentials (e.g., passwords, secret keys) for computational science workflows is a burden for scientists and information security officers. Problems with credentials (e.g., expiration, privilege mismatch) cause workflows to fail to fetch needed input data or store valuable scientific results, distracting scientists from their research by requiring them to diagnose the problems, re-run their computations, and wait longer for their results. SciTokens introduces a capabilities-based authorization infrastructure for distributed scientific computing, to help scientists manage their security credentials more reliably and securely. SciTokens uses IETF-standard OAuth JSON Web Tokens for capability-based secure access to remote scientific data. These access tokens convey the specific authorizations needed by the workflows, rather than general-purpose authentication impersonation credentials, to address the risks of scientific workflows running on distributed infrastructure including NSF resources (e.g., LIGO Data Grid, Open Science Grid, XSEDE) and public clouds (e.g., Amazon Web Services, Google Cloud, Microsoft Azure). By improving the interoperability and security of scientific workflows, SciTokens 1) enables use of distributed computing for scientific domains that require greater data protection and 2) enables use of more widely distributed computing resources by reducing the risk of credential abuse on remote systems. In this extended abstract, we present the results over the past year of our open source implementation of the SciTokens model and its deployment in the Open Science Grid, including new OAuth support added in the HTCondor 8.8 release series. 
    more » « less
  5. Over 300 million arthropod specimens are housed in North American natural history collections. These collections represent a “vast hidden treasure trove” of biodiversity −95% of the specimen label data have yet to be transcribed for research, and less than 2% of the specimens have been imaged. Specimen labels contain crucial information to determine species distributions over time and are essential for understanding patterns of ecology and evolution, which will help assess the growing biodiversity crisis driven by global change impacts. Specimen images offer indispensable insight and data for analyses of traits, and ecological and phylogenetic patterns of biodiversity. Here, we review North American arthropod collections using two key metrics, specimen holdings and digitization efforts, to assess the potential for collections to provide needed biodiversity data. We include data from 223 arthropod collections in North America, with an emphasis on the United States. Our specific findings are as follows: (1) The majority of North American natural history collections (88%) and specimens (89%) are located in the United States. Canada has comparable holdings to the United States relative to its estimated biodiversity. Mexico has made the furthest progress in terms of digitization, but its specimen holdings should be increased to reflect the estimated higher Mexican arthropod diversity. The proportion of North American collections that has been digitized, and the number of digital records available per species, are both much lower for arthropods when compared to chordates and plants. (2) The National Science Foundation’s decade-long ADBC program (Advancing Digitization of Biological Collections) has been transformational in promoting arthropod digitization. However, even if this program became permanent, at current rates, by the year 2050 only 38% of the existing arthropod specimens would be digitized, and less than 1% would have associated digital images. (3) The number of specimens in collections has increased by approximately 1% per year over the past 30 years. We propose that this rate of increase is insufficient to provide enough data to address biodiversity research needs, and that arthropod collections should aim to triple their rate of new specimen acquisition. (4) The collections we surveyed in the United States vary broadly in a number of indicators. Collectively, there is depth and breadth, with smaller collections providing regional depth and larger collections providing greater global coverage. (5) Increased coordination across museums is needed for digitization efforts to target taxa for research and conservation goals and address long-term data needs. Two key recommendations emerge: collections should significantly increase both their specimen holdings and their digitization efforts to empower continental and global biodiversity data pipelines, and stimulate downstream research. 
    more » « less