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  1. Abstract Biodiversity scientists must be fluent across disciplines; they must possess the quantitative, computational, and data skills necessary for working with large, complex data sets, and they must have foundational skills and content knowledge from ecology, evolution, taxonomy, and systematics. To effectively train the emerging workforce, we must teach science as we conduct science and embrace emerging concepts of data acumen alongside the knowledge, tools, and techniques foundational to organismal biology. We present an open education resource that updates the traditional plant collection exercise to incorporate best practices in twenty-first century collecting and to contextualize the activities that build data acumen. Students exposed to this resource gained skills and content knowledge in plant taxonomy and systematics, as well as a nuanced understanding of collections-based data resources. We discuss the importance of the extended specimen in fostering scientific discovery and reinforcing foundational concepts in biodiversity science, taxonomy, and systematics.
  2. As we look to the future of natural history collections and a global integration of biodiversity data, we are reliant on a diverse workforce with the skills necessary to build, grow, and support the data, tools, and resources of the Digital Extended Specimen (DES; Webster 2019, Lendemer et al. 2020, Hardisty 2020). Future “DES Data Curators” – those who will be charged with maintaining resources created through the DES – will require skills and resources beyond what is currently available to most natural history collections staff. In training the workforce to support the DES we have an opportunity to broaden our community and ensure that, through the expansion of biodiversity data, the workforce landscape itself is diverse, equitable, inclusive, and accessible. A fully-implemented DES will provide training that encapsulates capacity building, skills development, unifying protocols and best practices guidance, and cutting-edge technology that also creates inclusive, equitable, and accessible systems, workflows, and communities. As members of the biodiversity community and the current workforce, we can leverage our knowledge and skills to develop innovative training models that: include a range of educational settings and modalities; address the needs of new communities not currently engaged with digital data; from their onset, providemore »attribution for past and future work and do not perpetuate the legacy of colonial practices and historic inequalities found in many physical natural history collections. Recent reports from the Biodiversity Collections Network (BCoN 2019) and the National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine (National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine 2020) specifically address workforce needs in support of the DES. To address workforce training and inclusivity within the context of global data integration, the Alliance for Biodiversity Knowledge included a topic on Workforce capacity development and inclusivity in Phase 2 of the consultation on Converging Digital Specimens and Extended Specimens - Towards a global specification for data integration. Across these efforts, several common themes have emerged relative to workforce training and the DES. A call for a community needs assessment: As a community, we have several unknowns related to the current collections workforce and training needs. We would benefit from a baseline assessment of collections professionals to define current job responsibilities, demographics, education and training, incentives, compensation, and benefits. This includes an evaluation of current employment prospects and opportunities. Defined skills and training for the 21st century collections professional: We need to be proactive and define the 21st century workforce skills necessary to support the development and implementation of the DES. When we define the skills and content needs we can create appropriate training opportunities that include scalable materials for capacity building, educational materials that develop relevant skills, unifying protocols across the DES network, and best practices guidance for professionals. Training for data end-users: We need to train data end-users in biodiversity and data science at all levels of formal and informal education from primary and secondary education through the existing workforce. This includes developing training and educational materials, creating data portals, and building analyses that are inclusive, accessible, and engage the appropriate community of science educators, data scientists, and biodiversity researchers. Foster a diverse, equitable, inclusive, and accessible and professional workforce: As the DES develops and new tools and resources emerge, we need to be intentional in our commitment to building tools that are accessible and in assuring that access is equitable. This includes establishing best practices to ensure the community providing and accessing data is inclusive and representative of the diverse global community of potential data providers and users. Upfront, we must acknowledge and address issues of historic inequalities and colonial practices and provide appropriate attribution for past and future work while ensuring legal and regulatory compliance. Efforts must include creating transparent linkages among data and the humans that create the data that drives the DES. In this presentation, we will highlight recommendations for building workforce capacity within the DES that are diverse, inclusive, equitable and accessible, take into account the requirements of the biodiversity science community, and that are flexible to meet the needs of an evolving field.« less
  3. International collaboration between collections, aggregators, and researchers within the biodiversity community and beyond is becoming increasingly important in our efforts to support biodiversity, conservation and the life of the planet. The social, technical, logistical and financial aspects of an equitable biodiversity data landscape – from workforce training and mobilization of linked specimen data, to data integration, use and publication – must be considered globally and within the context of a growing biodiversity crisis. In recent years, several initiatives have outlined paths forward that describe how digital versions of natural history specimens can be extended and linked with associated data. In the United States, Webster (2017) presented the “extended specimen”, which was expanded upon by Lendemer et al. (2019) through the work of the Biodiversity Collections Network (BCoN). At the same time, a “digital specimen” concept was developed by DiSSCo in Europe (Hardisty 2020). Both the extended and digital specimen concepts depict a digital proxy of an analog natural history specimen, whose digital nature provides greater capabilities such as being machine-processable, linkages with associated data, globally accessible information-rich biodiversity data, improved tracking, attribution and annotation, additional opportunities for data use and cross-disciplinary collaborations forming the basis for FAIR (Findable, Accessible, Interoperable,more »Reproducible) and equitable sharing of benefits worldwide, and innumerable other advantages, with slight variation in how an extended or digital specimen model would be executed. Recognizing the need to align the two closely-related concepts, and to provide a place for open discussion around various topics of the Digital Extended Specimen (DES; the current working name for the joined concepts), we initiated a virtual consultation on the discourse platform hosted by the Alliance for Biodiversity Knowledge through GBIF. This platform provided a forum for threaded discussions around topics related and relevant to the DES. The goals of the consultation align with the goals of the Alliance for Biodiversity Knowledge: expand participation in the process, build support for further collaboration, identify use cases, identify significant challenges and obstacles, and develop a comprehensive roadmap towards achieving the vision for a global specification for data integration. In early 2021, Phase 1 launched with five topics: Making FAIR data for specimens accessible; Extending, enriching and integrating data; Annotating specimens and other data; Data attribution; and Analyzing/mining specimen data for novel applications. This round of full discussion was productive and engaged dozens of contributors, with hundreds of posts and thousands of views. During Phase 1, several deeper, more technical, or additional topics of relevance were identified and formed the foundation for Phase 2 which began in May 2021 with the following topics: Robust access points and data infrastructure alignment; Persistent identifier (PID) scheme(s); Meeting legal/regulatory, ethical and sensitive data obligations; Workforce capacity development and inclusivity; Transactional mechanisms and provenance; and Partnerships to collaborate more effectively. In Phase 2 fruitful progress was made towards solutions to some of these complex functional and technical long-term goals. Simultaneously, our commitment to open participation was reinforced, through increased efforts to involve new voices from allied and complementary fields. Among a wealth of ideas expressed, the community highlighted the need for unambiguous persistent identifiers and a dedicated agent to assign them, support for a fully linked system that includes robust publishing mechanisms, strong support for social structures that build trustworthiness of the system, appropriate attribution of legacy and new work, a system that is inclusive, removed from colonial practices, and supportive of creative use of biodiversity data, building a truly global data infrastructure, balancing open access with legal obligations and ethical responsibilities, and the partnerships necessary for success. These two consultation periods, and the myriad activities surrounding the online discussion, produced a wide variety of perspectives, strategies, and approaches to converging the digital and extended specimen concepts, and progressing plans for the DES -- steps necessary to improve access to research-ready data to advance our understanding of the diversity and distribution of life. Discussions continue and we hope to include your contributions to the DES in future implementation plans.« less
  4. Primary biodiversity data records that are open access and available in a standardised format are essential for conservation planning and research on policy-relevant time-scales. We created a dataset to document all known occurrence data for the Federally Endangered Poweshiek skipperling butterfly [ Oarismapoweshiek (Parker, 1870; Lepidoptera: Hesperiidae)]. The Poweshiek skipperling was a historically common species in prairie systems across the upper Midwest, United States and Manitoba, Canada. Rapid declines have reduced the number of verified extant sites to six. Aggregating and curating Poweshiek skipperling occurrence records documents and preserves all known distributional data, which can be used to address questions related to Poweshiek skipperling conservation, ecology and biogeography. Over 3500 occurrence records were aggregated over a temporal coverage from 1872 to present. Occurrence records were obtained from 37 data providers in the conservation and natural history collection community using both “HumanObservation” and “PreservedSpecimen” as an acceptable basisOfRecord. Data were obtained in different formats and with differing degrees of quality control. During the data aggregation and cleaning process, we transcribed specimen label data, georeferenced occurrences, adopted a controlled vocabulary, removed duplicates and standardised formatting. We examined the dataset for inconsistencies with known Poweshiek skipperling biogeography and phenology and we verified ormore »removed inconsistencies by working with the original data providers. In total, 12 occurrence records were removed because we identified them to be the western congener Oarismagarita (Reakirt, 1866). This resulting dataset enhances the permanency of Poweshiek skipperling occurrence data in a standardised format. This is a validated and comprehensive dataset of occurrence records for the Poweshiek skipperling ( Oarismapoweshiek ) utilising both observation and specimen-based records. Occurrence data are preserved and available for continued research and conservation projects using standardised Darwin Core formatting where possible. Prior to this project, much of these occurrence records were not mobilised and were being stored in individual institutional databases, researcher datasets and personal records. This dataset aggregates presence data from state conservation agencies, natural heritage programmes, natural history collections, citizen scientists, researchers and the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service. The data include opportunistic observations and collections, research vouchers, observations collected for population monitoring and observations collected using standardised research methodologies. The aggregated occurrence records underwent cleaning efforts that improved data interoperablitity, removed transcription errors and verified or removed uncertain data. This dataset enhances available information on the spatiotemporal distribution of this Federally Endangered species. As part of this aggregation process, we discovered and verified Poweshiek skipperling occurrence records from two previously unknown states, Nebraska and Ohio.« less