Is there an app for this?
I know the answer is probably "there's no money and anyway everyone uses different standards", but while I've been transcribing herbarium records from the last few years it seems incredible that field notebooks haven't been transcribed into a database of some sort, which then spits out the labels to paste onto physical sheets. Are there such programs? (I'm assuming that the data is not in a database because if it had been, it wouldn't need manually transcribing... right? Or have I made some wrong assumptions here?)
In fact... couldn't this existing Herbarium program be used, with a bit of tweaking, to let a logged-in collector type up their field notebooks and print out labels, which could then be pasted onto physical specimens?
And then, building on that, why not a smartphone app that you can take out into the Carex-infested swamp on your ruggedized smartphone, to save your work on the cloud straight away? Once a record has been determined, could it go straight into the place that all this data is going?
Further thoughts about the integrated smartphone/database app. Anyone interested?
In the field:
- Photograph your specimen in the field
- Automatically record date
- Automatically record GPS location
- Automatically derive country, state, county (is that possible?)
- Automatically be identified as the collector
- Automatically increment collector number
- Record voice notes about species, location, habitat/description, other collectors
- Upload records to an internet database straight away or as soon as you have connectivity: reduce the risk of lost data
Back at the office/lab/base camp:
- Transcribe your voice notes
- In an ideal world, some voice-recognition software would do the transcription for you and you'd just check it over
- Print out the specimen label from the database
- Photograph the specimen sheet and upload the photograph to the database
- Notify the colleague who will determine the record - would it be possible to do this over the internet if they were in another country? (Currently happens for medical imaging.)
- Determiner validates record and makes it publicly available
- Determiner (who and when) is shown on the record
In the future
- Other users add further history notes like "This specimen was examined as part of a review of the flora of the Delta Region", or "Pollen voucher x", or "Insect damage (pre-1984)".
- Translation into other languages?
- Changes to agreed scientific names are added to records in bulk
by poboyski scientist
Brilliant idea! There are some efforts on this front. Probably the most accessible at the moment is iNaturalist (http://www.inaturalist.org/). It does not accommodate all the information you outline, but it is a community-oriented mobile device app that allows users to capture images, location, and other data in the field. Identification is assisted by the greater community and gets logged to a central clearing house. There is a similar application based in the UK, but I cannot recall the name of it right now.
There is still much to be done here and I would love to hear from anyone working on this. I hope to develop a system for the Essig Museum in the near future - it would greatly speed up the integration of collection data with museum specimens and their history. Currently our researchers can log there collection data online in the field as long as they have internet service. Back at the lab they can use this information to print their labels as they process the specimens. So we are getting close.
I saw the Essig admin links and thought they looked a lot like what I was imagining!
Pete, would an analyst (who helps to specify software) be useful? If so, that's my day job, and I'd consider volunteering if something like this were being developed.
by poboyski scientist
Like so many museums and other institutions we are constantly trying to reinvent ourselves, create useful applications and data streams, and generally maintain and promote our relevance. Of course, all of this is without new funding and often under dwindling funding conditions. So I would certainly appreciate any insights you have. You can contact me directly (email@example.com).
I have been using iNaturalist for the past few months. I think it's a great platform (though I don't use their mobile app), and they are continuing to develop it. It does a lot of the things outlined in the second post, although it isn't currently set up for herbarium specimens, but they're talking about it (see thread: https://groups.google.com/forum/#!topic/inaturalist/6Qv2jMy_VRo).
Hi Pete, I emailed you.