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From the Stacks 

May 17, 2013

Oil in Ecuador: an update

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The Library’s Reading Room exhibit created by former, CIS intern Mollie Cueva-Dabkoski focuses on the Ecuadorian rainforest - the history of Western exploration of the region, and current issues facing the area’s immense biodiversity. She recently sent me an update to the continuing issues of oil exploitation. ” Thought I’d pass along this article I just read about Ecuador’s plans for the rainforest. It contains bad news, very bad news.”

 

Read the article(s) for yourself here:

Ecuador To Sell A Third Of Its Amazon Rainforest To Chinese Oil Companies

Ecuador auctions off Amazon to Chinese oil firms

Ecuador Extends to July 16 Deadline for Bids on 11th Oil-Licensing Round

 

To read more about what you can do to help preserve the Amazon Rainforest, click here.

 


Filed under: Connecting Content,Exhibits — Dsands @ 9:40 pm

A Remora-sful Smackdown

The Remora remora, or common suckerfish, is an odd pelagic marine fish usually found in warmer parts of most oceans. They can be found offshore from San Francisco south to Chile. Their front dorsal fin has evolved into a giant sucker disc that they use to hitch rides on faster swimming sharks, rays, sea turtles, bony fishes and even marine mammals. Once thought to be purely parasitic, the relationship to their “host” is now considered to be symbiotic.

Not eaten themselves, they have been used by fishermen who attach a line to the Remora‘s tail, letting it free to swim. The tethered Remora then attaches it’s sucker disc to a larger fish as they are wont to do. At this point when it is noted that the Remora is accelerating,  the fisherman then reels it back in and captures the larger fish.

(c) Diane T Sands 2013. carbon dust on illustration board.

(c) Diane T Sands 2013.
carbon dust on illustration board.

(c) California Academy of Sciences.

(c) California Academy of Sciences.

In 1905, the California Academy of Sciences sent 11 men off for a year and a day on an eighty-five foot schooner destined for the Galapagos Islands. While the expedition was underway, the California Academy of Sciences would fall into ruin during the great San Francisco earthquake of 1906. The specimens gathered during that expedition would come to form the crux of the new California Academy of Sciences’ collections. Of the young men on that voyage, entomologist Francis Xavier Williams kept field books (http://www.biodiversitylibrary.org/item/123606) and made drawings of all of much of the wild life he encountered. This illustration of the Remora remora was one of many fish Williams ran across in his exploration of the islands.

Mora Remora!

http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/accounts/Remora_remora/

http://www.fishbase.org/summary/Remora-remora.html


January 3, 2013

Ecuador exhibit up in Library Reading Room

Gerald and Buff Corsi (c) California Academy of Sciences

by Mollie Cueva-Dubkoski, Careers in Science Intern

Biodiversity and endemism in the northeastern section of the Amazon is off the charts. The rich diversity of flora and fauna many scientists attribute to the warmer climate of this region during the repeated Pleistocene ice ages that provided shelter to organisms. Scientists estimate there are between 9,000 to 12,000 species of vascular plants, 600 species of birds, 500 species of fish, and 120 species of mammals in and around Ecuador’s Yasuni National Park. This exhibit highlights some of that diversity, the history of European exploration in Ecuador, and the current issue of crude oil that threatens this diversity.

I spent many weeks deciding what to include in the exhibit: perhaps crude oil in a jar? Or maybe a spread of taxidermied animals to demonstrate the diversity of Amazonian mammals? I finally decided on a varied collection of library materials to juxtapose two elements of my research that interested me most: Ecuador’s biodiversity, and crude oil’s effect on the Amazon. If you visit the Reading Room, you will see a sketch of the Andean Wax Palm (Ceroxylon alpinum), drawn by Aime Bonpland,who traveled with the noted naturalist Alexander von Humboldt during the first scientific exploration of the Americas. This book was one of two I included from the library’s vast collection to demonstrate the history of science in Ecuador. In the other case, I have included a map that illustrates the territory most affected by oil production, and a picture of where my family lives in Ecuador. A final piece that finished off the exhibit were the specimens the Entomology Department and the Ornithology Departments generously loaned me. In the left glass case there are several shiny Green-Gold Scarab Beetles (Chrysophora chrysochlora) and a lovely Scarlet Macaw (Ara macao) specimen that boldly demonstrate what words cannot—how beautiful and quintessential these species are to the Amazon. Working with these three research departments and choosing specimens that highlighted my research enabled me to see how research collections, whether used for a museum exhibit or as evidence for a scientific study, are invaluable to the scientific world.

Arranging specimens in the case. photo: Y. Bustos

Diane Sands (left) and myself laying out an exhibit case. photo: Yolanda Bustos.


Filed under: Connecting Content,Exhibits,Library News,Rare Books,Research — Dsands @ 8:26 pm

April 26, 2012

Rollo H. Beck Field Notes Now Accessible Online

The California Academy of Sciences Archives and Digital Collections are pleased to announce that the Rollo H. Beck field notes from the 1905-06 Galapagos expedition are now accessible online at the Biodiversity Heritage Library. The Beck field notes are the first test submission to the Connecting Content field note scanning project. Their successful inclusion into BHL marks many months of planning, efforts, and collaboration between the Academy staff and our amazing partner institutions.

The Connecting Content project, funded by a 3-year IMLS National Leadership Grant, involves digitizing field notebooks and natural history collections and linking the content together with library and archives magic. And by magic, I mean hours and hours of very hard work. This is the first step in an effort to create linked digital item level access to archival resources, published literature, and biological data at the level of taxonomic name. This project has come together through the combined efforts of multiple institutions and with rigorous planning about how best to create and disseminate content that is discoverable, enduring, and openly accessible.

Rollo H. Beck was the leader of the expedition to the Galapagos, so his notes provide a more general overview than the specimen collecting notes of the other members of the team. The field notes are quite fragile, so much care was needed to were scan each page on a flatbed scanner. Highlights for the scanners included finding the page that describes the first news of the 1906 earthquake that destroyed much of San Francisco and nearly all of the Academy of Science’s collections. The specimens that the expedition brought back from the Galapagos formed the core of the new Academy.

After digitization, we had to package the materials for ingest into BHL by creating a MARC (MAchine- Readable Cataloguing) record for each item. (We’d like to recognize and send a HUGE thank-you to the amazing and incredibly bright cataloguers who have toiled over this effort!) This record combined with a spreadsheet containing page level metadata and the digital files of the scans are then submitted to BHL for ingest.
We are now in the process of preparing several other field notes and digitized specimens for our pilot scanning project and have invited our partner institutions to begin the process of uploading their field notes to the Biodiversity Heritage Library. After the materials are scanned, input into our database, and cataloged, page level metadata will be enhanced by adding tags that will include personal names, names, dates, localities, and other contextual information, and exported to BHL where the data can link to published material, and eventually to specimen data via the Encyclopedia of Life (EOL). We hope you enjoy our first submission and keep checking back often for news and progress!

-Yolanda Bustos and Kelly Jensen


Filed under: Archives,Connecting Content — Archives & Special Collections @ 5:15 pm

July 21, 2011

Connecting Content visits NightLife

Thursday night, July 14, was the Academy’s ‘Crafty’ themed NightLife which featured an array of booths from Bizarre Bazaar selling hand-made items from local artists. The Library and Archives had a chance to discuss Connecting Content, an IMLS grant-funded project, and to talk about collection theory, both historically and within contemporary situations. Of course, our visitors were enacting their own ‘collecting’ by selecting objects and purchasing them from the Bizarre Bazaar booths, perhaps adding these objects to what could be considered a collection at home on their walls, in their drawers, or even choosing to wear them.

There were two parts of this display. First, a table was set up next to the Project Lab that displayed Ole Worm’s (1588-1654) book Museum Wormianum, showing his “cabinet of curiosities” in Copenhagen, finches from the Galapagos Islands often referred to as “Darwin’s finches,” and a photograph of the 1905-06 Academy of Science Galapagos expedition team. Visitors approached this display and were given glimpses into why these people collected their specimens, with Project Manager Daina Dickman available to provide additional information. The second part to this display was the Collections Scanning Intern Stephanie Stewart-Bailey with a desk drawer full of ‘curiosities’ on loan from the Naturalist Center. She wandered around the museum floor having conversations with visitors and playing a guessing game of “what do you think this object is?” Through this display Stephanie hoped to introduce the idea to visitors that collecting occurs first due to curiosity.

This game fostered the idea that collectors found these animals and other such specimens, curious. The second step after noticing something was curious was to draw out further knowledge from them. Stephanie then showed the visitors the table with the Library and Archives display of examples of historic natural history collections.

By participating in NightLife, the Library and Archive’s Connecting Content project was shown directly to the public, initiating participatory discussions with visitors over collection theory and how some projects at the California Academy of Sciences deal with both historic and contemporary collecting methods.

–Stephanie Stewart-Bailey


Filed under: Archives,Connecting Content,Library Events,Rare Books — Archives & Special Collections @ 2:32 pm

July 18, 2011

Connecting Content, Information Connections Research Update

Greetings from the nation’s capital! I have been working on the California Academy of Sciences Connecting Content project as the Information Connections Research Intern, based at the Smithsonian Institution National Museum of Natural History. I have been conducting research for the past six weeks into the information connections between archival scientific field books, digitized scientific publications, and natural history specimen collections. I’d like to introduce the nature of the research I’m doing and report on some of my findings.

Field books containing specimen data and observations, publications resulting from formalized post-expedition research, and natural history specimen collection databases comprise an information relationship with multiple points of entry. The connective thread may be followed in any number of directions depending upon how the sources are cross-referenced. For example, a specimen number (“CAS 3156”) in a CAS Collection Database could be searched in JSTOR to see if it has been cited in a publication. Assuming it has been cited, one could proceed to search the collector’s field notebooks, to see if the same specimen is recorded in the field.

Galapagos Penguins. Gerald and Buff Corsi © California Academy of Sciences

I have discovered that beginning with the field book itself, surveying its format and contents for geographical location, dates, and presence of specimen numbers, followed by searching the relevant author or curator in JSTOR or the Biodiversity Heritage Library (BHL) quickly narrows down whether there is a direct link between a scientific publication and an expedition field book. If such a link exists, then searching the relevant natural history specimen collection database for holdings which can be verified as the same specimens described in the original field book is the next step.

Of the different types of matches between these sources that arise through this research methodology, the three of greatest interest to the research goals of the project are the direct three-way match, the indirect three-way match, and the ambiguous possible three-way match. A direct three-way match describes an information relationship in which collected specimens are recorded with numbers in a field book, those same numbers, along with the same locations and dates, are cited in a digitized publication, and an institutional specimen collection database includes the same specimens, citing the original field book number.

To illustrate how that works, here is a selection from a yet to be digitized field book created by the 1905-06 Galápagos Expedition ornithologist, Gifford: “December 8 1905, Duncan (Pinzon) Island: Spheniscus mendiculus [1646]. I shot one in the forenoon which was swimming and diving about the little cove…”. The date, location and a specimen number are given in this primary collecting document. After a search of the BHL, a publication authored by Gifford titled The Birds of the Galapagos Islands describes the following encounter in his section on Spheniscus mendiculus, or Galápagos penguin, as having occurred on December 8 1905:

Giffords Publication

The specimen number has a prefix CAS, referring to its number in the California Academy of Sciences Ornithology Collections. One of the frequent complications in my information connections research is keeping track of individual collector numbering systems and the numbering systems of the institutions that later accession the specimens. Luckily, the collection databases at times do an excellent job of preserving the original collector specimen number along with its number in the scope of all CAS bird specimens.

CAS Ornithology Collections Screen Shot Gifford

Since Giffords’ number 1646 is traceable with geographic and location verification from the field book, to a publication, to a collection database, it represents the information relationship I have termed a direct three-way match. As you may guess, things do not often line up quite this nicely, and the indirect three-way matches, ambiguous possible matches, and nil matches are much more frequent occurrences. However, that the life of a collecting event on an expedition over 100 years ago is traceable via modern technological tools is an exciting development in the use of primary sources in the sciences, and as more of these field books are cataloged and digitized this rich connective information will be integrated smoothly into biodiversity research.

- Richard Fischer, Information Connections Research Intern


Filed under: Archives,Connecting Content — Archives & Special Collections @ 9:17 am

June 13, 2011

Welcome to Richard and Stephanie, our summer Connecting Content interns

We are very excited to welcome the new Summer Connecting Content interns to the California Academy of Sciences. Although we are sad to see our Fall intern Josh Roselle leave, he has produced a great foundation for our incoming interns to build on.

Our Information Connections intern is Richard Fischer. Although his internship is with the California Academy of Sciences he will be working at our partner site, the Smithsonian Institution National Museum of Natural History in Washington, D.C. and will be focused on establishing appropriate connections between digitized field books, natural history specimens and the published literature in the Biodiversity Heritage Library

Richard Fischer graduated from the Queens College Graduate School of Library and Information Studies, City University of New York, in May 2011 with a Master of Library Science degree and a Certificate in Archives and Preservation of Cultural Materials. While working on his degree, Richard interned at the Louis Armstrong House Museum Archives, the New-York Historical Society Library Manuscript Division, and the American Museum of Natural History Research Library Special Collections and Archives. He was a Queens College Libraries Special Collections Fellow for the 2010-2011 academic year. Richard holds a BA in English from Rutgers University.

Our Collections Scanning intern is Stephanie Stewart Bailey. She will be working at the California Academy of Sciences and focusing on digitizing fieldnotes and specimens from the 1906/06 Galapagos exhibition for our pilot project.

Stephanie is an interdisciplinary artist pursuing a master’s thesis in museum studies, integrating art with science. Interested in the reuse of museum space through the representation of the physical human body, she strives to make museums accessible to everyone by the means of artistic installations and spaces like the Project Lab at the Academy of Sciences. By holding an internship with the Connecting Content team, she hopes to make connections with dedicated science professionals to further investigate the natural world with hands on experience. She is also excited to investigate possible educational strategies by interpreting this project for the public, through the glass wall of the Project Lab.
With a fascination for the natural world, Stephanie collects specimen from birds to insects and fossils, to incorporate in her artistic process.  She holds a BFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago in photography and performance art and has worked at the Smithsonian and Göteborg Natural History Museums, and at the International Museum of Surgical Science, Chicago. She is currently a Museum Studies Graduate Student from the University of Gothenburg, Sweden.  You can see some of her recent thesis work in natural history museums at http://thebodyappropriate.tumblr.com/


Filed under: Connecting Content,Library News — Archives & Special Collections @ 3:25 pm

May 12, 2011

Galapagos Islands 1905-1906 Digitization Project Update: Imaging Finch Specimens

I am almost at the end of my 16-week internship at the Academy Library, and I am excited to have started imaging finch specimens. This is part of the Connecting Content project, which has been made possible with grant funding from the Institute of Museum and Library Services. This project involves digitizing and providing access to expedition field notes and avian specimens from a 1905-1906 expedition to the Galapagos Islands. At the end of the project the finch specimen images will be available through the Encyclopedia of Life.

During the first few months of the project I worked on digitizing the expedition field notes while we prepared for imaging the finches. A lot of planning and experimenting had to be done before we could begin, and I learned a lot along the way.

The finch collection from this expedition consists of over 4,000 specimens; this includes numerous species collected from many of the islands in the Galapagos Archipelago. Before beginning this project, the project staff had to figure out how we would select the 1,000 specimens that will be imaged as our sample from this collection.

Through our selection process we want to provide researchers and users with a balanced and deep collection, so we are imaging a proportional sample of each species, including an equal sampling of male and female specimens, from every island where they were collected.

One of the goals of this project is to provide researchers with the ability to view these images online and conduct research remotely, so it was important that we considered image quality, camera angles, and image uniformity. After discussions with staff scientists and researchers we are taking six images of each specimen, from different points of view. This includes shots of the ventral (belly), dorsal (back), lateral (side), and head/beak of the finches, as well as the front and back sides of the collection tags. The collection tags are important as they contain information such as the genus, species, collection date, specimen number, and the island where they were collected.

The bird specimens must be handled carefully. Although they are quite rigid, some parts of them may break or come off with rough or excessive handling, particularly their feathers and legs. Each specimen is gently placed on a uniform background with a ruler and a color bar before the photograph is taken. The color bar allows us, as well as the user, to gauge color representation and accuracy.

The camera that we are using for this part of the project is a Canon E05 5D with a 50mm lens. It creates highly detailed and crisp images. One can zoom in and view incredible detail, including individual strands of feathers, and even dandruff particles. The camera is attached to a custom-built mount, and is affectionately known as “the Big Kahuna.” This equipment was provided by Academy curator of Herpetology Bob Drewes. You can read about his ongoing work teaching about and studying the incredible biodiversity of Sao Tome and Principe on his blog.

It has been fun and a great learning experience to work on this project. Although my internship is coming to an end in a couple of weeks, I am certain you will be hearing more about the progress of this exciting project from the staff and other interns over the next couple of years.

Josh Roselle


Filed under: Academy History,Archives,Connecting Content — Archives & Special Collections @ 4:52 pm

March 24, 2011

Connecting Content: Galapagos Islands 1905-1906 Expedition Field Notes Digitization, Project Update

Since my last blog post I have finished scanning the field notes of Alban Stewart, the expedition botanist, and I have moved on to Washington Ochsner’s geology field notes. The pages are unbound and very brittle, so I have to be quite gentle with them and handle them as little as possible.

During the year the expedition was in the Galapagos, the scientists went to several islands multiple times. It seems that after the expedition these notes were reordered by island, so I check closely while scanning to make sure that the pages are not out of place.

Ochsner’s geology journal is divided into four sections:

The first, and largest section, is comprised of notes and general observations. It describes geological formations, strata, and rock composition. In this section he often describes a formation or an island’s origin, and explains how it may relate to other islands in the Galapagos chain. This section also contains interesting figures and maps to help visualize the descriptions. The maps and figures show rock strata and geological formations— such as lakes, cliffs, craters, and volcanic formations—with numbers or alpha-notations connecting features to the notes. These have been some of my favorite parts of the notes. I enjoy cartography, particularly old maps, and it is fascinating to read through Ochsner’s notes and connect them to his drawings.

Ochsner called the second section “occasional ideas.” These seem to be general thoughts that did not fit in with the notes on specific islands. It also contains citations for literature related to his observations.

The third section is a rock specimen catalog. This section contains a list of rock specimens Ochsner, and other members of the expedition, collected on the various islands. He assigned the specimens a unique catalog number and also a number relating to where they were found.

The final section consists of photograph metadata. This is descriptive information that corresponds to images taken during the expedition.

I am almost finished digitizing Ochsner’s field notes, and, after receiving further training with the imaging hardware and software, I will probably begin taking high resolution digital images of finch specimens. It should be lots of fun!

Josh Roselle


Filed under: Academy History,Archives,Connecting Content — Archives & Special Collections @ 12:05 pm

March 11, 2011

Connecting Content: 1905-1906 Galapagos Expedition Field Notes

The California Academy of Sciences was recently awarded a National Leadership Grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services for a project called Connecting Content. This pilot project involves digitizing and providing access to expedition field notes and avian specimens from a 1905-1906 expedition to the Galapagos Islands, and I get to create the digital images! At the end of the project we will make the field notes available through the Biodiversity Heritage Library and specimen images available through the Encyclopedia of Life.

Besides the scientific and research value of this collection, it is also one of the Academy’s oldest collections. While the expedition was in the Galapagos the 1906 Earthquake devastated San Francisco and destroyed the old Academy building along with many collections. The Galapagos expedition’s field notes and specimens became part of the foundation materials for the new Academy.

I have begun scanning the field notes of Alban Stewart, the expedition botanist. The notes are divided into three sections. In the first section Stewart tracked plant species he encountered and recorded them using a numbering system, and he provided brief notes about them.

The second section is composed of his journal. In the journal Stewart describes in greater detail the various species and locations of plants found on the many islands of the Galapagos Archipelago. Stewart would survey an area and describe species he found and note any particulars of their surroundings, including if they were abundant or scarce. Stewart’s journal traces the biodiversity of the flora in relation to other islands and continental regions. In his notes he often mentions other regions where these plants grow, and whether or not a species can be found on other islands in the chain.

The final section is a chart of air and water temperature readings. I was surprised to find that the water and air temperature readings were often very similar.

I am working in the project lab on the first floor, across from the rainforest dome. It is a high-tech lab where visitors can walk by and view ongoing projects and research being conducted live. It has been kind of fun to scan, view, and process the images on three large computer screens while visitors can peer in through the glass. We set up a display with some related artifacts from the expedition—such as a pith helmet, some of the field notes, an old camera, and an expedition group photograph—for visitors to view as well so that they can get an idea of what we are doing. A few special tours have come through the lab and it has been great to interact with them and explain the project, why it is important, and what we hope to accomplish. It is quite rare in the archive world to have this much engagement with the public, so I am hopeful we can help demystify archives a little and show people what we are doing to make important primary materials more accessible.


Filed under: Academy History,Archives,Connecting Content — Archives & Special Collections @ 10:45 am
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