Research Matters

Research Matters

Digitizing Bugs


A new grant from the National Science Foundation¹s Advancing Digitization of Biological Collections program will enable Caroline Chaboo to put photos, data and maps relating to thousands of insects such as such as aphids, hoppers and cicadas (collectively known to scientists as Hemiptera) onto the Internet. Also, information about their host plants and parasites will be digitized and put on the Web. Anybody will be able to access the information with a few keystrokes.

Episode #100



2 minutes (3.7 MB) | Download mp3

Transcript


An entomologist leads a new effort to make data on insects available to anyone online. From the University of Kansas, this is Research Matters. I’m Brendan Lynch.

KU researcher Caroline Chaboo (CHAY-boo) often fields phone calls and emails from homeowners, gardeners and even U.S. customs officials who ask her to help identify bugs.

Chaboo: In the course of human evolution, we’ve always wanted to know what was around us, what things were useful to us, what was edible and what was poisonous. It’s a pretty fundamental part of the human experience that we want to know the names of things. It’s probably part of our genetic code that we’re all taxonomists — we all want to know the names of things.

And while a handful of institutions such as KU have world-renowned collections of insects that identify various species, Chaboo says too much of the biological information is “dark data” — meaning, it hasn’t been made straightforwardly accessible.

Chaboo: If you know of a specialist working in an area you would write to them — if they were still alive — and ask what have you gotten from Peru or South Africa of this particular group? Or you would write to a collection and ask what they have of a certain species. But it’s skewed toward systematic and evolutionary biology and museum work.

Now, anybody will be able to access this information with a few keystrokes. A new grant from the National Science Foundation will enable Chaboo to put photos, data and maps relating to thousands of insects onto the Internet. Also, information about their host plants and parasites will be digitized and put on the Web.

Chaboo: For any end-user, for example you’re an amateur or farmer who just wants to know what bugs are in your garden or greenhouse — this will help you identify insects through photographs and also map where those things are.

For more about digitizing bugs, log on to Research Matters dot KU dot EDU. For the University of Kansas, I’m Brendan Lynch.

Tell Me More


http://www.news.ku.edu/2011/august/1/insect.shtml


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