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University of Wisconsin–Madison

Development of the Wisconsin Integrated Biodiversity, Human, and Environmental Specimen Portal: A Gateway to More than 11 Million UW Natural History Museum Specimens

This project will bring UW-Madison’s 19th Century collections into the 21st Century and connect the dots between natural history specimen data housed in campus departments and museums by establishing an integrated specimen portal and making it publically available to constituents across UW-Madison, throughout the state, and beyond.

More than 11 million natural history museum specimens used for research, teaching, and outreach, are housed in the collections of the UW-Madison departments of anthropology, botany, entomology, geoscience, and zoology. Campus museums collectively are significant ‘Big Data’ repositories of immense value to the scientific community across Wisconsin and beyond.

The project will fund a small team to assist the campus museums with establishing and/or improving their database infrastructure, and to design an aggregator tool that will be used to connect them in the form of an integrated research tool that can query across multiple collections in order to discover shared patterns among unrelated organisms or objects. The project will enhance research in natural history fields on campus, make more than a century-and-a-half of natural history data accessible to researchers here and elsewhere, and catalyze new research on global change related to plants, animals, insects, paleontological specimens, rocks and minerals, and human activities.

A tool such as this, for example, would be invaluable to a scientist interested in documenting the spread of an exotic insect through time and space superimposed on the distribution of its threatened plant host, who wished also to overlay the presence of archeological sites and fossil invertebrate deposits on a single topographic map in order to develop a balanced plan of eradication and conservation that would cause minimal disturbance to historic sites.

Principal Investigator

  • Kenneth Cameron
    Professor of Botany

Co-Principal Investigators

  • Craig Brabant
    Academic Curator of the Wisconsin Insect Research Collection
  • Carrie Eaton
    Curator of Collections UW Geology Museum
  • Mary Ann Feist
    Senior Academic Curator Wisconsin State Herbarium
  • Paul Holahan
    Senior Academic Curator UW Zoological Museum
  • Laura Monahan
    Curator of Collections at UW Zoological Museum
  • Richard Slaughter
    Director of UW-Madison Geology Museum
  • Daniel Young
    Professor of Entomology and Director of the Wisconsin Insect Research Collection
  • Mark Wetter
    Senior Academic Curator Department of Botany