Two Out of Four NSF Digitization Grants Have KU Ties
A National Science Foundation (NSF) program that aims to bring "dark data" to the light has funded four research programs - two of them tied to the KU Biodiversity Institute. Craig Freeman, botany curator, and Caroline Chaboo, entomology curator, are both collaborators involved in "Plants, Herbivores and Parasitoids: A Model System for the Study of Tri-Trophic Associations." Andrew Short, entomology curator, is one of the collaborators involved in "InvertNet--An Integrative Platform for Research on Environmental Change, Species Discovery and Identification."
The NSF Thematic Collection Networks awards program is based on the idea that biological diversity is critical to the future of our planet, but incomplete information on species, their distributions and environmental and biological changes over time make it difficult to assess the status of and changes in biodiversity.
Much of the relevant information exists in the nation's research collections, but the majority isn't integrated and isn't readily available online. It's "dark data"--inaccessible to most biologists, policy-makers and the general public.
To answer this need, the program is expected to result in more efficient and innovative ways to provide access to information in biological research collections, and to speed up the process of integrating diverse information on the genetic, ecological, organismal and molecular biology of specimens in collections.
The Tri-Trophic Associations grant of $1.5 million will unify about 8 million records in 34 collections to answer how the distributions and phenologies of the plants, pests and parasitoids relate to each other, in a Tri-Trophic Databasing and imaging project, known as TTD. The data will benefit basic scientific questions and practical applications in the agricultural sciences, conservation biology, ecosystem studies and climate change and biogeography research. Specimens from the University of Kansas Insect Collection and the MacGregor Herbarium will be digitized and imaged as part ofthis effort, with re-curation as needed.
The InvertNet project will develop new ways to digitize, collate, and serve specimen and collections data for 56 million specimens across 22 midwest arthropod collections. KU's portion of the grant will be $210,000.