Digitizing Fossils to Enable New Syntheses in Biogeography 

— The Paleoniches Thematic Collections Network

Primary researchers: Una C. Farrell and Bruce S. Lieberman

Undergraduate databaser

We are databasing and georeferencing our large holdings of Late Paleozoic fossils.  This work is funded by the National Science Foundation Emerging Frontiers and Advancing the Digitization of Biological Collections programs.  The museum collections and fossils provide large amounts of data useful for studying what causes species to migrate, go extinct, or evolve over long time periods.  They are of great relevance for considering how global change has and will continue to effect life on this planet and thus fundamental to addressing a variety of macroevolutionary and biogeographic questions.  Our study will make this data available on line and accessible to scientists, facilitating many scientific analyses.  We are collaborating with Alycia Stigall from Ohio University and Jonathan Hendricks from San Jose State University, as well as their partners, and Jim Beach from the Division of Informatics at the KUBI is also a co-PI. We have also developed working partnerships with Yale University and the University of Texas Memorial Museum.  This work has supported graduate students Erin Saupe, Wes Gapp, and Sally Chang as well as current post-doc Michelle Casey and numerous undergraduate students.  Our efforts will consider nearly 450,000 specimens belonging to 900 species from several museums throughout the U.S., and will focus on three different time periods in the history of life (the Pennsylvanian, Ordovician, and Neogene). We are also creating on line digital atlases illustrating and describing these fossils and providing maps showing where they can be found at http://www.digitalatlasofancientlife.org/.  These will be useful for educating amateur paleontologists and K-12 students about fossils both in classrooms and in the field.  Additional information on this project can be found here.