The Berkeley Natural History Museum consortium represents a diverse range of disciplines as the six sister museums and eight field stations shows, all sharing the common aim to lead and excel in creative, innovative ways in these areas:
- Education and Public Programs
- Building Knowledge Networks for Scientific Research
- Digitization and Access of Museum Specimens and Biodiversity Archives
Education and Public Programs
Resources available to K-12 students and teachers are available through the UC Museum of Paleontology website and a project funded by the the National Science Foundation called Exploring California Biodiversity. Exploring California Biodiversity focuses on connecting graduate students with urban schools to engage students and their teachers in field research, focusing on biodiversity and preservation.
In addition to K-12 programs, many of the museums offer educational programs for adults. The Jepson Herbarium has a series of botanical and ecological workshops. The workshops are held at locations throughout the state and are designed to accommodate a range of backgrounds (from beginners to specialists). For more information and a list of classes, visit the herbarium’s web site. The UC Botanical Garden also hosts a series of classes on botanical subjects at the Garden, and are accessible on the web.
BNHM recognizes the value of communicating with the larger public and wishes to expand its program to include online demonstrations of biodiversity analysis, historical reviews of collecting
expeditions, and easy access to spectacular specimens within the collections. We also wish to make programs available to bring local schools into the museums on a regular basis.
Each spring, the BNHM participates in the campus-wide extravaganza, CalDay. A unique opportunity to tour our collections, meet the staff and students behind the scenes and get close-up views of our unique holdings and animals.
Building Knowledge Networks for Scientific Research
Central to providing access to our collections is the ability to interact with other collections. Previously, we developed and used DiGIR (Distributed Generic Information Retrieval) to build the foundation for distributed networks for mammals, amphibians and reptiles, California herbaria, and museums of paleontology. As technology has changed, so have our efforts giving rise to cloud-based distribution for vertebrate collections, VertNet.
We aim to create the synthesis of the California Flora through the Jepson Flora Project.
In 2012, The Keck Foundation funded a collaborative project to unite diverse datasets from all BNHM collections and field stations datasets in a common web service allowing developers to build tools for easy data access and visualizations. Explore Holos: Berkeley Ecoinformatics Engine. Try the Explore query interface to search across all the BNHM and Berkeley repositories. Or Compare two or more species!
We propose to expand this vision to include data on genomics, climate, and species observations. This will create a network capable of delivering real-time content to researchers engaged in analyzing critical issues in biodiversity monitoring and analysis. Click here to view the technical architecture for this concept (PDF format).
Digitizing Museum Specimens and Archives
We receive support from the Institute of Museum and Library Services, the National Science Foundation, and the State of California to digitize portions of collections. Projects include digitizing field notebooks in the Museum of Vertebrate Zoology, archiving historic sound recordings in the Hearst Museum, and georeferencing specimen localities in the University & Jepson Herbaria and the Museum of Vertebrate Zoology. Ongoing digitization efforts span all the museums.
Even with these efforts, we still have a long way to go to make all of our collections available in digital format. To this end, we are are dedicated to digitize our collections incrementally and focus on specimens and materials with historical significance, sensitive species, and type specimens. Our efforts are ongoing.
The millions of specimens contained in the six participating museums have provided the building blocks of data from which scores of researchers have described new species, unraveled complicated kinships among organisms, and discovered how organisms evolve and adapt to their environments. In addition, anthropologists worldwide rely on the Anthropology Museum’s object and archive collections to provide an historical database for understanding current research on prehistoric and living human groups.
Read more about some of our research at the Berkeley Institute for Global Change Biology.