Digital Data in Biodiversity Conference, 6/5-6/6/17

The University of Michigan hosted the inaugural Digital Data in Biodiversity conference on June 5-6, 2017. Co-sponsored by NSF’s iDigBio program and the U-M Museum of Zoology, Museum of Paleontology, and the University Herbarium, this conference brought together researchers, database managers, and funders to discuss current projects and future plans for collection and use of biodiversity data.

Presentations at the conference covered a variety of topics: possibilities for biodiversity research using a “big data” approach; reports on specific research projects; overviews of biodiversity data collections; updates from major biodiversity data portals; and a closing talk by NSF’s Peter McCartney on the agency’s vision for a national infrastructure in biodiversity research.  Workshops offered during the Monday afternoon session included a report and panel discussion from organizations in the North American node of the Global Biodiversity Information Facility (GBIF), as well as hands-on presentations on specific research uses of biodiversity data.  Participants also had an opportunity to tour the University’s new Research Museums Center on Monday evening.

As a librarian attending the conference, my main goal was to develop a better picture of the major players and collaborative efforts in this research space.  Monday afternoon’s GBIF panel discussion made that particularly easy, collecting representatives from a number of the major biodiversity efforts in the US and Canada in one room to discuss how they differed from one another and how they’re collaborating to advance the overall GBIF effort.  Beyond that, I wanted to improve my knowledge of current trends in biodiversity data, and the presenters didn’t disappoint: there was plenty of conversation about linked data, interoperability, and citizen science/crowdsourcing (using platforms like Zooniverse).  I was particularly enthralled by Adam Summers’ energetic presentation on CT scanning of fish specimens, and excited to hear that UMMZ will be a partner in the ongoing effort to scan representatives of all vertebrate species.

For more information about the conference, including links to slides and recordings of the presentations, check out the official iDigBio recap of the event.