Monday, December 05, 2016

BHL participates in meetings at the Muséum national d’Histoire naturelle (Paris)

From left:
Bruno David, Martin R. Kalfatovic,
Laurence Bénichou, Nancy E. Gwinn, Gildas Illien
photo by Jean-Christophe Domenech
I was honored to participate in the signing ceremony on 2 December 2016 where the Museum officially joined the Biodiversity Heritage Library. Accompanying Dr. Nancy E. Gwinn (Smithsonian Libraries Director and Chair of the BHL Executive Committee), the ceremony was held in the amphitheater of the Galeries d'Anatomie comparée et de Paléontologie. Attending on behalf of the MNHN were Dr. Bruno David (Director), Gildas Illien (head of the MNHN library), and Laurence Bénichou (Head, Publications Scientifiques).

Immediately before the meeting, I gave a presentation ("Increasing Access, Promoting Progress: Empowering Global Research through the BHL") on BHL to representatives from a number of large natural history museums from around the world (including BHL partners American Museum of Natural History, The Field Museum of Natural History, Muséum national d’Histoire naturelle, Natural History Museum (London), National Museum of Natural History (Smithsonian Libraries), Natural History Museum Los Angeles County, and Naturalis Biodiversity Center.

Earlier, on 30 November, I was treated to a tour of the MNHN library by the M. Illien and had the opportunity to meet with key staff (Alice LeMaire, Anaïs Rameaux, Chloé Besombes, and Vincent Detienne) who will be participating in BHL. The following day, I met with Laurence Bénichou and the staff of the Publications Scientifiques. Topics included BHL metadata models and best practices to be reviewed for ingest of MNHN publications into BHL.

A tour of the Grand Hall of Evolution and the special exhibition, Espèces d’ours! was also arranged. The Grande Galerie de l'Évolution is an amazing four level exhibition that documents life on our planet. The installation is an outstanding re-envisioning of an older space for the 21st century. Of personal interest was the La salle des espèces menacées et disparues and a nice display of artifacts related to Raphus cucullatus.

On 2 December, before the signing ceremony, the Museum arranged for a tour of the Jardin des Plantes for me and Nancy E. Gwinn. Our host, Fabien Dupuis, Desk Officer from the office of International and European Affairs provided an excellent tour of the gardens and greenhouses that are under the auspices of the Museum.

Herbarium (left) and Galeries d'Anatomie comparée et de Paléontologie (right)

Gwinn (left) and Illien (right)
My special thanks to the staff of the Museum for arranging our visit. Gildas Illien was a superb host who juggled multiple high-profile events during this brief visit. It was a pleasure to meet him in person after many emails and phone calls. All of us at BHL and the Smithsonian look forward to working with him in the years to come. And at last, I was able to meet with Laurence Bénichou in France after seeing her in many other places around the world. Seeing her office, located in the 18th century home of noted naturalist  Georges-Louis Leclerc, Comte de Buffon, made one appreciate the over 200 year history of scientific publishing at the Museum.

And yes, good food was had by all ...

Raphus cucullatus

Tuesday, November 08, 2016

@BioDivLibrary accepts the DLF Community/Capacity Award w/the American Archive of Public Broadcasting #DLFforum

Photo by @tlroup
On 7 November, BHL officially received the Digital Library Federation (DLF) 2016 Community/Capacity Award. The award, the first given by the DLF, was shared with the American Archive of Public Broadcasting. BHL was honored to be selected by DLF members from an outstanding list of nominees.

Joining BHL Program Director on stage to accept the award from DLF Director Bethany Nowviskie  were BHL Member representative Kelli Trei (University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign), and Jacqueline Chapman and Joel Richard from Smithsonian Libraries. Representatives from BHL included Anne Kenney (University Librarian, Cornell University Library, Keri Thompson (Smithsonian Libraries), and Karl Blumenthal (Internet Archive).

See more about the award at:
The 2016 DLF Forum also included a presentation by Trei, "The Impact of the Biodiversity Heritage Library on Scientific Research." The presentation details a study evaluating the scientific impact of the digital Biodiversity Heritage Library (BHL) through topic modeling and analysis of a series of interviews with scientific researchers featured in a BHL blog.

Kelli Trei at the DLF Forum

Saturday, November 05, 2016

Attending the Global Biodiversity Information Facility, 23rd Governing Board Meeting, Brasilia, Brazil

Celso Pansera (left) and Peter Schalk (right)
The Biodiversity Heritage Library participated in the Global Biodiversity Information Facility's 23rd Governing Board meeting, 25-26 October 2016 in Brasilia, Brazil. I attended the meetings as the Head of Delegation for the BHL, substituting for Constance Rinaldo (Museum of Comparative Zoology/Harvard University). The two days of meetings brought together both the voting members (at the national level) and associate members (including the BHL).

The meeting proved a fertile ground to meet with BHL users to discover new ways that the BHL can partner in the global biodiversity community. The BHL is fortunate to work with GBIF Chair Peter Schalk and Executive Secretary Donald Hobern on collaborative projects.

Governing Board Chair Peter Schalk (Netherlands) officially opened the meeting and gave the official report for the year. Schalk specifically noted:
GBIF continues to grow both in numbers (data, users, publication) as in importance (relevance, connections). The field of biodiversity informatics has come of age. The many different national, regional and globally funded initiatives are slowly becoming part of a powerful ‘research machine’, getting organizing into coherent network of collaborative efforts on a global scale.
Bruno Umbelino
Schalk also reported on the various interim meetings held by the Secretariat (in person and virtually). He also noted that GBIF continues to grow through partnerships with other international biodiversity organizations and noted work done by the Secretariat to becoming:
aligned with the Catalogue of Life (COL), Encyclopedia of Life (EOL), Biodiversity Heritage Library (BHL), and the Barcode of Life (BOL), resulting in a better and more complete service to the users. I applaud the proactive role of the Executive Secretary in this.
Schalk completed his report by noting:
It is my strong believe that GBIF is on the right way in terms of developing its own role and place in science and society, as well as in taking a lead to strengthen the field of biodiversity informatics by forging collaborations and bringing synergy in the agendas of the numerous initiatives that have come into existence in the past decade.
Report from the Science Committee (Rod Page)
Page reported on the past year's activities from the Science Committee. Main activities
  • Ebbe Nielsen Challenge, theme this year was "Mind the Gaps"; winners will be announced at the Science Symposium on 26 October
  • Young Researcher Awards (Juan Manuel Escamilla Molgora, Mexico, based in the UK; and Bruno Umbelino, Brazil) 
  • Working with the Programme Officers and Informatics team

Looking forward, the Committee would like to continue the Nielsen Challenge, perhaps with some refactoring. Very important to continue to engage with young researchers. How best to engage with these researchers needs to be looked at in new ways. The Committee is also looking at new communications tools and methods.

Page also outlined the overall recommendations of the Committee:
  • Review the effectiveness of the Ebbe Nielsen Challenge.
  • Review the effectiveness of Young Researchers Awards in engaging young researchers.
  • Develop plans to increase the taxonomic coverage of names in GBIF. 
  • Develop plans to de-bureaucratize the publication process and enable individual researchers to more easily adding data to GBIF
  • Develop plans to add missing data, with emphasis on data or data-types that fills gaps or is timely (e.g., related to a disease outbreak or other events).  

Executive Secretary Report
Donald Hobern, GBIF Executive Secretary, provided a report on the main activities. There was also a review of the Work Programme 2014-2016 which included three streams and 16 areas; the streams were:
  • Stream 1: Advance the Informatics – Persistence and validation 
  • Stream 2: Advance the Engagement – Communication and implementation 
  • Stream 3: Advance the Content – Relevance and fitness-for-use 
Hobern also provided an overview of the development of GBIF plans for 2017-2021. These include the GBIF Strategic Plan 2017-2021, GBIF Implementation Plan 2017-2021, and the GBIF Annual Work Programme 2017.  Also discussed was the Biodiversity Information for Development (BID) project. BID is a five year, €3.9M programme, funded by the European Union. Hobern noted:

In its first year of operation, 23 projects from 20 African countries, selected from 143 concept notes originally submitted, began implementation under the initial BID project call. Involvement of GBIF Participants both within Africa and beyond, especially through contribution of trainers and mentors to support the selected projects has been invaluable in enabling effective data mobilization and capacity outcomes from the BID investment.

In preparation for a discussion of the future of GBIF, Hobern outlined the various key assumptions that went into the planning for the 2017 budget. Using the financial background, Hobern touched on the key priorities of the Implementation Plan 2017-2021. These include:
  • Priority 1: Empower the Global Network
  • Priority 2: Enhance Biodiversity Informatics Infrastructure
  • Priority 3: Fill Data Gaps
  • Priority 4: Improve Data Quality
  • Priority 5: Deliver relevant data

An all day excursion was offered on 28 October 2016 to Chapada Imperial in the Cerrado biome area. During the 4 km/3.5 hour hike, it was possible to see seven vegetation zones of the cerrado (phytophysiognomy): vereda, gallery forest, campo úmido, campo sujo, campo limpo, cerrado senso stricto, and campo rupestre. The trail included 30 waterfalls and 11 arborism trails and a vertical elevation change of 150 meters.

* * * * *  

GBIF Public Symposium 

A public symposium held in conjunction with the GBIF23 Governing Board Meeting
Brasilia, Brazil | 26 October 2016

The first half of the symposium reported on progress GBIF has made on a variety of topics, including licensing, supplementary funding programmes, and engagement with other intergovernmental bodies. The second half introduced future directions either underway or under discussion. These include the new strategic plan and 2017 implementation plan (including participant pledges), the next version of, the "socialification" of, data rescue and data liberation.

Report from the Nodes Committee Chair (Anne-Sophie Archambeau on behalf of Hanna Koivula)
Archambeau reported on the different programs and plans from the Committee. She also thanked Hanna Koivula for her work and noted there will be an election of a new chair.

* * * * *
Glaucius Oliva (left); Peter Schalk (right)

Engaging GBIF in BrasilSiBBr - Sistema de Informação sobre a Biodiversidade Brasileira Symposium
27 October 2016 | Conselho Nacional de Desenvolvimento Científico e Tecnológico

GBIF participants were invited to attend the SiBBR Symposium at CNPq (Conselho Nacional de Desenvolvimento Científico e Tecnológico | National Council for Scientific and Technological Development). The president of CNPq (Glaucius Oliva) welcomed the group as did a representative of the Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation. Peter Schalk (GBIF Chair) gave a brief introduction and thanks to SiBBR and the Ministry for their support of the GBIF 23 meeting.

Donald Hobern gave the keynote talk (“GBIF - Empowering a Global Network”) with an overview of GBIF activities and services. This was followed by a session by Andrea Portela (Director General of SiBBR) and Rafael Fonseca (SiBBR Participation Coordinator) speaking on “SiBBR: Engaging Stakeholders Communities” and a third panel that discussed the activities of the “SiBBR: Brazil Node of GBIF.”

Amazonas, Brazil

Sunday, October 30, 2016

A selection of the books I read for my recent trip to Brazil

NOTE: I didn't read in this room
at the Casa Teatro Hotel
In preparation for my trip to Brasil, I read the following book. One of them, The Double Death of Quincas Water-Bray by Jorge Amado, I'd read last year for my trip that was cancelled due to visa issues.

List of Books
  1. A voyage up the River Amazon: including a residence at Para by William H. Edwards (1822-1909) (1847)
  2. A narrative of travels on the Amazon and Rio Negro by Alfred Russel Wallace (1853)
  3. The naturalist on the River Amazons by Henry Walter Bates (1825-1892) (1863) . Volume 1 and Volume 2
  4. A journey in Brazil by Elizabeth Cabot Agassiz and Louis Agassiz (1868)
  5. Brazil, the Amazons and the coast by Herbert Huntington Smith (1851-1919) (1879)
  6. The Giant Raft: Eight Hundred Leagues on the Amazon by Jules Verne (1881)
  7. Notes of a botanist on the Amazon & Andes; being records of travel on the Amazon and its tributaries, the Trombetas, Rio Negro, Uaupâes, Casiquiari, Pacimoni, Huallaga and Pastasa; as also to the cataracts of the Orinoco, along the eastern side of the Andes of Peru and Ecuador, and the shores of the Pacific, during the years 1849-1864 by Richard Spruce (1908). Volume 1 and Volume 2 and BHL
  8. Through the Brazilian wilderness by Theodore Roosevelt (1914)
  9. Handful of Dust by Evelyn Waugh (1934)
  10. One River by Wade Davis (1996)
  11. The River of Doubt: Theodore Roosevelt's Darkest Journey by Candice Millard (2005)
  12. State of Wonder by Ann Patchet (2011)
  13. A Machado de Assis Anthology by Machado de Assis
  14. The Double Death of Quincas Water-Bray (2012) by Jorge Amado

State of Wonder
The Double Death of Quincas Water-Bray (Penguin Classics)
A Machado de Assis Anthology
A Handful of Dust
Through the Brazilian Wilderness
The River of Doubt: Theodore Roosevelt's Darkest Journey
A Journey in Brazil
Notes of a Botanist on the Amazon and Andes: Being Records of Travel on the Amazon and Its Tributaries, the Trombetas, Rio Negro, Uaupes, Casiquiari,
A voyage up the River Amazon: including a residence at Pará
A Narrative of Travels on the Amazon and Rio Negro, with an Account of the Native Tribes, and Observations on the Climate, Geology, and Natural History of the Amazon Valley
One River
The Naturalist on the River Amazons
Eight Hundred Leagues On The Amazon (Annotated)
Brazil; The Amazons and the Coast. Illustrated from Sketches by J. Wells Champneys and Others.

Saturday, October 29, 2016

South America has the most extensive and most varied avifauna of all the continents. On the other hand, its mammalian fauna, although very interesting, is rather poor in number of species and individuals - T Roosevelt

I didn't get to see much mammalian life while in Amazonas, but did see some freshwater dolphins and a sloth.

* * * * * 

South America has the most extensive and most varied avifauna of all the continents. On the other hand, its mammalian fauna, although very interesting, is rather poor in number of species and individuals and in the size of the beasts. It possesses more mammals that are unique and distinctive in type than does any other continent save Australia; and they are of higher and much more varied types than in Australia. But there is nothing approaching the majesty, beauty, and swarming mass of the great mammalian life of Africa and, in a less degree, of tropical Asia; indeed, it does not even approach the similar mammalian life of North America and northern Eurasia, poor though this is compared with the seething vitality of tropical life in the Old World. pp.68-69

From: Through the Brazilian wilderness  (1914) by Theodore Roosevelt