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5 December 2013 11:26 am ,
Vol. 342 ,
At age 30, Dutch biologist Freek Vonk has built up a respectable career as a snake scientist. But in his home country,...
Since arriving on the island of Guam in the 1940s, the brown tree snake ( Boiga irregularis ) has extirpated native...
An animal rights group known as the Nonhuman Rights Project filed lawsuits in three New York courts this week in an...
Researchers have been hot on the trail of the elusive Denisovans, a type of ancient human known only by their DNA and...
Thousands of scientists in the Russian Academy of Sciences (RAS) are about to lose their jobs as a result of the...
Dyslexia, a learning disability that hinders reading, hasn't been associated with deficits in vision, hearing, or...
Exotic, elusive, and dangerous, snakes have fascinated humankind for millennia. They can be hard to find, yet their...
Researchers have sequenced and analyzed the first two snake genomes, which represent two evolutionary extremes. The...
- 5 December 2013 11:26 am , Vol. 342 , #6163
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Growing a Digital Garden
27 October 1999 6:00 pm
The New York Botanical Garden (NYBG) last week unveiled an online cornucopia for plant taxonomists: 2500 crisp digital photos of specimens from four vascular plant families. The dried plants, plucked and pressed by collectors as long ago as the 1830s, should aid biodiversity studies worldwide.
Other herbaria, most notably in the Netherlands and Sweden, have also put specimens online, but NYBG's is perhaps the most ambitious project yet--it's aiming for 75,000 specimens in the next few years. The high-resolution images, snapped beginning last May with a digital camera, are so detailed you can make out the type or handwriting on yellowing old ID labels. Such information makes the images nearly as useful as the actual specimens, which many museums hesitate to send out for fear of loss or damage, says Barbara Thiers, associate director of the herbarium. And NYBG's online specimens are all "types"--original samples used to describe new species, so examining them is something like consulting an author's original manuscript. Type specimens are "extremely valuable material when one is studying species relationships and species definitions," notes Anita Cholewa, vascular plant curator at the University of Minnesota Herbarium.
Thiers expects that the digital images will be most appreciated by field taxonomists--particularly those in tropical countries, whose biota is largely cataloged in museums up north.