What Google is attempting for books, the University of California, Berkeley, plans to do for the world's vertebrate specimens: store them in "the cloud."
Online storage of information from vertebrate collections at the Smithsonian Institution, American Museum of Natural History, National Museum of Natural History in Paris, UC Berkeley's Museum of Vertebrate Zoology (MVZ) and from hundreds of other animal collections around the world or at least, all collections that include animals with backbones will make them readily available to academic researchers and citizen scientists alike.
Computing clouds are shared pools of servers that can be accessed from anywhere, anytime, and are far more reliable than computer servers at individual institutions.
The project to create VertNet, a cloud-based collection of vertebrate specimens, got off the ground this summer thanks to a three-year, $2.4 million grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF). The effort is led by UC Berkeley museum curators and involves colleagues from the University of Colorado, Boulder; University of Kansas in Lawrence; and Tulane University in New Orleans.
VertNet coordinator David Bloom said VertNet would have been invaluable after the 2010 oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, telling scientists and others about the animals potentially affected.
"But no one knew where the fauna were and how they might be impacted, even though the information that could tell them resided in bird and fish collections around the country," Bloom said. "There was just no single place to go to find out where the collections were, and no easy way to put these data together, even now. We have to get started."
VertNet will pave the way for similar cloud-based resources consolidating animal and plant information from state, national and international collections. UC Berkeley itself is involved in NSF-funded projects to digitize audio, plant, insect and paleontolog
|Contact: Robert Sanders|
University of California - Berkeley