Blog

WeDigBio 2016

By: Rhiannon Stephens, Category: Museullaneous, Date: 28 Oct 2016

WeDigBio is a 4-day event that engages citizen scientists worldwide to help digitise specimens held in natural history collections.

WeDigBio sticker

WeDigBio sticker
Photographer:  © Australian Museum

The DigiVol blog series features stories about our Volunteer Digitisation program that includes the DigiVol lab and DigiVol Online.

The Australian Museum is home to the DigiVol volunteer program, which digitises the Museum’s collections. The program consists of two stages: the DigiVol Lab and DigiVol Online. In the Museum’s DigiVol Lab, volunteers photograph specimens and their labels. These photos are then uploaded onto the DigiVol.org website where online volunteers transcribe the data on the specimen labels. This data is then made available to researchers through websites like the Atlas of Living Australia.

The DigiVol website started five years ago and has built up an online community of more than 1,800 volunteers. In 2012 our volunteer base was large enough to invite other institutions around Australia and the world to set up their own transcription projects on the DigiVol Website. To date, our amazing volunteers have transcribed more than 400,000 tasks, including labels and field notes and georeferencing from over 20 institutions.

In 2014, DigiVol was involved in a global discussion to bring together all the transcription platforms around the world to coordinate an event of mass digitisation. We aimed to engage as many volunteers in transcribing natural history specimens as possible, over a discreet period of time. The plan was to also hold onsite events at institutions to attract volunteers to participate in transcribing natural history specimens. Representatives from each of the platforms started planning for a worldwide transcription event to begin in October of 2015. WeDigBio (Worldwide Engagement for Digitizing Biocollections) was born!

The transcription platforms and affiliated institutions involved in WeDigBio included:

DigiVol - Australian Museum and Atlas of Living Australia
Les Herbonautes - Paris Herbarium
Notes from Nature - University of Florida, Florida State University, Zooniverse
Smithsonian Transcription Center - Smithsonian Institution
Symbiota - South East Regional Network of Expertise in Collections (SERNEC) around the world

The first WeDigBio event held in 2015 proved to be a massive success. Volunteers from more than 150 countries completed over 50,000 transcription tasks through the online transcription platforms in just 4 days.

This year WeDigBio attracted even more institutions to participate in the transcription blitz. Sixty five onsite events were held in museums, herbaria and universities around the world. Here at the Australian Museum we held two onsite events, one on Thursday evening and the other on Saturday.

The volunteers who attended the Australian Museum onsite events were treated to a behind the scenes look at the DigiVol lab. They really enjoyed their time getting together, talking, and asking questions about the different specimens.

On Thursday night we organised a video conference to pass on the transcription baton to the Natural History Museum London as they started their own onsite event.

By the close of our four days of WeDigBio, DigiVol volunteers had transcribed 3570 tasks and validated a further 1217 tasks, for a total of 4787 completed transcriptions.

We are yet to find out the exact number of transcriptions that were completed across all of the transcription platforms, but we do know that we had another successful WeDigBio year. We would like to thank all the volunteers who participated in transcribing at this time. Even though WeDigBio is finished there are still plenty more specimens to transcribe. If you would like to help, go to DigiVol.org and get involved!