The South African National Biodiversity Institute is responsible for exploring, revealing, celebrating and championing biodiversity for the benefit and enjoyment of all South Africans. We are a government institute, and as part of our mandate, we must “process, coordinate and disseminate information about biodiversity”. We have set up transcribe.sanbi.org using the Australian Museum crowdsourcing platform Digivol to help us fulfil this function of our mandate by allowing South Africa’s citizen scientists to aid us in digitizing our specimens.
DigiVol is a crowdsourcing platform that was developed by the Australian Museum in collaboration with the Atlas of Living Australia.
DigiVol is used by many institutions around the world as a way of combining the efforts of many volunteers to digitise their data.
This data may be in the form of museum object labels, field notebooks and diaries, recording sheets, registers or photographs.
There are many ways of extracting information or data from images depending on what the end use will be. Some data can be extracted from museum labels and field notebooks by transcribing (or typing out) the handwritten words. Other forms of collecting data may be by tagging images or identifying animals and their behaviour in the images.
DigiVol uses several approaches of data collection in its website. Online volunteers are presented with tutorials to help them get started in joining a project (virtual expedition).
Capturing data into a digital form is important as it helps researchers to have access to data that can be used for a whole variety of studies.
An example of this is by helping scientists and planners better understand, utilise, manage and conserve biodiversity. They can use data extracted from museum specimen labels and field note books for many uses, including:
- Understanding the relationships between species (important in determining potential agricultural pests or potential medical applications);
- The distribution of species (for understanding how best to conserve individual species or ecosystems);
- Identification of species from morphological or genetic characters (for example being able to identify birds involved in aircraft incidents).
This data, once captured, becomes available through a broad range of mechanisms that make it accessible to the scientific and broader communities. These mechanisms might include websites such as:
DigiVol is open to any institution or individual who has a project that would be well suited to DigiVol volunteers.
Any proposed expedition will need to conform to an existing DigiVol template (fields may be added or removed) or have sufficient funds to enable the development of a new task template.
If you are interested in posting an expedition on DigiVol and you have material that would be suitable please contact us
- Accelerating the Digitization of Biodiversity Research Specimens through Online Public Participation
- Transcribing between the lines: crowd-sourcing historic data collection
How can I help?
Anyone can become a DigiVol volunteer, all you need is a computer, internet access and an email address.
To become a volunteer you must register on DigiVol before you can join an expedition. To do so you need to provide your email address and a few details here. By registering you will be given access to DigiVol and associated forums. You will also receive occasional updates and newsletters.
Once you have registered, you can join any expedition in the list on the front page of the website. After choosing an expedition, click on the 'Get Started' button.
When you do this, you will be presented with your first task. For museum specimen labels you will see a picture of a specimen and its labels and you will need to transcribe the information from the labels into the set of fields in the template below the image. Each expedition has a tutorial attached that explains the process and how to fill out the template. We HIGHLY recommend that all users read the tutorial for an expedition before starting transcribing.
Once you have completed filling out the template of your task, click 'Submit for validation' and you can go to your next task. You can transcribe as many or as few tasks as you like.
If you have any questions about a task you can visit the discussion forums or contact us by email. To see your progress and your contribution you can visit your 'Notebook' through the 'My Profile' tab.
When an expedition is finished, the tasks will be validated by an experienced volunteer. The data will then be returned to the institution, checked and processed.
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