From Historical Field Notes to Mobile Field Guides: Encyclopedia of Life
(EOL) and Biodiversity Heritage Library (BHL) team up to connect
biodiversity content across the centuries
Marie Studer*, Joseph deVeer**, Tracy Barbaro*, and Constance Rinaldo**
*Encyclopedia of Life, Museum of Comparative Zoology, Harvard University email@example.com
**Ernst Mayr Library, Museum of Comparative Zoology, Harvard University firstname.lastname@example.org
The official accession record for one of
Brewster’s specimens in the Museum of
Comparative Zoology (MCZ) database with
links out to the field notes.
Field notes are a gold mine of unpublished observations, sketches, weather reports and
species lists: these records are primary source data at its most raw and unevaluated. How can
these handwritten treasure troves of historical information be adapted for today’s tools and
William Brewster was an ornithologist who worked during the late 19th and early 20th
centuries. This poster shows how his field notes, digitized and deposited in the Biodiversity
Heritage Library (BHL), can be linked with current data in the Encyclopedia of Life (EOL). This
case example demonstrates how open science projects can be used to connect content from
multiple sources to advance scientific and educational pursuits.
Field notes are the raw observations of a scientist
and may contain anything from descriptions of how
he or she felt on a particular day to detailed scientific
Funding has come from the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) and the Museum of Comparative Zoology (MCZ). We wish to thank Heather Yager
&Yolanda Bustos from the California Academy of Sciences for sharing the Biocaching app that is under development.
METHODS: Digitize, Deposit and Transcribe
Brewster’s field notes were digitized and deposited in
RESULTS: Linking and using the data
Mobile field guide created in iNaturalist for
Brewster’s March checklist.
NEXT step is the Biocaching App (under development):
“what’s in my neighborhood” based on Global Biodiversity
Information Facility (GBIF) specimen maps with links to field
notes. Curated observations can then be shared with GBIF.
Field notes were linked to EOL species pages and an EOL Collection was generated.
Check lists of birds from May and
November 1892 were selected
How can field notes be linked to current data tools and made
relevant to scientists and citizen scientists?
Open science resources tools and applications are accelerating
the rate at which historical and current biodiversity information can be
mobilized, customized and turned into participatory activities. The data
can be presented in new formats on the web and mobile devices and is
Here we demonstrate some ways in which historical
checklists and current knowledge can be melded using tools that
support ecological research, management and educational activities.
Brewster’s field notes make it possible to track species changes by
comparing his checklists from 1892 to current checklists. By linking
these varied data sources and tools, the data life cycle can be