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  1. Curators/managers of ornithological collections: Please see the invitation below for a data workshop to be held at the North American Ornithological Conference in Puerto Rico. If you actively manage collection data that are published to VertNet/GBIF/iDigBio, and want to see data standardized to make them more discoverable for research and education, this workshop will be of interest to you. Please fill out the form with your intent to attend, if you have not done so already. Title: Bird Data Harmonization Workshop invitation Date and time: Tuesday, 11 August 2020 Convenors: John Bates, Carla Cicero, Town Peterson Invitees: Bird curators and collections managers Rationale: The natural history museum collections community in ornithology has made major strides in recent decades towards sharing its data resources openly to scientists and interested citizens. As a consequence, 7.69 million bird specimen records are now available and searchable online in DarwinCore format, which is a remarkable achievement. This massive storehouse of bird data is making possible many exciting scientific analyses that are teaching important new lessons about bird diversity and biology. The DarwinCore provides an ISO standard set of fields for aggregating data from diverse institutions and sources. In theory, these data can be integrated seamlessly once structured into DarwinCore fields. However, DarwinCore describes only the nature of each field and what it should contain; it does not control the values entered into those fields. Thus, aggregated data often include diverse, confusing, and near-random content in DarwinCore fields, which detracts from their utility and hinders discoverability. As one example, we recently analyzed the terms served by different natural history museums under the field PreparationType. Instead of a small number of expected terms such as “study skin,” “skeleton,” “pickle,” “wing,” etc., we found over 22,000 distinct terms including the names of people, field preparation numbers, and many other values. Inspections of other DarwinCore fields indicate a similar lack of control in data content. NAOC 2020 plans: This workshop is designed as a meeting of minds among those who work with and manage avian specimen data. We will review the overall situation, and lay out a plan to create standardized “vocabularies” for key data fields. In 2020, we will start by working with three important fields (PreparationType, Sex, and Age) with the goal of creating a standard vocabulary for these fields. Participants will be expected to implement those three vocabularies in their respective collections databases over succeeding months, resulting in a qualitative improvement in the quality and utility of bird specimen data. Once we have a list of the participating collections, we will produce summaries of the data that each is contributing to VertNet, and we will provide summaries of the data “situation” to each curator/collections manager in advance of the meeting, to facilitate productive discussions. Future years will involve more complex data unification/standardization challenges, such as creating a taxonomy field or fields that would offer an interpretation of bird specimen identifications under one or several global-scale authority lists for bird names. The final outcome will be the possibility of creating modern “bird specimen inventories” … updating data from the 1980s… such as an inventory of bird study skins by age and sex for each species, or a single searchable catalog of avian tissue resources. But that is a vision into the future; for 2020, we will work with the relatively simple fields listed above. PLEASE fill out a brief survey regarding your potential participation.
  2. The Working with Birds website is a how-to guide for novices needing to prepare voucher specimens to complement their DNA studies, or needing to prepare round study skins in the field or the lab. Each of the PowerPoint presentations can be downloaded on any electronic device or printed as a handbook. Researchers not intending to collect specimens may encounter birds killed by natural causes. Photographing and measuring external and internal morphology of these dead bird results in data not previously available. This online reference manual shows how to use gonads to sex a bird, determine if a female has previously laid eggs, categorize fat levels, record gut contents, and estimate the extent of skull pneumatisation. Preforming a quick necropsy can yield valuable insights on the breeding or migratory condition of a bird. This downloadable bird preparation manual on the University of British Columbia Beaty Biodiversity Museum website provides step-by-step instruction on how to prepare spread wings, avian round study skins, skeletons, and collect tissue DNA samples. This is the first comprehensive avian preparation manual web-published in colour photo-essay format. The series is designed to help novices who have never prepared a bird study skin and for people looking for a refresher course. Preparing Bird Specimens Intro The look of the bird and a few things to look for Part 1 Spread wings, a good place to start Part 2 Skinning your first bird Part 3 Other skinning methods Part 4 Stuffing your first bird Part 5 Other stuffing and pinning methods & Bird parts Part 6 Sexing birds using gonads (includes 2 quizzes with answer sheets) Part 7 Determining skull pneumatization & Skeleton preparations Part 8 DNA sampling & Gut analysis Part 9 Washing birds for ectoparasites & Drying washed skins Part 10 Recording fat levels & Cleaning fatty and stinky skins Part 11 Flat skins, shmoos, and other types of study skins Part 12 Labelling: The most important step Resources Although there are only a few basic methods on how to prepare bird skins, almost every large museum has a unique signature on how they prepare specimens. Collected here are various videos, websites, and documents showing alternate ways to prepare birds. Label guidelines, and other information of interest to people contributing to avian collections are included. Videos Field Museum: A Way to Call Home: David Willard Field Museum: Louisiana State University Museum of Natural Science: Specimen Preparation Smithsonian Museum Bird Skin and Partial Skeleton Prep: Smithsonian Museum Bird Skin and Partial Skeleton Prep: Smithsonian Museum Bird Skin and Partial Skeleton Prep: Websites University of Alberta-Calagary: List of Feather Mites and Their Hosts Federmilben, Denmark: Feather Mites and Their Hosts I, Quill Mites and Their Hosts II, click on the ♀ and ♂ to view pictures of European ectoparasite species. Michel Klemann - Feathers: Flight Feathers of European Birds University of Michigan Museum of Zoology: Dermestarium University of Puget Sound: Wing Image Collection U.S. National Fish and Wildlife Forensics Lab: The Feather Atlas: Flight Feathers of North American Birds Documents American Museum Of Natural History: Sweet, P. R. 2007. Proceedings of the 5th International Meeting of European Bird Curators.Collection building through salvage (PDF) Louisiana State University Museum of Natural Science: Label Guidelines (DOC) Peregrine Fund: Kiff, L. F. 1989. 107th American Ornithology Meeting Bird Specimen Preparation Workshop Notes. Techniques for preparing eggs and nests. (PDF) University of Alaska-Anchorage: Field Catalog (PDF ) University of Alaska-Anchorage: Prep Manual (PDF) University of Alaska-Fairbanks: Winker, K. 2000. J of Field Ornithology Paper on Specimen Preparation (PDF) University of Puget Sound: Bird Skinning (PDF) For more information about the Beaty Biodiversity Museum, visit their website.
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