In March 2014, PSA co-sponsored a five-day international workshop on “Biological Collections Digitization in the Pacific” targeted to natural history collections personnel in the Pacific region. The meeting was organized by iDigBio (Integrated Digitized Biocollections), and other co-sponsors included The Bishop Museum, East-West Center, and University of Hawaii. The meetings were held at both the East-West Center and Bishop Museum in Honolulu from 24 to 28 March 2014.

As iDigBio’s report points out, this meeting came about as an indirect product of the 12th Pacific Science Inter-Congress in Fiji in 2013:

“Serendipity played an important role in initiating the recent Biological Collections Digitization in the Pacific workshop held 25-27 March in Honolulu. Thanks to a chance meeting of Shelley James of the Bishop Museum, Michael Thomas of University of Hawaii, Burke Burnett, Pacific Science Association, Nancy Lewis, East-West Center, and Gil Nelson of iDigBio at the Pacific Science Inter-Congress in summer 2013, discussion began about how these organizations could collaborate on a digitization workshop focused on the Pacific region. James’ and Nelson’s participation in a digitization symposium at the Congress, coupled with Thomas’ previous work encouraging digitization in island nations of the South Pacific set the stage for a venture that culminated in 60 people from seven countries and territories congregating in Honolulu for the three-day event.”

The workshop was attended by 57 representatives from Hawaii, Guam, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Fiji, Australia, and the USA mainland, and is part of a continuing series of iDigBio-sponsored workshops focused on organizing, launching, maintaining, and enhancing biological collections digitization programs. The primary goals of the workshop were to enhance international collaboration and sharing regarding biological collections digitization in the South Pacific; and prepare participants with the necessary skills and knowledge to launch, manage, and sustain a biodiversity collections digitization program individually, through collaboration with an existing Thematic Collections Network (TCN), as a Partner with an Existing Network (PEN), through direct collaboration with iDigBio, or through collaboration with other collections and museums within the region.

The workshop included collections managers, curators, directors, digitization specialists, biodiversity informatics managers, and related collections staff. A major focus of the workshop was to encourage national and international collaboration and sharing, and to that end included representatives from the United States and its territories (Guam), as well as Australia, Fiji, Palau, and Papua New Guinea. The workshop focused on common and unique practices across a variety or preparations and collection types, including vascular and non-vascular plants, fungi, arthropods, vertebrates, and paleobiology.
Workshop content and discussion topics included:

  • An overview of Integrated Digitized Biocollections (iDigBio), the National Science Foundation’s national resource for Advancing Digitization of Biodiversity Collections
  • A round-up of digitization activities in the Pacific
  • The future of NSF funding and other funding opportunities to support digitization programs
  • Activities of GBIF’s international task force for collections digitization
  • Issues in organizing and launching a collections digitization program
  • A detailed overview of the clusters of essential digitization tasks
  • Detailed parameters for designing and developing effective digitization workflows and protocols
  • Detailed overviews for the use and configuration of imaging systems for various collection types
  • Issues affecting database design and management, including dealing with taxonomic trees and authority files
  • Issues in uniquely identifying collection objects and records, 11) strategies for evaluating hardware and software
  • Strategies and  considerations for georeferencing collection objects, including use of online collaborative tools
  • Methods for moving digitized data to the internet via data aggregators, harvesters, and portals
  • Dealing with poor connectivity and bandwidth
  • How to contribute data to iDigBio’s portal and data repository
  • Tools for developing institutional portals for serving biological collections data
  • The establishment of international working and interest groups for sustainable sharing of digitization practices and discoveries across nations, and
  • Issues unique or especially relevant to collections digitization and management in the South Pacific.

PSA wishes to thank the iDigBio organizers for their efforts in making possible what was a very successful meeting.