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Arkansas Contributes to Record-breaking International Event

Arkansas Natural Heritage Commission - Thursday, November 21, 2019

An international transcription blitz set records in Arkansas this October, including an event held at the Division of Arkansas Heritage (DAH) headquarters, hosted by the Arkansas Natural Heritage Commission (ANHC). The event was directed by Diana Soteropoulos, then with Arkansas State University and now with the ANHC, in conjunction with a Worldwide Engagement for Digitizing Biocollections (WeDigBio) event. The transcription blitz trained volunteers to use Notes From Nature (NfN), an online citizen-science database platform, to digitize label data from museum and natural history specimens.

The fifth annual WeDigBio transcription blitz took place Thursday, October 17 through Sunday, October 20. The goal of the blitz was to transcribe as many labels as possible during the four-day period. Local events provided participants opportunities to see herbarium collections, ask questions of curators, and build a sense of community.

This year’s transcription event culminated in Little Rock at the DAH headquarters on Saturday, October 19. Little Rock attendees toured the ANHC offices and herbarium, and watched behind-the-scenes processing of plant specimens, led by chief of research, Theo Witsell, and botanist, Brent Baker. Participants saw the entire process of creating an herbarium specimen, from plant pressing to mounting plant specimens to the imaging station, where herbarium specimen images are captured prior to data transcription from the labels. Seeing the herbarium process provided participants with context for the NfN project.

The WeDigBio transcription event gave botanists, students, and other interested individuals an opportunity to connect. In addition to the high number of transcriptions completed during the event, the number of registered volunteers on the “Plants of Arkansas” project in NfN doubled from 108 unique usernames at the start of the event to 220 unique usernames at the conclusion of the event.



Photos:   Top -- ANHC Chief of Research, Theo Witsell, led a tour of the ANHC Herbarium and demonstrated behind-the-scenes processing of herbarium specimens as part of the WeDigBio transcription event.

Bottom -- Arkansas State University (ASU) students and Northeast Arkansas Master Naturalists at the Life Science computer lab at ASU during the WeDigBio transcription event.

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