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Jen Humphrey
KU Natural History Museum
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Digitized collection data to give scientists new tools for research

Tue, 08/27/2013

LAWRENCE – From bumblebees to blister beetles, the world-class University of Kansas entomology collection numbers 5 million insects pinned in drawers, each one with a tiny printed or handwritten label.  

This week the staff and students of the Biodiversity Institute’s Entomology Division celebrated the capture of the data associated with 1 million of those insects. The information has been entered into a web-accessible and searchable database called Specify.  The data will help scientists study insect evolution and ecology, the transmission of insect-borne diseases, insects as essential plant and crop pollinators, and the impact of climate change on these essential insect functions.

“For 15 years, it’s been a priority at the Biodiversity Institute to bring this enormous volume of essential biological data on the planet’s insects into currency for science and society,” said Leonard Krishtalka, Biodiversity Institute director. “Serving this data on the web paves the way for powerful research and knowledge discovery in order to inform smart public policy.”

Since the late 1990s, a team of 50 undergraduate students and staff has been painstakingly digitizing the biological data associated with insect collections from both previous and current expeditions to the world’s forests, grasslands, deserts, rivers and lakes.  The process involves photographing the data labels, adding a bar code for each specimen and entering the information accurately into the Specify database. 

Specify was developed with research funding from the National Science Foundation, which also has funded part of the insect digitization project. Specify is also being used by 475 biodiversity collections worldwide, encompassing tens of millions of plant and animal records now available to the global research, educational and policy communities.  



The loud buzz of helicopters over the Lawrence campus was not President Obama visiting once again, but the signal of an important leadership development event. University of Kansas Army ROTC cadets from the University of Kansas Jayhawk Battalion lifted off from Shenk Sports Complex this afternoon to catch a ride to Fort Riley. Read why they hitched a ride here: http://bit.ly/1F58dGb #KUfacts: KU is one of just 50 universities in the nation offering an ROTC program that represents all branches of the military.

KU ranks No. 1 in community college students going on to four-year degrees. http://t.co/BYdFRsnx1I via @KCstar http://t.co/dnWikNolBy
Explore KU Seasons: Winter The crisp scrape of a shovel alerts your senses. Everything is different. Unexpected works of white powdery art are almost everywhere — some crafted by nature, others by whimsical students. Following a fresh snowfall, the University of Kansas’ campus takes on an almost magical majesty. And students flock out to explore the Hill under winter’s wonderful cloak, adding to their rich four-season experience as Jayhawks.


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Nearly $290 million in financial aid annually
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