Citizen ‘herbonauts’ can now contribute to science by helping to digitize the vast quantity of plant records held in the National Museum of Natural History (MNHN) in Paris, host of the GBIF national node.
The French website lesherbonautes.mnhn.fr enables volunteers to transcribe essential information from around six million scanned images of labelled plant specimens from the museum’s National Herbarium.
It would take a person working alone about 500 years to enter data from these images. In order to involve and get help from the public, 'missions' have been set up, each with 250-2500 images of specimens. Volunteers randomly choose images and enter information from its label.
Digitizing the collections enables data to be published, searched and accessed online, contributing to scientific research. The data from the project will feed into national databases such as those of the Inventaire National du Patrimoine Naturel (National Inventory of Natural Heritage, INPN) and into international data networks such as GBIF.
The digitization project is an effort of the MNHN, the francophone botanical network Tela Botanica (http://www.tela-botanica.org) and E-ReColNat a project to mine biodiversity data in the French natural history collections.
Australian volunteers have already been helping to digitize biodiversity data through the Biodiversity Volunteer Portal (http://volunteer.ala.org.au/), operated by the Atlas of Living Australia, another GBIF national node.