This project is the first phase of the African Insect Atlas, which aims to unleash the potential of insects in conservation and sustainability research. Building on the protocols and tools established with other digitization efforts (e.g. AntWeb.org), and in collaboration with researchers at six African museums and the California Academy of Sciences, this project:
- trains museum staff in digitization specimen and georeferencing techniques
- guides institutions in choosing appropriate database software
- digitizes and georeference more than 150,000 specimen records from African insect collections
- develops a network of insect-focused leaders who will connect the mobilized data with policy decisions in conservation and sustainability
The vision is to create a digital museum for targeted insect groups of Africa. Insects are more sensitive barometers of ecological conditions than the vertebrates used today, and so the data mobilized through this project will be an important tool for African conservation science and policymaking. Capacity enhancement, through training and the formation of a cross-institutional network, will allow digitization efforts to continue after the BID funding phase.
A digitization workshop attended by representatives of nearly all the regional consortium partners was organized in Nairobi, Kenya. During this workshop, efficient digitization protocols were tailored for each consortium partners based on their Museum specific needs and background, a list of species to be prioritized for digitization was identified, and software tools to be used for the implementation of the project was standardized.
National capacity enhancement workshops focusing on data quality and curation and data digitization were also organized by some of the consortium's members.
All consortium partners have started digitizing their national collections.