Species records now include multimedia links

Users of GBIF.org can now search for and filter species occurrence records that are accompanied by photos, sound and video.

Users of GBIF.org can now search for and filter species occurrence records that are accompanied by photos, sound and video. As of today, GBIF.org’s index displays nearly one million species occurrences with multimedia items.

The new multimedia filter increases visitors’ ability to access more of the detailed information that accompanies individual records published on GBIF.org. This upgrade extends recent improvements to GBIF.org, which enable filtering by occurrence type status and reveal other data features like sampling methodology, collectors’ names, and field notes.

"Multimedia collections offer important tools for studying biodiversity, particularly given improvements in field techniques that make it possible to automate biodiversity inventory and monitoring,” said Dr. Karl-Heinz Frommolt, curator of the Animal Sound Archive at the Museum für Naturkunde in Berlin. “By enabling searches for acoustic and visual data on species, GBIF.org improves the access that scientists and researchers have to reliable reference data needed to support these research processes and methods. In addition, sound recordings are invaluable and verifiable vouchers for the presence of species.”

Filtering for image, audio and video

Users will find the new functionality when searching species occurrence data, where they can ‘add a filter’ to search for records with associated ‘Multimedia’. Downloads of these widened occurrences contain all published information on each of the records, and users can further refine filtering results to examine only records ‘Image’, ‘Audio’ or ‘Video’.

Images associated with individual occurrences appear within the body of the record, as in this example of a cup fungus known as a devil’s urn (Urnula craterium). Photographed this spring in North Carolina, where American botanist Lewis David de Schweinitz first described the species in 1822, this occurrence is one of more than 280,000 research-grade observations that include photos published through iNaturalist.org, a citizen science photo-sharing platform now hosted within the California Academy of Sciences.

The display of audio and video files is simpler, with media types appearing with links to the file and to the publisher’s source page. Although presented without an embedded media player, most visitors using modern browsers will be able to listen and watch the files without opening a separate application.

As a result, users can seamlessly access more than 11,000 species records with audio from the Animal Sound Archive at the Museum für Naturkunde Berlin. This data set is rich in bioacoustical records like the sound of this African broadbill (Smithornis capensis) recorded in Malawi.

These multimedia features can also enrich our understanding of species not so immediately before our eyes and ears. This example of Cymbella lanceolata Ehrenberg was drawn from the River Spree east of Berlin and occurs as well in AlgaTerraMovies. This dataset, published by the Botanic Garden and Botanical Museum Berlin-Dahlem, features two dozen specimen movies of microscopic freshwater algae.

Bringing species records to life

These improvements highlight the practical power of digital media to document species, charismatic or not. It also has practical applications to advance and extend the work of other scientific organizations, with representatives of several archives hoping to build on the GBIF infrastructure to create a common data portal for wildlife sounds.

“The processing and display of multimedia information has been one of the features publishers have requested most,” says Oliver Meyn, one of the GBIF Secretariat’s software developers. “Having ‘widened’ occurrences in the last release of GBIF.org, we could now focus on bringing the occurrence detail pages to life with images, audio, and video. We hope this encourages more data owners to publish multimedia with their data.”

To learn more about the data structure, methods, and technological improvements that have enabled these enhancements, see this GBIF Developer blog post.


Photo CC BY-NC 3.0 Milo Pyne. Devil's urn (Urnula craterium), Eno River State Park, Durham, N.C., USA.