Bees from Southeast Asia are poorly represented in public species occurrence databases like GBIF. The Chulalongkorn University Natural History Museum (CUNHM) in Thailand holds a collection of more than 12,000 bee specimens, of which at least 6,700 have digital records that are available. The specimens include bees from four families across more than 500 localities in each of the country's 77 provinces.
The purpose of this project is to mobilize at least 8,000 Thai bee specimen records deposited at CUNHM and publish them to GBIF. Activities will include photographing specimens, assigning QR codes, transcribing labels, formatting transcription of the data to enable publication in GBIF.org, mapping species distributions, and holding a workshop to showcase and demonstrate the use of the database.
For long-term sustainability of the project, we aim to establish an accurate and reliable digital bee database for the global audience and researchers whose interest are in pollination biology, conservation, bee taxonomy, and biodiversity informatics in Southeast Asia, a lesser-known area of bee diversity. Research fields in climate change, invasive species, and ecology of pollinators will benefit from this work, since information from tropical Asia is often limited and sometimes inaccessible.
Beside producing and publishing the database to GBIF, this effort can provide a template for hosting other biodiversity information hosted and stored in Thailand by the National Science and Technology Development Agency (NSTDA), a partner that is providing matching funds. The processes and methods of digitization of bee records will be disseminated and shared with the country's other research collections, universities, and institutions through workshop and university lectures. Through these outreach activities, we hope to familiarize and educate audiences on how to utilize the data efficiently—both through the database and GBIF—and to persuade them the importance of pollinators to the public.
The project began in July 2020 with a project team member attending and successfully obtaining the certification from the BIFA capacity enhancement workshop “Data Mobilization Workshop for Asia 2020” and by midterm reporting has already published its estimated number of 8,000 records. These records are available in the dataset “Database and digitization of bees in Thailand” and included in this are over 2,000 records with associated images and over 7,000 with georeferencing data complete and validated.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic the project team has needed to make slight adjustments to the project’s implementation and an impact of the pandemic has been the delayed start to the work to generate and attach QR codes to the records and link these to their database. This work however will continue during the remainder of the project period, together with the mapping of species distribution and any other remaining digitization work related to its dataset and records.