Trinidad and Tobago supports a rich biodiversity, largely thanks to its geographical position as a pair of Caribbean islands situated just 11 km off the coast of South America. However, as a small island developing state, it faces numerous pressures of human development on biodiversity and habitat integrity. Well-functioning natural history collections are key in documenting, monitoring and managing this biodiversity.
The project team is keen to build on the progress established during a previous BID regional project, which allowed the University of the West Indies Zoology Museum (UWIZM) to publish more than 21,000 records to GBIF and train a range of stakeholders. This project will mobilize data from the remainder of the UWIZM collection (including an extensive and agriculturally important land arthropod collection containing 45,000 specimens) while forging partnerships with two other national institutions with significant collections. The combined collections of the UWIZM, the National Herbarium of Trinidad and Tobago (NH) and the National Museum and Art Gallery of Trinidad and Tobago (NMAG) hold more than 100,000 specimens. Each of the three collections will hold greater value if they are available in a consistent format from a single source.
This project aims to fill data gaps by digitizing these collections. These datasets will be published on GBIF, making them easily accessible to policy-makers and other stakeholders through the Trinidad and Tobago Biodiversity Information System (TTBIS), a newly established archive of biodiversity data focused on protected areas.
Training workshops will be designed to increase awareness and build national capacity, access and use of GBIF and TTBIS, with the ultimate aim expanding T&T data published to GBIF by trained stakeholders able to prepare and publish their own datasets.
A social media campaign was launched to promote the project on different platforms such as Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. As addition, there was a coverage of the project in the local media, and the whole article can be found here.
The project successfully digitised 100% of the NMAG collections, 70% of the NH collection and 7% of the UWIZM collection. One dataset has been published on the GBIF portal and have 3 more ready to publish over the next period. The project decided to publish a data paper in connection with the collections, specifically working with a Freshwater Decapod collection from 2004. The estimated publishing date is October 2022, and the data paper submitted by early 2023.
The first workshop is planned for September 2022, the second one for January 2023 and the final workshop is planned to be held in May 2023.
The project established a successful social media campaign that has introduced the local stakeholders including the public to GBIF and the project's objectives via regular posts. This means that many workshop participants will have some familiarity with the concept of GBIF and the advantages of open access databases before beginning the practical training.
Social media is very much used to celebrate project milestones, such as the publication of a dataset, recruitment of new team member or cataloguing of a drawer of insects.