Filling data gaps with the natural history collections of the Western Ghats

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Detail of Daphne specimen, collected in 2006 in the southern Western Ghats by M.G. Pimenov. Photo 2016 via Moscow University Herbarium (MU), licensed under CC BY 4.0.

Western Ghats is a unique mountain ecosystem comprised of different tropical forest and grassland landscapes that harbour high levels of biological diversity and endemism.

Scientists from both the French Institute of Pondicherry and the Maharaja Sayajirao University of Baroda have studied this global hotspot of biodiversity for decades, resulting in the collection of important data organized in as-yet inaccessible databases.

The project team plans to curate and digitize around 60,000 herbarium specimens covering the whole of Western Ghats, producing a valuable asset for conservation science that serves as a precedent for other institutions to digitize and publish open data from their natural history collections—a goal further supported by the the organization of a training programme aimed at developing institutional capacity in other Indian institutions.

Project progress

At the start of the project the team successfully held two missions: the first to Pondicherry in November 2021 whereby the workflow between project teams was finalized; the second to Dangs in March 2022 which included botanical verifications with experts and communicating with other Indian institutions about open data practices.

During project implementation several project members were trained and gained certification through the BIFA Capacity Enhancement Workshop. In February 2023 the project then successfully held an online training seminar “Natural History Collections & Open Science” with more than 80 participants from various countries in South Asia, where it also shared and exchanged project experiences about open data.

By final reporting the project published a total of 52,353 occurrences; more precisely, the Dang Herbarium dataset with 3,598 records and Baroda with 21,668 records in one dataset ‘BARO Herbarium, The M.S University of Baroda’, and 27,087 records in the dataset ‘Herbarium of the French Institute of Pondicherry’.

To promote the project the team created during its implementation a project page on IFP’s website. The project was also presented in newsletters such as the Pattrika - Bulletin of the French Research Institutes in India, February 2022 No. 55.

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1 September 2021 - 28 February 2023
Project identifier
Contact details

Julien Andrieu
French Institute of Pondicherry
11, St. Louis Street, Pondicherry