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K-State Today

July 11, 2011

Entomologist's research team receives National Science Foundation grant for online museum

Submitted by David Margolies

A collaborative team, including a K-State entomologist, has received a $5 million grant from the National Science Foundation to create an online museum of more than 50 million insects.

Greg Zolnerowich, associate professor of entomology and curator for the K-State Museum of Entomological and Prairie Arthropod Research, is a member of the team that represents 11 other universities. The team's award is made as part of the National Resource for Digitization of Biological Collections through the Advancing Digitization of Biological Collections program. The project is titled "Collaborative Research: Digitization TCN: InvertNet--An Integrative Platform for Research on Environmental Change, Species Discovery and Identification." This project will create InvertNet, an online museum comprising insect and related arthropod specimens housed at 22 Midwestern institutions, focusing on the research theme of land use changes on the bigota of the Great Lakes and upper Mississippi River drainage basins. These collections document 160 years of environmental change and are an invaluable and irreplace resource, but currently inaccessible to scientists and the public. InvertNet will advance digitization and networking technologies to capture and display 2D and 3D images of specimens and labels, and incorporate them into a searchable database.

By allowing users to find and view detailed images of particular specimens and their associated data labels, InvertNet will provide universal access to collections previously restricted to researchers. It will include links to the popular BugGuide.net insect identification website and to other biodiversity data portals used by researchers, educators and the public. This will facilitate and support many aspects of biological research and education, including species discovery and identification, pest management, ecology and biogeography. InvertNet will serve as a model, applicable to other kinds of biological collections, for the use of efficient, computer-assisted procedures to increase the speed and accuracy of collection data capture.

Other universities involved in this project include: Illinois, Iowa State, Kansas, Michigan State, Minnesota, Missouri, North Dakota, Ohio State, Purdue, South Dakota and Wisconsin.