Outdoors Magazine

Wyoming Native Plant Society Helps to Liberate Plant Names for Creative Re-use

Posted on the 12 April 2017 by Hollis

Wyoming Native Plant Society helps to liberate Plant Names for Creative Re-use

What's your pleasure?

Let’s say you’re writing an article about a plant, or your local flora, or a pioneering botanist. Now … close your eyes and imagine you’re in a huge library dedicated exclusively to biodiversity, with 200,000+ holdings (many rare) scattered across the globe. Next, imagine giving the name of your plant or botanist to a “librarian” who then piles all relevant books, articles, field notes, correspondence, etc., on your desk almost instantaneously! In fact, this library is not imaginary. It’s quite real, though in a virtual kind of way. It’s the Biodiversity Heritage Libraryheadquartered at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington DC, but easily accessible from your office, home, or favorite coffee house.

I discovered the BHL in 2014, while putting together a post about the history of the lanceleaf cottonwood (Populus acuminata). BHL soon became my go-to site for information about botanical exploration of the American West. What I like most is the quick easy access to lots of useful information. Documents that were difficult to access or even unavailable only a few years ago are now just a search and a click away.

Wyoming Native Plant Society helps to liberate Plant Names for Creative Re-use

Per Axel Rydberg’s Populus acuminata. From American Black Cottonwoods, 1893; BHL.

Wyoming Native Plant Society helps to liberate Plant Names for Creative Re-use

Edwin James’s Jamesia. From Curtis’s Botanical Magazine, 1875; BHL.

Wyoming Native Plant Society helps to liberate Plant Names for Creative Re-use

Fossilized palm frond (Powell palmetto perhaps?) collected near Rock Springs, Wyoming. From JS Newberry’s The later extinct floras of North America, 1898; BHL.

The BHL is a consortium of natural history and botanical libraries that are digitizing legacy biodiversity literature, making it easily accessible as part of a global “biodiversity commons.” Much of this literature has been available only in select libraries, mainly in the developed world, making limited access a major obstacle—for example in research, conservation and education. Providing it online free-of-charge is a radical and exciting change. “Free global access to digital literature repatriates information about the earth’s species to all parts of the world.”Put another way, BHL is making biodiversity literature “freely accessible to a global audience … thereby liberating taxonomic names and bibliographic data associated with the content for creative re-use.” Among the plant names most recently liberated were those in our very own Castilleja, the newsletter of the Wyoming Native Plant Society.

Wyoming Native Plant Society helps to liberate Plant Names for Creative Re-use

In October 1994, the Wyoming Native Plant Society newsletter was given a name: Castilleja.

It all started last October when the BHL blog featured a post titled A Local Focus: The Native Plant Societies of the US. When I read that native plant society newsletters were being added to the collection, I contacted Project Investigator Susan Fraser at The New York Botanical Garden, asking if Castilleja were part of the plan. Indeed it was. “We would be thrilled to include Castilleja in the project,” she replied.

Incorporating native plant society newsletters into the BHL is part of Expanding Access to Biodiversity Literature—a two-year project designed to “preserve and provide access to small natural history and botanical collections and publications.” It’s conducted by the New York Botanical Garden in partnership with Harvard University, the Missouri Botanical Garden, and the Smithsonian Institution Libraries.
“We are grateful to the native plant societies who have generously shared their local expertise by making their newsletters available to researchers through BHL. In addition to the biodiversity information they contain, these publications are a wonderful snapshot of the small, dedicated groups of people working all over the U.S. to document and preserve our native plants.” –Patrick Randall, Community Manager, Expanding Access to Biodiversity Literature; Ernst Mayr Library, Harvard University

Before Castilleja issues could be processed, a permissions form had to be signed (the society President took care of this). Fortunately, PDFs were available for all issues; these were transmitted en masse to BHL. Then the techies worked their magic. Now, whenever someone searches BHL for Boechera pusilla or Yermo xanthocephalus, for example, relevant issues of Castilleja appear on the results list. We’ve hit the big time!
The image below shows one result from a BHL search for “yermo xanthocephalus”—the desert yellowhead, endemic to Wyoming. As I scrolled through Castilleja Volume 17 Number 4 (1998), scientific names on each page appeared in the box on the lower left. Note that contents can be printed or downloaded (either the entire work or selected pages). I’ve used the latter option many times. Usually the pages arrive well within the hour, whether from the newsletter of a neighboring native plant society, or from a rare old book in a library thousands of miles away.Wyoming Native Plant Society helps to liberate Plant Names for Creative Re-useHow did BHL manage to find yermo among the 51,749,439 pages held in the collection? It was magic!!! No, not really … sorry. But it’s just as cool as magic. As texts are processed, scientific names are extracted from each page using Global Names Recognition and Discovery (GNRD), a taxonomic name recognition algorithm. GNRD provides an open and global-names-based infrastructure to index, organize and manage biodiversity data. Like BHL, GNRD aims for easy public access, with the goal of spurring widespread and innovative use of biodiversity data. A noble goal indeed!
Wyoming Native Plant Society helps to liberate Plant Names for Creative Re-useSo if you’re in need of biodiversity literature, especially if it’s old or rare or otherwise difficult to access, pay a visit to the BHL. Adventure and discovery start here. And if you’re looking for a good time, browse the always-interesting BHL blog (warning: you'd better have plenty of time on your hands).Wyoming Native Plant Society helps to liberate Plant Names for Creative Re-useAbove, Coffea arabica was the first coffee species to be cultivated, and still accounts for most of world's coffee production (from Köhler's Medizinal-Pflanzen; see The Berry that Changed the World). Below, Miss C.H. Lippincott Flower Seeds catalog cover (1900), from Leading Ladies in the World of Seeds (you can view over 11,000 seed and nursery catalogs in the BHL collection!).
Wyoming Native Plant Society helps to liberate Plant Names for Creative Re-use

You Might Also Like :

Back to Featured Articles on Logo Paperblog

These articles might interest you :

  • Video: SalomonTV Takes Us on a Dream Trip to Nepal

    Video: SalomonTV Takes Dream Trip Nepal

    If you could go on a dream trip, where would it be? For trail runner Tyler Courville, it would be a visit to Nepal to go running with National Geographic... Read more

    The 23 May 2017 by   Kungfujedi
    OUTDOORS
  • 5 Ice Cream Shops Keeping Chicago Cool This Summer

    Cream Shops Keeping Chicago Cool This Summer

    There’s no better sweet treat during summertime than ice cream. When the sun is out and temperatures climb higher, warm desserts just can’t compete. Read more

    The 23 May 2017 by   Urbanmatter Chicago
    TRAVEL
  • Coqui Coqui Residences

    Coqui Residences

    The chill and laid back subtle bohemian modern rustic elegance of the Coqui Coqui residences is undoubtedly the best way to drift away on a hectic Tuesday... Read more

    The 23 May 2017 by   Myparadissi
    HOME, INTERIOR DESIGN
  • First Look: Christian Actress Meagan Good In Election Night Romance

    First Look: Christian Actress Meagan Good Election Night Romance

    ChristianNews We have the first look pics of Christian actress Meagan Good in an election night romance drama starring opposite Omari Hardwick. Read more

    The 23 May 2017 by   Firstladyb
    SPIRITUALITY
  • Sedo Weekly Sales Led by Leem.com

    Sedo released their weekly sales and Leem.com was the top sale at $30,000. OnlyYou.com sold for $27,000. Songs and movies have both been titled Only You, so thi... Read more

    The 23 May 2017 by   Worldwide
    BUSINESS, TECH
  • Combining Posts

    Combining Posts

    Due to illness (not mine) it's been a while since I've been out either on the patch or further afield, today I finally made it out for a morning stroll around... Read more

    The 23 May 2017 by   Ashley Crombet-Beolens
    ENVIRONMENT
  • Sir Roger Moore – Always Living in the Fast Lane…

    Roger Moore Always Living Fast Lane…

    Today at the age of 89 years, the film actor and former "James Bond", Sir Roger Moore passed away, after a short battle with cancer. He was the longest serving... Read more

    The 23 May 2017 by   Solarisastro
    BODY, MIND, SPIRIT, SPIRITUALITY

Magazine