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Abstract Detail

Systematics Section/ASPT

Hardy, Christopher [1], Hardy, Nazli [2], Hartley, Nathan [1].

Integrating IT, Web 2.0, and traditional approaches in the plant taxonomy classroom to engage the next generation of professional and citizen biodiversity scientists.

Using the Google Maps API, we created a digital plant atlas ( to enhance a traditional collection project in an undergraduate plant taxonomy class. The traditional component develops skills in plant identification, vouchering, and natural history observation, all of which are the underpinnings of a career in biodiversity research and conservation. The digital atlas component provides practical exposure to concepts in biodiversity informatics, which also is crucial nowadays for students with futures in these areas of science. The fact remains, however, that relatively few of the undergraduates in such a course will opt for careers as taxonomists or conservation biologists, and, therefore, will not have the opportunity to apply these skills and contribute to the study and conservation of plant diversity as professionals. Fortunately, the Web 2.0 nature of the digital atlas shows the student that s/he can still contribute valuable data as a citizen scientist. Over the course of three semesters and 70 undergraduates, the student projects amassed 700 new locality records for 171 species, of which there are 18 new county records for six Pennsylvania counties. Anonymous, post-project surveys indicated that the students believed the digital atlas component made this otherwise traditional project more enjoyable and more educational regarding the local flora and geography. Equally important from the citizen science perspective was that survey results indicated that students were likely to use and contribute to the digital atlas in the future: one does not have to be enrolled in the class or be a student to contribute. As with any citizen science portal, the questions of data quality and contributor selection criteria arise. While we are not concerned about the free and open access of wikiplantatlas to any willing contributor, we are concerned about data quality. Fortunately, plants provide a model system for monitoring the accuracy of contributed records and, thereby, placing confidence intervals on atlas data. Using student project data, we found that records were identified accurately to species, genus, or family 87%, 94%, and 97% of the time, respectively. We also found that 94% of records were geospatially accurate to within 25 m. We conclude that the undergraduate classroom is a premier place to engage the next generation of professional and citizen biodiversity scientists in the important task of documenting and conserving our natural heritage. Blending the old with the new in the form of Web 2.0 is an effective way to do this.

Broader Impacts:

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Related Links:
Wikiplantatlas student project page

1 - James C. Parks Herbarium, Biology, Millersville University of Pennsylvania, PO Box 1002, Millersville, PA, 17551, USA
2 - James C. Parks Herbarium, Computer Science, Millersville University of Pennsylvania, PO Box 1002, Millersville, PA, 17551, USA

biodiversity informatics
citizen science
Science Education
herbarium records
biological occurrence data
plant atlas.

Presentation Type: Oral Paper:Papers for Sections
Session: 47
Location: Union C/Hyatt
Date: Wednesday, July 11th, 2012
Time: 10:15 AM
Number: 47006
Abstract ID:622

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