georeferencing old specimens

Robin Panza panzar at CLPGH.ORG
Sun Dec 8 13:45:27 CST 1996

> At 10:15 AM 12/6/96 -0500, Robin Panza wrote:

> >That's all very well and good for future collecting, but some of us maintain
> >100-year-old collections.  There is no way to produce GPS reference data for
> >the 200,000 bird specimens (and probably ca. 1,000,000 specimens in the other
> >departments) already in our posession.

To the above by Robin P. Julian H. answered the following:

> Well, thats not quite accurate.   For many, perhaps most of your specimens
> it is possible to produce very good georeferenced specimen data.  It takes
> work and cooperation, but it is doable.  In most collections there are far
> few "localities" than specimens and many are easy to quickly georeference.
> Online gazetteers and atlas' can make the process go pretty quickly.

I've been misunderstood on this subject.  I was not referring to the amount of
time/effort it will take to provide the lat/long coordinates.  In fact, I have
already developed a gazetteer of our localities.  I was referring to the
degree of accuracy of the localities.  Many are "near" some town, with or
without direction.  Others are from within driving distance of a base camp, in
all directions.  Still others are road miles from named places, with the roads
no longer reliably in the same places, or curving such that one cannot be sure
exactly where that mileage point occurred.  This does not include railroad
localities on defunct lines, hamlets whose names and/or locations have changed,
and best-guesses as to where the person really was.  Nor does it include
large-scale localities like "Paramo de Rosas" or "Shandong, China", or
"Kissimmee Prairie", or "Rio Quimeche, Nayarit".

Producing pinpoint-accuracy numbers compatible with modern GPS precision is
grossly misleading.  Even lat/long to minutes is not necessarily very
accurate in terms of where the animal really was at the time of its demise.
Such inaccuracy of locality information should *not* be arbitrarily given a
more precise numerical location that may or may not include the correct spot.
It implies knowledge that isn't known.

Robin Panza                     panzar at
Section of Birds, Carnegie MNH
Pittsburgh  PA  15213  USA

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