[Taxacom] Citizen science images (CSI?)

Bob Mesibov mesibov at southcom.com.au
Tue Jun 25 19:15:11 CDT 2013

Hi, John.

Ken is right, citizen science images (CSI?) are a tremendously useful resource. The issue of when they become part of the scientific effort is a bit hair-splitting, as you could say that a museum specimen collected long ago and never ID'ed isn't science yet, either.

I get CSI queries through several channels: by direct email (unsolicited), forwarded by direct email through colleagues (like Ken) and through Flickr Myriapoda and Flickrmail. It isn't yet Ken's 'tidal wave' for me, but it's on the order of 100 useful images a year and growing. Also increasing is image quality, to the point where I can do species-level IDs of tiny millipedes from some CSI. My Polydesmida anatomy website is partly populated with CSI images, with the CS credited (http://www.polydesmida.info/polydesmida/).

The biggest buzz for me, anyway, is in seeing images of new species, and I think there's a reward in that for the CS as well. I normally encourage the image-taker to deposit the specimen (if it's still in hand) in the appropriate State museum, and I explain how to document the collection. The time between the image being taken and me saying 'Please grab it' can be as short as an hour or two, and I've only lost one really interesting new species that way (CS: 'I searched and searched, but couldn't find it again.' My wife and I later visited the CS during a trip to the Australian mainland and also searched - no luck. The image is still online to remind me that species exists!)

Through CSI I've made valuable personal contact with collectors. Sometimes these folk very kindly send me their specimens directly (on request), but the primary 'medium of exchange' in our communication remains images. I send diagnostic images by way of example, and the images I get back get are equally diagnostic. This is 'non-verbal' taxonomic training! 

I have reservations (Ken does, too) about misidentified images going online and being sucked up as 'records' by aggregators, but I'm confident there's a big net benefit to specialists tapping into the CSI stream.
Dr Robert Mesibov
Honorary Research Associate
Queen Victoria Museum and Art Gallery, and
School of Agricultural Science, University of Tasmania
Home contact:
PO Box 101, Penguin, Tasmania, Australia 7316
(03) 64371195; 61 3 64371195

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