Experience gained by interns from voluntary participation in bee-pinning and transcribing museum specimen for Karoo BioGaps Project

20 March 2018

By David Maphisa

 NRF and WWF internship programs offer practical work experience in a particular occupation to people/students who are new to that field.  In the case of SANBI internship programs there is more to learn for interns than just the agreed program between the mentor and the mentee.  SANBI Statistical Ecology Unit interns participated in bee-pinning and transcribing specimen for the Karoo BioGaps Project and museum specimen at Iziko Museums of South Africa. Key to preserving museum specimen especially insects are to keep them in a suitable medium in most cases alcohol until they are later dried and mounted before display. This process however, is methodical and requires attention to detail in order to make specimen attractive for future use. 

The range of use for these specimens ranges from taxonomy, conservation and in some instances can contribute to impact assessment studies. Subsequently, the curator put labels on all specimens. The label contains details about the name of the species, when and where the species were collected. And in the laymen terms, transcribing means extracting information from photographic detail of each specimen into a useable form such as excel. That means each specimen was photographed subsequent to labelling and this photographic detail was made available online to volunteer transcribers.  The material available to be transcribed includes other biota outside bees.

Mujaahid is WWF-SA intern. To date, Mujaahid received a prize for transcribing the highest number of specimens for the December 2017 or January 2018 period. In addition, Mujaahid captured details of each specimen labels into Microsoft ACCESS.  In the case where co-ordinates were lacking, he geocoded each specimen to the nearest km’s based on locality names. Once this table is available it is possible to generate a query of species of interest and export the whole table or query into RBelow we present the map created in R using a query of a sample of seven plant specimen locations from the Western Cape Province.  This map does not provide the exact location where the specimens were collected. We also deliberately do not give specimen species names in case the species are threatened.



If you also want to help the Karoo BioGaps Project by transcribing museum and herbarium records, click here

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