Thursday, February 24, 2011

Needle in a haystack...

I was helping my colleague Julie Craves hunt down some specimens from Wayne County in our collection today, and I figure that this could also be a "teachable moment" for people that are gung-ho on collection databases. All of the specimen information in the Michigan Odonata Survey database has been entered by me or people working for me. There should be very few errors in the MOS database at this point, and with nearly 27,000 records I certainly hope there are few errors! However, when we want to check a specimen, all of the recently collected material is in modern 3x5 clear envelopes, making searching in the collection fairly easy. The older specimens are not though, and the multitude of paper triangles with a variety of writing styles, information placement and hidden specimens, makes for a more difficult search. I finally found the triangle and specimen in question, and was able to resolve a question that she had (I think). In addition, I fixed several mis-identifications and corrected the database. For those that believe that all is perfect once a collection's information is available online,and the specimens matter less... I have news for you. The specimens are the ultimate corroborative evidence, and no matter how great the data is, you still need to check identifications and make sure that the data was entered correctly. I am fully aware that ID's that I made for some specimens in 1999 may not be as reliable as those made in 2009. So long as people are fallible and our understanding of the specific makeup of any species changes, we'll always have to go back and check things.

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