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(oral presentation) Phycological collections in the digital age

Book Contribution - Chapter

Phycological collections provide a permanent record of global algal diversity, and contain unique reference material that documents the evolutionary history of algae. Collected over centuries of field exploration, collection specimens are historical records, providing a biodiversity baseline that enables us to track geographic and temporal changes in algal species and communities, and to correlate those patterns with changes in the environment. Collection specimens also serve as vouchers for research activities, ranging from taxonomic studies to monitoring and genome projects. Although knowledge derived from specimens has made important contributions to phycological research, collections are significantly underused due to the difficulty of obtaining data within and across collections. Thousands of herbariums specimens, microscope slides, and other types of collections are housed in hundreds of institutions worldwide, with data stored in many separate databases. Some of these phycological collections are well-known and their data readily accessible, while the content of many other collections remains largely obscure. Digitisation and mobilisation of specimen and associated data removes this obstacle of untraceability. Technical advances with imaging systems has significantly increased the rate of digitization, now making it feasible to digitize large collections in a reasonable time. The new European initiative DiSSCo (Distributed System of Scientific Collections) offers new perspectives for the digitization of phycological collections. DiSSCo works for the digital unification of all European natural history assets, and aims to ensure that all collection data is easily findable and accessible. As such, DiSSCo will transform a fragmented landscape of collections into an integrated knowledge base.
Book: 12th International Phycological Congress, Puerto Varas, Chile