2 minutes to read Posted on Thursday November 5, 2020

Updated on Friday November 6, 2020

Exploring biodiversity with the LinBi project

The Europeana Generic Services project LinBi - Linking Biodiversity and culture information - came to an end in October 2020. Project coordinator Martin Gordon (Rundfunk Berlin-Brandenburg) explores what the project achieved. 

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Title: Papaya, Tomatoes, Cacao
Institution: Real Jardín Botánico Madrid RJB-CSIC

The LinBi project, which ran between February 2019 and October 2020, focused on biodiversity and the documentation of the enormous variety of biological life on earth. This diversity is preserved in an equally wide range of formats - books, illustrations, specimen scans, glass plate photographs, sound recordings, herbarium sheets, video and more. LinBi brought together botanists, researchers, the media and the public in a collaborative effort to enhance and support appreciation and use of this essential European biodiversity material.

Unveiling the data

Tasked with adding new items, enriching existing data and creating new connections between them, LinBi delivered over 1.5 million biodiversity data records to Europeana during the project. These records were enriched by crowdsourcing activity (read on for more information), and new, and sometimes surprising, links between content items were created by the newly developed content-clustering function of LinBi’s enrichment platform. Biodiversity data was enriched with new vocabularies aimed at making it more accessible to the non-scientific community and general public, and to support reuse of the content. LinBi developed a Simple Vocabulary which attached everyday terms such as ‘flower’, ‘plant’ and ‘animal’ to scientific biodiversity data.

Title: The History of Witches and Wizards
Date: 1720
Institution: Wellcome Collection
Country: United Kingdom

Demonstrating the potential use of such material, LinBi created three well-received virtual exhibitions for the Europeana collections website. The first (Edible Plants from the Americas) dealt with the often-surprising Latin American origins of common European foods; the second was François Crépin and the Study of Wild Roses, telling the story of Belgian rose expert Crépin and his lifelong, and ultimately unsuccessful, struggle to classify the enormous variety of roses. The third, published in September 2020, dealt with Magical, Mystical and Psychoactive Plants and their various uses and history. Exhibitions were published in a variety of languages, and the third exhibition is also now presented on panels at the Real Jardín Botánico in Madrid.

Engaging the crowd

Citizen scientists contributed to the quality of this enormous amount of data. They pored over herbarium specimens, transcribed handwritten label information and examined camera trap images to identify species. Crowdsourced enrichment was carried out on the multilingual DoeDat crowdsourcing platform from Meise Botanic Garden (MBG). There was close collaboration between the Naturhistorisches Museum Wien (NHM) and MBG, focussed on transcribing herbarium specimens from the University of Vienna. This collaboration resulted in a successful sub-project (focussed on butterworts) in July 2020, and a second task (focussed on Brazilian coffee plants) was carried out in October. Results from these quality-enhancing projects are available to a broad audience via Europeana.

Title: Screenshot of a project in the DOEDAT crowd-sourcing enrichment platform
Creator: Martin Gordon
Date: 2020
Institution: Meise Botanic Garden

Adopting and adapting

To encourage the use and reuse of biodiversity data by the media, LinBi created a multilingual search platform specifically tailored to journalistic use, and integrating the Europeana API. This platform enables journalists to search Europeana content and specify selected requirements including rights and format type before their search. Using this tool, broadcaster Rundfunk Berlin-Brandenburg (RBB) integrated content from Europeana into a number of video reports on current biodiversity issues, also subtitled in English and German. As an example, you can watch a short 60-second piece about how the fox is adopting new tactics and adapting to changes in his circumstances, filmed in Berlin’s Botanical Gardens: The Fox is Coming to Town (watch the video on RBB online - click UT in the player for ENG subtitles).

Enrichment platform

Gerda Koch, technical coordinator for the project, is best placed to give a technical overview of the LinBi enrichment platform, which has been in full operation since the end of summer 2020. She says, ‘It provides tools for linking, enriching and creating new objects in the Europeana Data Model (EDM) format. Following a free registration, users can create clustered content sets on a specific topic, for automatic aggregation by OpenUp!. Sets can be optionally forwarded to the Europeana collections website via the new Europeana User Set API.’

Title: Screenshot of the LinBi Enrichment platform Connecting content: link your items with other Europeana records and submit a user set
Creator: Martin Gordon
Date: 2020

‘The platform also includes a powerful enrichment tool, enabling users to create new web resources and enrichment elements by selecting image and text regions or video and audio segments. Resulting data can be used as training sets for Convolutional Neural Network (CNN). All LinBi content was processed by OpenUp!’

Find out more

This intention of the LinBi project was to heighten awareness of Europe’s biodiversity heritage material. It needs no great insight into the human condition to understand that the future of the planet depends greatly upon maintaining rich biodiversity. LinBi’s goal was to direct public and media attention to existing and new material which documents such diversity, by pointing users to the wealth of material available, and to create connections between content items. We hope that we have contributed in some small way to greater awareness of the rich detail, long history and essential importance of biodiversity.

To find out more about the project and to contribute to enrichment, explore the LinBi project site.