Tulane University (2014)

Pre-TDWG 2014-2015 Collaboration Building

Project Details

Grantee Organization: Tulane University
Grant Amount: $106,950
Contact: Dr. Henry Bart Jr.
Contact Email: hbartjr 'atsign' tulane.edu
Funding Dates: 5/15/14-5/14/15
Project Links:
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For original grant, click here.

Background

Annual Taxonomic Data Working Group (TDWG) conferences represent the place to learn about the latest advances in Biodiversity Informatics. Participation of Biodiversity specialists from Sub-Saharan African countries in TDWG conferences has traditionally been very low. In an effort to change this, TDWG organizers have been supporting the participation of small numbers of African biodiversity specialists in annual TDWG conferences the past three years. This project will use grant support to hold a week-long training workshop for 25 Sub-Saharan African biodiversity information specialists prior to the anticipated 2015 TDWG Conference in Nairobi, Kenya, to support their participation in the conference following the workshop, and for deliberate efforts to engage African participants in collaborative research ventures with TDWG members. The award from JRS was initially made to support the 2014 TDWG conference before the organizers decided to schedule the event in Sweden for 2015.

Key Objectives and Activities

The ultimate aim of the pre-conference training and the TDWG conference experience is to increase the capacity of Africans to mobilize and use biodiversity data to address conservation concerns across all of Sub-Saharan Africa, and to build collaborations to sustain their participation in future TDWG conferences.

The objective of the pre-conference training workshop is to give participants hands-on experience with a mix of basic and advance technologies of biodiversity informatics. Training will focus on basic tools for mobilizing biodiversity data (i.e., digitizing, cleaning, georeferencing, online publishing). Training in more advanced technologies for analyzing biodiversity data will also be offered. The experience gained through the training will help the participants to more effectively mobilize biodiversity data for ongoing projects in their home countries. The objective in involving the trainees in the TDWG conference following the workshop is to give them opportunities to engage with TDWG members and in conference activities. The desire here is that this engagement will lead to collaborations and projects that will help the African participants to sustain their engagement in TDWG. At a minimum, following participation in the training workshop with participation in the TDWG conference will help the African participants to better understand how TDWG functions and to benefit more from the conference.

The ultimate desired outcome is to achieve sustained involvement of Sub-Saharan African biodiversity information specialists in TDWG conferences. This will require research collaborations with TDWG members and funding to support their travel to future meetings. Funding support for African participation in future TDWG conferences could come from a variety of sources, including their home institutions and/or government agencies and biodiversity research foundations. The capacity building and engagement that should result from the proposed activities will increase the likelihood of future research funding, which should in turn result in sustained involvement in TDWG conferences and even more beneficial outcomes for biodiversity research in Sub-Saharan Africa.

Planned Outputs

The training workshop will be held in the fall of 2015 close to the proposed TDWG conference site. The workshop notice will ask interested parties to identify the types of Biodiversity Informatics training that would be most helpful to them to allow training activities to be focused on the needs of participants.

The project’s aims of not only building capacity of Sub-Saharan Africans in biodiversity informatics, but also helping them to build research collaborations with TDWG members will be highlighted at a special symposium in the opening plenary session of the conference. The message that this project wants TWDG members and Sub Saharan African participants to plan projects together to address these challenges will be deliberately stated at the start of the symposium.

Planned Outcomes

The activities supported by this JRS grant award will help to ensure that Africa’s first TDWG conference will be very well attended. It is expected that the pre-TDWG training workshop will give the Sub-Saharan African participants hands-on experience with biodiversity informatics technology pertinent to their work with biodiversity information. This project also anticipates that participants will develop working relationships and friendships with the trainers that will carry over to the TDWG conference to follow. Collaborations are expected to develop from interactions between TDWG members and African trainees/conference participants as attendees discover mutual interest and opportunities to meet the information needs that can address the biodiversity challenges in Sub-Saharan Africa.

Lessons Learned

The project director has been involving small numbers of biodiversity informatics specialists in annual TDWG conferences since 2011, with support from JRS Biodiversity Foundation.  The conference participation has increased the African specialists’ understanding of TDWG, but has yet to result in meaningful and sustained engagement in the activities of the organization. The new project will involve a large number (25-30) of African informatics specialists in a TDWG conference in Sub-Saharan Africa (most likely Kenya) and in a pre-conference Biodiversity Informatics training workshop.  The project aims to help African biodiversity researchers to build collaborations with TDWG members to sustain their participation in TDWG.

Project Director Biography

Henry L. Bart Jr.is Professor of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at Tulane University, Director of the Tulane University Biodiversity Research Institute (TUBRI), and Curator of the Royal D. Suttkus Fish Collection at TUBRI. He holdsBachelor of Science and Master of Science degrees in Biological Sciences from the University of New Orleans, and a Ph.D. in Zoology from the University of Oklahoma.  Bart’s research specialty is ecology and systematics of freshwater fishes.   He leads a number of biodiversity informatics projects at TUBRI, including the GEOLocate georeferencing software development projects and the Fishnet2 network of fish collection databases.

Notes from JRS

The JRS strategic focus upon Africa is rooted in our findings that biodiversity informatics capacity in sub-Saharan Africa is very low and stands in contrast to the challenges of conserving  African biodiversity and the sustainable use of natural resources to support Africa’s economic growth and population growth.  The foundation is pleased that our prior support of African participation in TDWG conferences helped to support TDWG’s decisions to hold its annual meeting in Kenya in 2014.  The decision to move that conference to Sweden due to concerns about safety in Kenya was unfortunate but JRS remains committed to provide this award in anticipation that the 2015 conference will be held in Africa.

Last Updated: February 28th, 2017

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