Support Provided ByLearn More

Be an Insect Investigator

ByAllison EckNOVA NextNOVA Next

Like bugs? The Essig Museum of Entomology at UC Berkeley—which holds at least one specimen collected by Charles Darwin (a ground beetle from Tierra del Fuego, Chile, in 1833)—has a project for you. Here’s Shaunacy Ferro, writing for Popular Science:

Receive emails about upcoming NOVA programs and related content, as well as featured reporting about current events through a science lens.

Rather than setting a handful of bleary-eyed undergrads with the task of transcribing hand-written field notes that correspond with its more than a million insect specimens, Calbug, a consortium of nine major entomological collections from across California, is opening the project up to the public, asking citizen scientists to help convert the records into an electronic form so they can be made available worldwide.

Led by the University of California, Berkeley’s Essig Museum of Entomology, the crowd-sourced transcription project will digitize field notes and records that correspond to insect specimens in their collections, some of which are more than 100 years old.

You can get started with the project

Support Provided ByLearn More
today .

This isn’t the first citizen science project involving transcription of old documents, either. For example, Carnegie Mellon professor and video game aficionado Luis von Ahn created reCAPTCHA—one of the grainy text puzzles used to weed out bots on websites. Now, anyone who taps out their solution to a reCAPTCHA is (unwittingly) helping transcribe old texts, including back issues of The New York Times . If you want to discover more about crowdsourcing transcriptions of old documents, watch the NOVA scienceNOW profile of von Ahn in chapter 4 of the video below.

Funding for NOVA Next is provided by the Eleanor and Howard Morgan Family Foundation.

Major funding for NOVA is provided by the David H. Koch Fund for Science, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, and PBS viewers. Additional funding is provided by the NOVA Science Trust.