With a National eScience Infrastructure (NeSI) Summer of eResearch Scholarship, a Lincoln University undergraduate student has developed software so that the only university in New Zealand to house an entomology museum can digitise its collection.
Working with Dr Stuart Charters from Lincoln University’s Department of Applied Computer and John Marris, Lincoln University’s Entomology Research Museum Curator, student Di Wang has developed an online collection management system to electronically catalogue insects, that will have benefits for researchers, museums and bio-security agencies, both nationally and internationally.
Di Wang, studying a Bachelor of Software and Information Technology, was awarded a National eScience Infrastructure (NeSI) Summer of eResearch Scholarship. These scholarships are a Ministry of Science and Innovation (MSI) funded programme, supporting software engineering and computer science students. Di’s project was to build a system that can manage and provide information about an entomology collection via a web interface.
“After investigating software systems available, I identified Biota, a biodiversity database manager, to be the main structure and then built functions that were most useful and needed for the web application,” says Di Wang.
“There were challenges during the project to overcome however using the knowledge I am learning from my degree and having Dr Charters mentoring me, I was able to develop a software package for John Marris.”
Lincoln University is the only university in New Zealand to house an entomology museum, which houses over 250,000 specimens, including 50 holotype specimens (species-defining reference specimens).
Having the collection available electronically will allow easy-access to meta-data about the specimens; related data can be linked together; and new data about the University’s collection can be quickly shared allowing researchers to discover information about the collection and individual specimens held by the University.
Curator of the Museum John Marris says “insects make up around two thirds of all known organisms and the study of them is vitally important to our biodiversity and biosecurity knowledge. Having the museum collection available electronically will allow easy sharing of the data with other researchers and beyond”.
The Department of Applied Computer at Lincoln University involves using computing technology to solve real-world problems.
“This project Di has been involved with will allow better management of the entomology research museum collection as the specimens will be databased and more easily interrogated,“ says Senior Lecturer in Software and Information Technology Dr Stuart Charters.
“The software is written in PHP and uses a MySQL database so is available as an open source project for other entomology collections to use and adapt for their collections. Research is continuing to enhance the functionality of the system and future research projects will look to improve the digitisation of specimens.”
Di is currently in his final semester of his degree and is looking forward to applying his knowledge and experience in the IT industry in New Zealand once he finishes.