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The broader impacts of this project include the training of several high school, undergraduate, graduate, and postdoctoral students (with emphasis on recruiting members of groups currently underrepresented in the science workforce) in areas relevant to systematics, including fieldwork, comparative morphology, monography, DNA sequencing, phylogenetic analysis, historical biogeography, and biodiversity assessment. International partnerships will be created through the direct participation of systematists, museums, and universities in at least nine countries. Infrastructure enhancements will include the collection of thousands of new specimens, the sorting and identification of many thousands of existing specimens, the establishment of Internet-accessible taxon, specimen, image, and descriptive databases, and the continued development of an automated identification system (including comparisons of the results of that system with those achievable using interactive keys).
By the end of the project, web pages will be made available for each of the species. They will not be static, but rather will call on demand the relevant information from the taxon, specimen, image, and descriptive databases, providing, for example, distribution maps reflecting all specimen records then in the database, not merely those available when the species description or redescription happened to be published on paper. Users of the interactive keys and automated identification system will be led to the appropriate species page when a species-level identification is returned.
Those products, however, primarily impact biologists; even though the range of biologists who will be able to make use of the results is very broad (especially with regard to the automated identification system), it also behooves us to target society in general. That we propose to do through development of a major traveling exhibition designed to focus public attention on PBI projects (not just our own) and on the excitement of biodiversity discovery.
The plant bug PBI project team, for example, is already committed to work with the AMNH exhibition staff to secure funding for, and develop, a small traveling exhibit to be shown both at AMNH and the Australian Museum. We envision instead collaborating with other PBI teams on a much larger exhibition, involving a larger group of potential venues.
The impact of such an exhibition would be extensive. The AMNH alone receives 4 million visitors annually (half of them children); in addition, over 5,000 K-12 teachers participate in AMNH professional development programs each year. Add to that the attendance at the many potential venues for the exhibition, including the California Academy of Sciences, Field Museum of Natural History, Australian Museum, Queensland Museum, Western Australian Museum, and Natural History Museum, London, and the totals become impressive indeed
In conjunction with the exhibition, web materials will be prepared whose content will be comprehensible to the general public as well as useful for pre-college level instruction. The online audience of the AMNH includes about 16,000 unique visitors per day, and nearly 6 million visitors per year, to the Museum's online collections, databases, digital libraries, exhibition-related web pages, curricular materials, and other web resources. These Internet materials will be developed in coordination with the AMNH National Center for Science Literacy, Education, and Technology; that collaboration will also provide us with access to nationally distributed classroom magazines and online professional development courses for classroom teachers.
The American Museum of Natural History, New York, in collaboration with
The California Academy of Sciences, San Francisco   The University of California, Berkeley
The Field Museum of Natural History, Chicago   George Washington University, Washington DC
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This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant No. DEB 0613754. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.
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