Introduction of a novel natural history collection: a model for global scientific collaboration and enhancement of biodiversity infrastructure with a focus on developing countries

  • Cord B. EversoleEmail author
  • Randy L. Powell
  • Dennis E. Lizarro
  • Federico Moreno
  • Gonzalo Calderon Vaca
  • James Aparicio
  • Ashton V. Crocker


Novel paradigms and advancement of collections-based research for solving societal and global issues has prompted scientists in recent decades to advocate for collections that improve associated data holistically. We review current knowledge, philosophies, and advocacy of this approach to natural history collections and present information about a new natural history collection that has been founded on many of these principles as a result of this call to action. This collection has resulted in the unification of three Bolivian and two American institutions, and provides a vehicle for improved educational and research opportunities in an underprivileged and underrepresented area. These novel paradigms are conceptualized in our models of specimen data and natural history collections use and summarize holistic approaches to data collection, scientific collaboration, education, and public outreach. These approaches address biodiversity conservation from a global perspective but focus on the importance of natural history collections and biodiversity infrastructure in developing countries. We suggest that natural history collections follow this framework to address global biodiversity challenges.


Bolivia Global change Museum specimens Science education Science outreach South America 



We thank Servicio Nacional de Áreas Protegidas, Reserva de la Biósfera Estación Biológica del Beni, Direccion General de Biodiversidad y Areas Protegidas, and numerous Bolivian communities for access to study areas and field support. We thank Scott E. Henke and Alexandra L. Brenk for editorial comments on previous versions of this manuscript. Specimen collection was approved by the TAMUK (#2018-05-22) and TAMIU (#2018-3) Animal Care and Use Committees and permitted by the Dirección General de Biodiversidad y Áreas Protegidas.


Funding and logistical support was provided by Texas A&M University—Kingsville, Texas A&M International University, Centro de Investigación de Recursos Acuáticos, and Universidad Autónoma del Beni “Jośe Ballivián”.


  1. Adams WM, Aveling R, Brockington D, Dickson B, Elliot J, Hutton J, Roe D, Vira B, Wolmer W (2004) Biodiversity conservation and the eradication of poverty. Science 306:1146–1149CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Beaman R, Cellinese N (2012) Mass digitization of scientific collections: new opportunities to transform the use of biological specimens and underwrite biodiversity science. ZooKeys 209:7–17CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Berents P, Hamer M, Chavan V (2010) Towards demand-driven publishing: approaches to the prioritization of digitization of natural history collection data. Biodivers Inf 7:113–119Google Scholar
  4. Blagoderov V, Kitching IJ, Livermore L, Simonsen TJ, Smith VS (2012) No specimen left behind: industrial scale digitization of natural history collections. ZooKeys 209:133–146CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Boero F (2001) Light after dark: the partnership for enhancing expertise in taxonomy. Trends Ecol Evol 16:266–267CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Constable H, Guralnick R, Wieczorek J, Spencer C, Peterson AT (2010) VertNet: a new model for biodiversity data sharing. PLoS Biol 8:e1000309CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Cook JA, Edwards SV, Lacey E, Guralnick RP, Soltis PS, Soltis DE, Welch C, Bell KC, Galbreath KE, Himes C, Allen JM, Heath TA, Carnaval AC, Cooper KL, Liu M, Hanken J, Ickert-Bond S (2014) Aiming up: natural history collections as emerging resources for innovative undergraduate education in biology. Bioscience 64:725–734CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Cosier S (2015) Amid budget fight, Illinois State Museum prepares to close. Sci Mag. Google Scholar
  9. Feeley KJ, Silman MR (2011) The data void in modeling current and future distributions of tropical species. Glob Change Biol 17:626–630CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Gaubert P, Papes M, Peterson AT (2006) Natural history collections and the conservation of poorly known taxa: ecological niche modeling in central African rainforest genets (Genetta spp.). Biol Conserv 130:106–117CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Graham CH, Ferrier S, Huettman F, Moritz C, Peterson AT (2004) New developments in museum-based informatics and applications in biodiversity analysis. Trends Ecol Evol 19:497–503CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Gropp RE (2003) Are university natural science collections going extinct? Bioscience 53:550CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Gropp RE (2018a) Specimens, collections, and tools for future biodiversity-related research. Bioscience 68:3CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Gropp ER (2018b) What are the rules of international biology? Bioscience 68:731CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Impey OR, MacGregor AG (1985) The origins of museums. Clarendon Press, OxfordGoogle Scholar
  16. Kemp C (2015) The endangered dead. Nature 518:292–294CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Krishtalka L, Humprey PS (2000) Can natural history museums capture the future? Bioscience 50:611–617CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Lane MA (1996) Roles of natural history collections. Ann Mo Bot Gard 83:536–545CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Millington AC, Velez-Liendo XM, Bradley AV (2003) Scale dependence in multitemporal mapping of forest fragmentation in Bolivia: implications for explaining temporal trends in landscape ecology and applications to biodiversity conservation. Photogr Remote Sens 57:289–299CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Minteer BA, Collins JP, Love KE, Puschendorf R (2014) Avoiding re-extinction. Science 344:260–261CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Mueller MP, Bentley ML (2009) Environmental and science education in developing nations: a Ghanaian approach to renewing and revitalizing the local community and ecosystems. J Environ Educ 40:53–63CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Novacek MJ (2008) Engaging the public in biodiversity issues. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 105:11571–11578CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Ponder WF, Carter GA, Flemons P, Chapman RR (2001) Evaluation of museum collection data for use in biodiversity assessment. Conserv Biol 15:648–657CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Reutter BA, Helfer V, Hirzel AH, Vogel P (2003) Modelling habitat-suitability on the base of museum collections: an example with three sympatric Apodemus species from the Alps. J Biogeogr 30:581–590CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Rocha LA et al (2014) Specimen collection: an essential tool. Science 344:814–815CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Schindel DE, Cook JA (2018) The next generation of natural history collections. PLoS Biol 16:e2006125CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Suarez AV, Tsutsui ND (2004) The value of museum collections for research and society. Bioscience 54:66–74CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Tingley MW, Beissinger SR (2009) Detecting range shifts from historical species occurrences: new perspectives on old data. Trends Ecol Evol 24:625–633CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Vogel G (2018) Demotion dismays researchers at storied Danish museum. Science 362:1095CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Vollmar A, Macklin JA, Ford LS (2010) Natural history specimen digitization: challenges and concerns. Biodivers Inform 7:93–112CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Webster MS (ed) (2017) The extended specimen: emerging frontiers in collections-based ornithological research. CRC Press, Boca RatonGoogle Scholar
  32. Wilson AE, Pollock JL, Billick I, Domingo C, Fernandez-Figueroa EG, Nagy ES, Steury TD, Summers A (2018) Assessing science training programs: structured undergraduate research programs make a difference. Bioscience 68:529–534CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Winker K (2004) Natural history museums in a postbiodiversity era. Bioscience 54:455–459CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Nature B.V. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Cord B. Eversole
    • 1
    Email author
  • Randy L. Powell
    • 2
  • Dennis E. Lizarro
    • 3
    • 4
  • Federico Moreno
    • 3
    • 4
  • Gonzalo Calderon Vaca
    • 6
  • James Aparicio
    • 5
  • Ashton V. Crocker
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of Biology and ChemistryTexas A&M International UniversityLaredoUSA
  2. 2.Department of BiologyTexas A&M University—KingsvilleKingsvilleUSA
  3. 3.Centro de Investigación de Recursos Acuáticos (CIRA)TrinidadBolivia
  4. 4.Universidad Autónoma del Beni “José Ballivián”TrinidadBolivia
  5. 5.Colección Boliviana de FaunaLa PazBolivia
  6. 6.Universidad Amazonica de PandoCobijaBolivia

Personalised recommendations