Lepidoptera of North America Network: Documenting Diversity in the Largest Clade of Herbivores
The Lepidoptera of North America Network (LepNet) comprises 27 core research collections that will digitize at least 1.7 million specimen records and integrate these with over 1 million existing records. We will digitize 58,524 larval vial records with host plant data, marking the first significant digitization of larvae in North American collections. This digitization effort will produce enough data to elevate up to 5,000 lepidopteran species to a “research ready” status suitable for complex, data-driven analyses. LepNet will produce ca. 81,000 high-quality images of exemplar species covering at least 55% of North American lepidopteran species. Smartphone imaging will produce >132,000 additional research-quality images. Fieldguide provides computer vision tools that provide species-level identifications for dried specimens and live specimens in the field. These images will enhance remote identifications and promote systematic, ecological, and global change research.
LepNet is the third large arthropod digitization effort supported by the NSF-ADBC program, extending the work of SCAN (Symbiota Collections of Arthropods Network) and the Tri-Trophic Network. SCAN initially focused on ground-dwelling arthropods of the Southwest, but quickly expanded to promoting digitization of all North American arthropods. SCAN now serves as the long-term umbrella program and LepNet is a featured focus of SCAN. We also collaborate with the ongoing InvertEBase TCN, which focuses on non-arthropod invertebrates.
This Site: This project website is primarily intended to help people use the SCAN/LepNet data portal. Most of the content targets use of Symbiota, the underlying software platform that runs the portal and serves both LepNet and SCAN data. We have created two portal skins portal, one that features Lepidoptera (LepNet) and the other for all arthropods (SCAN) . Both portal skins are actually linked to the same database, which serves over 18 million records and 2 million images for North American arthropods. All of the content on this project site helps users with all aspects of providing and using data, including data entry, annotation, visualization, and export. The first two categories (entry and annotation) involve data providers, while visualization and manipulation involve end users. We hope that all data providers are also end users and all end users eventually become data providers or help increase data quality and work with data providers. Beyond this basic help we will grow content related to using the data for research and education. Most of this will feature Lepidoptera, although we have created a tab that features specific information on SCAN that is separate from Lepidoptera.
Taxonomic and Geographic Coverage: The Lepidoptera of North America Network will digitize adult and larval specimen records in U.S. collections from specimens collected throughout Canada, USA, and Mexico. We expect to digitize specimens for all 86 families represented in the United States, of which only 49 had digitized data prior to LepNet. We encourage museums to digitize taxa that represent strengths of their respective holdings. We will provide comprehensive data for key groups and set the stage to complete the intensive digitization for all families. In the process, we will promote higher-quality data gathering, identify gaps for future surveys, and greatly expand the number of “observational” species (i.e., species that can be identified by images) through computer vision.
LepNet Vision: We are committed to a network that will be sustainable over decades, collaborate with observational programs to expand occurrence records, and develop cross-trophic data environments that promote research to address fundamental questions regarding the evolutionary ecology of herbivores. We estimate there are 9-20 million lepidopteran specimens in United States museums but less than 3 million specimens have been digitized. Because we will digitize well under the estimated number of specimens it is critical to establish a sustainable foundation that can digitize the remaining specimens within 15 years after NSF funding. We are committed to a policy of inclusiveness where regional museums partner with large research collections and all network members commit to an open data philosophy, shared digitization practices, and work towards strengthening international collaborations and establishing partnerships with existing observational programs. The success of the Lepidoptera of North America Network will depend largely on extending proven technological strategies developed by Thematic Collections Networks, Symbiota, and iDigBio through the ADBC program and maintaining cohesiveness among all participating museums and network collaborators.