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Making sense of the natural world


A new database will help researchers understand the vast variety of the world's museum collections


The invertebrate zoology collections at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History.
The invertebrate zoology collections at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History.
Chip Clark, Smithsonian Institution

Natural history museums and collections are libraries of life that catalog the planet’s diversity, keeping records about where, when and what they collect. Taken with the collections they describe, these records help scientists study how life on Earth is responding to broad changes on the planet.

Reasearchers at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History in the US and 8 other institutions have built a new publicly available database called the Genomic Observatories Metadatabase that will catalog metadata associated with biologic samples, making it easier for researchers to share and reuse genetic data for environmental and ecological analyses.

The Genomic Observatories Metadatabase creates tools for scientists conducting cutting-edge biodiversity genomic research to share and reuse genetic data for environmental and ecological analyses, like natural history museums do with the information they keep about the forms of life they collect.

Christopher Meyer, research zoologist at the Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History, said he and his colleagues devoted the time and resources to developing the Genomic Observatories Metadatabase because they knew it would be a powerful tool to accelerate discovery. As museum scientists, they recognize the value of tracking and preserving information. And as a leader in acquisition and dissemination of knowledge about biodiversity, Meyer said, it was important for the National Museum of Natural History to play a key role.

The Genomic Observatories Metadatabase is described in a paper in PLOS Biology.

Curated content from the editorial staff at Cosmos Magazine.
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