Algae Digitization Project Update!

Fri, 03/17/2017 - 17:27 -- jeremiahbender

Our algae digitization project is well under way! In addition to our ecological restoration programs, one of CCBER's primary goals is to make our biological specimen collections accessible for research, education, analysis, and outreach. This is accomplished through photographing collection specimens and uploading them to our in-house Specify database, which organizes the photos and associated specimen information. Our extensive algae collection housing approximately 8,000 specimens collected over 125 years is currently in the digitization process with the help of interns Dhanika Halil, Evan Davies, and Michelle Lopez, whose internships are supported by the Coastal Fund, as well as knowledgeable algae curators Dr. James W. Markham and Dr. David Chapman. Intern Dhanika Halil can be seen above accompanied by the now very familiar specimen digitization equipment, which consists of a DSLR camera suspended above a photo box that minimizes light interference. 


The digitization process begins by photographing the specimens in the specialized "Photo Box Plus" with the above high-quality DSLR camera allowing for a very crisp and detailed image of the algae. Images are then transferred to the accompanying computer and monitor where they can be checked for quality and edited with the photo editing software Lightroom. Our intern Dhanika has a full screen of digitized algae specimens after a long day of work!


Since Dhanika started her internship at the beginning of Fall quarter, intrigued by the project due to her previous work in a beach ecology lab, she has imaged hundreds of specimens and created and pasted new labels with the associated specimen data. The algae specimens are stored on paper similar to plant specimens and have their own sections in the herbarium, with a portion of the California collection pictured above center. Over her time working in the collection, Dhanika says her favorite genus of algae has become Iridaea, represented by the large red specimens below. 



The above specimens are some of the local types of algae that Dhaniika and other interns have worked to image and upload to the CCBER Specify database. 



Algae curators Dr. James W. Markham (pictured above) and Dr. David Chapman represent another integral part of our algae digitization project. In addition to curating the collection for the past 10 years, Dr. Markham's own personal marine algae collection was donated to UCSB in 1986 and is now housed at CCBER. The marine algae in Dr. Markham's collection ranges from his home state of Oregon, where his interest in phycology was piqued as a boy wandering the beaches of Clatsop County, to Washington, Norway, British Columbia, Chile, Nova Scotia, and the German North Sea. His main interest in phycology is studying the distribution of various species, and in his time travelling the world in search of algae Dr. Markham has acquired an extraordinary number of languages including German, Norwegian, and Spanish. Dr. Markham's dissertation research was completed at the University of British Columbia from 1964 to 1969 and involved an ecological study of the kelp Laminaria sinclairii, shown above. This kelp is found only on the Pacific Coast of North America, from California to British Columbia, and occurs on rocks that are buried under sand in the summer. Dr. Markham's research was primarily carried out on three beaches in Oregon.  


Some of Dr. Markham's international work as a scientist was at the Marine Botany Department of the Biologische Anstalt Helgoland. Located in the North Sea on the island of Helgoland, this Federal German marine research facility is where Dr. Markham worked as a project scientist and studied the uptake of heavy metals in the kelp Laminaria saccharina (Sugar Kelp) from 1974 to 1981. A common kelp in many countries, Laminaria saccharina is much simpler in structure and easier to culture than the Laminaria sinclairii which Dr. Markham studied for his dissertation research. The lab-based system that provided the filtered seawater for Laminaria saccharina is pictured above left, while the picture to the right shows the growth results of young Laminaria saccharina plants that have grown in various cadmium concentrations. Dr. Markham's worldly experience and dedication to the pursuit of knowledge, both biological and linguistic, is an inspiration for any aspiring scientist. 


Special thanks to the Coastal Fund for supporting our internships!

Thanks for reading about our Algae Digitization Project, and follow CCBER on Facebook and Instagram for continued updates.

Friday, March 17, 2017 - 12:15