Paleobiology Marine Invertebrates Instructions

Thank you for being a digital volunteer! It’s very important that this work is performed in a standardized manner, so please make the effort to read and follow these instructions.

Our Transcription & Review Process

How the process works

We seek to balance quality and speed with our transcription process - which of course is still evolving as we continue to develop this service. At the moment, this is how our system works:

1) Anyone can start transcribing or add to a transcription of a document.

2) Once a volunteer decides they’ve “finished” and they’re ready for review, a different volunteer (who must have an account on the site) can review the transcription and either send it back for edits, or complete the transcription.

3) The finished transcript is sent to the Smithsonian, where it may be used immediately, or undergo additional work.

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Paleobiology drawers, representing expeditions

Join the National Museum of Natural History - Department of Paleobiology to transcribe labels from the Cenozoic Marine Invertebrates collection. These labels correspond to collecting events. That means that unlike some of our other projects, these objects have shared cards and labels, rather than individual labels. It may help you to envision paleontologists collecting the specimens in drawers as part of expeditions--where an expedition is a collecting event.

In this video, Kathy Hollis, Collections Manager for the Department of Paleobiology, National Museum of Natural History, explains the goals of this project. She touches on the ways collections are arranged, collection events, the unique challenges of this analog data, and how your transcription will make a difference for researchers.

The collections of the Department of Paleobiology contain over 40 million fossil animals (invertebrates and vertebrates), fossil plants, fossil unicellular organisms, and sediment samples. These fossils and samples record the history of life on our planet over the last 2.5 billion years. You can explore their collections here.

Transcribing the Paleobiology Marine Invertebrates Pilot Project

For this transcription project, you will transcribe information from cards and labels with varying formats into specific fields. Please compare the images on the left of the transcription page with the instructions below. You will be entering information into 7 fields, which have the labels “Genus,” “Species,” "Higher Taxonomy," “Locality Source,” “Locality #,” “Additional Numbers” and “Additional Information.”

Examples are outlined below; please use your best judgment when transcribing, leave notes for staff and fellow volunteers, or contact us with questions as you go. All fields to be transcribed will be visible at the same time; there are no tabs. As always, you can find these instructions by clicking on the Instructions link in the upper right hand corner of the transcription window. Be sure to type in all the information you can for the fields in each section before you click the orange [Complete and Mark for Review] button.

Reading Labels

Varying Paleobiology Fossil Marine Invertebrates labels

Paleo labels can come in all shapes and sizes.

Since each label is created independently, some of the information you need may be found on different labels or on different locations on a label. The labels are vary in type, format, and content. These are some examples of what our fossil collection labels may look like.

Taxonomy: Genus, Species, and Higher Order Taxonomy

Paleobiology label examples for Genus and Species

Taxonomy is the arrangement of biological organisms into groups based on shared characteristics, then naming these groups; in other words, the classification of biological organisms. Taxonomic ranks include Domain - Kingdom - Phylum - Class, Order, Family, Genus, and Species. These ranks are arranged from most to least inclusive. As we transcribe, we will focus on the Genus and Species with typeahead menus.

Please note: as these labels and cards vary, genus and species information may or may not be present on the labels.

Transcribing Genus and Species

To find the Genus and Species information, start by looking for a capitalized latin name. If there are two adjacent latin terms, the first, capitalized term is the genus and the second is the species. Genus and species is often followed by a person’s last name; this person is the author who first described this species in a scientific publication. Do not transcribe the author name.

You may also find qualifiers such as question marks or abbreviated terms after genus and species information. You may also find alternative genus or species names in parentheses. Transcribe those qualifiers or alternative names as part of the genus if after the genus name and part of the species if after the species name. You would include cf. or aff. in the species field.

Sometimes only the genus is written on the label with no species name. If you are not sure if a Latin name on a label is a genus or a higher taxonomic name, search the name to find out the taxonomic level via the World Register of Marine Species (WoRMS) or an internet search engine.

Higher Order Taxonomy

In this image, examples of genus and species names are circled in purple, with higher taxonomy circled in orange.

If a higher order taxonomic name (phylum through family names) is on the label, enter the name in the Higher Order Taxonomy field.

You are also encouraged to determine the higher order taxonomy that corresponds to the Genus and Species by searching via the World Register of Marine Species (WoRMS) or Wikipedia or an internet search engine.

Transcribing Higher Order Taxonomy

Please transcribe the higher order taxonomy using the following convention:

For the example "Cypraeidae" - one would transcribe higher order taxonomy as

"Animalia (Kingdom) > Mollusca (Phylum) > Gastropoda (Class) > Caenogastropoda (Subclass) > Littorinimorpha (Order) > Cypraeoidea (Superfamily) > Cypraeidae (Family)"

Please cite the source from which the information was gathered.

Here is an example in WoRMS for Cypraeidae.

Locality Source and Locality #

Paleobiology label examples for Locality Source, circled in blue

These specimens were collected over various field expeditions, by various researchers, in a variety of contexts. It is important to understand who collected the specimens because that provides important information on the context in which the specimens were to be studied. The Locality Source information is the project, collector, or institution that collected the specimen and recorded the label information. In most instances the specimens were collected by the United States Geological Survey, so the Locality Source is the United States Geological Survey (or USGS). In other instances, the Locality Source is USNM, a university, company, government agency, or university that originally collected the specimens.

Look for Locality Source information on the top of the label in a typed or preprinted text. These images provide examples of Locality Source and Locality # on labels. The Locality Source information will be circled in BLUE, while Locality # information is circled in GREEN.

The Locality # is the number assigned to the geographic location from which the specimens were collected. The Locality Source is the entity that assigned the Locality #.

Locality numbers are usually four, five, or six digit numbers and is featured prominently on the label.

Additional Numbers

Paleobiology label examples for Additional Numbers

Additional numbers could refer to a variety of things like field numbers, specimen numbers, or image numbers. If you are not sure if a number is a locality number, or if there are multiple numbers, please enter the numbers as Additional Numbers.

Please enter any other numbers and their identifiers (which may come before or after the number) found on the label exactly as it is written. This may include a collection number or a preparation number. Please DO include a comma in the number if present, e.g. 10,004 should be transcribed as 10,004.

If you are unsure, it is usually best to err on the side of including more information.

When entering multiple additional numbers, please separate them by a semicolon.

Here is an example of an additional number on a label with a locality number. The locality number is circled in green; the additional number is circled in red.

Verbatim Label

Because the fossils specimen labels are so variable, we are asking that the label be transcribed verbatim in addition to the information captured above.

The main goal of the Verbatim Label information is to create text that mirrors this document. Write down words and text as you see them. Keep words in their original spelling, even if it is technically “wrong.” Find a way to include any notes the collected may have written on the top, bottom or sidebar. One exception: if a word is hyphenated because it goes across two lines, type it out as one word.

Guided Examples for Transcribing Labels

Here's a key for these example images:

  • Purple: Genus and Species
  • Orange: Higher Taxonomy
  • Blue: Locality Source
  • Green: Locality #
  • Red: Additional Numbers


    Paleobiology label example with robust dataPaleobiology label example with robust data

    These examples provide rich unstructured data in their labels.


    Paleobiology label example with minimal dataPaleobiology label example with minimal data

    These examples provide sparse data, still unstructured, and may require additional research to confirm transcription.

    Notes Section & Additional Information

    The notes section can be used to provide additional information or concerns about the transcription to Smithsonian staff, as well as other volunteers, about this transcription. For instance, if you aren't sure about an entry in a field and want to explain your decision. If you have a question about the project, please contact us.


    NOTE: Please do NOT delete information from this field, even if you have "resolved" another volunteer's question.

    Instead, leave the text in place and create a response after it, detailing your actions.

    Please apply this approach across projects in the Smithsonian Transcription Center and leave the notes.

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