The Australian Museum's trailblazing digitisation program hits the 1 million-mark.

DigiVol collage
A collage of images from different institutions on DigiVol. Image: Rhiannon Stephens
© Australian Museum

The DigiVol website began with one Australian Museum project. It was 5000 pinned Cicada specimen’s which volunteers transcribed all of the specimens’ label data for. This information was then transferred to the museum’s database before being shared across many online biodiversity databases.

Back in July 2011, we had 30 online volunteers and averaged 23 tasks a day. Fast forward to today, we have more than 3000 registered volunteers and complete more than 1500 tasks a day!

On Thursday 23 August 2018 at 8.48pm we completed our one millionth task!

That day we had 12 projects active from around the world. This included insects from the Australian National Insect Collection, handwritten notes from City of Parramatta Council, Natural History Museum of Utah, Harvard University and South African National Biodiversity Institute. There were herbarium specimens from Royal Botanic Gardens Kew, Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh and The New York Botanical Garden, camera trap images from ACT Parks and Conservation Service and NSW Farmers Association as well as many more insect, shell and mineral specimens from the Australian Museum.

The most important thing about DigiVol is that this invaluable service (the collection of data) is carried out by online volunteers, also known as citizen scientists.

Anyone can become an online citizen scientist and can volunteer from the comfort of their own home or anywhere they have internet access. They choose which projects they would like to work on, read the associated tutorial and then begin transcribing. This type of citizen science is relatively new to the volunteering sector and has opened a lot of opportunities for many people wanting to volunteer from home. It provides a place for not only people with physical disabilities (unable to travel), but also for full time workers to contribute to scientific data collection.

I believe it may be the first time my university is accepting online volunteering as an exemption to the placement. Hopefully this will be something all unis will do one day, so more disabled students can undertake degrees. It also opens eyes to the fact that this exists and is a legitimate form of volunteering, and can be just as helpful (and fun) as physical/on-site volunteering. Tabitha-Ann, South Australia

DigiVol has recruited many people from the Centre for Volunteering, Do Something Near You, Work for the Dole, Centrelink and work experience students.

DigiVol incorporates multiple options for transcription and data collection in its website and hence has attracted nearly 50 national and international institutions from around the world to use its platform.

This makes DigiVol the largest transcription centre for natural history museum specimens in the world!