Meeting Abstract

P2.13  Thursday, Jan. 5  A perspective on natural history collections after the Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami: buccinid gastropods and the EOL VENDETTI, J. E. ; California State Univ., Los Angeles

The Museum of Sea and Shells in Rikuzen-Takata, Japan (Iwate Prefecture) housed the R. Tiba collection of Western North Pacific whelk (Gastropoda: Buccinidae) holotype specimens as well as dozens of buccinid paratypes and hundreds of other shelled mollusks and type specimens. In 2008, I visited this museum to photograph its buccinid gastropods as part of my dissertation research. On March 11, 2011 a powerful tsunami resulting from the Tōhoku earthquake off the coast of Honshu, Japan destroyed most of the Museum as well as much of the community of Rikuzen-Takata. Amazingly, some of the Museum’s Tiba type collection, which was stored in locked cabinets, survived and was found among the rubble in the aftermath of the tsunami. These specimen cases were transferred to the Iwate Prefectural Museum to be cleaned, repaired, and eventually made available to malacologists. However, many type specimens from the Museum’s collections were lost, as one would expect in a disaster of such proportions. Here I present the Encylopedia of Life (EOL: as a valuable and convenient online resource for hosting holotype images of the Tiba collection as well as other institutional collections, type and non-type. The EOL allows digital images, videos, and text to be posted and quickly integrated into the site, creating species pages that may be updated in near-real time and located rapidly by search engines. EOL curators and contributors may also partner with scientific colleagues and interested amateurs to add vetted information on classification, distribution, references, and species descriptions. Not only does the EOL website offer substantive opportunities for scientific outreach, online type specimen information would remain available when actual collections are re-located, destroyed, or otherwise unavailable.