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Support the rescue of historical marine biological data from the Mercator expeditions through the DoeDat Platform

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Image of the ship Mercator and skate image with biological data that can be retrieved through citizen science efforts. (Left image: Wikimedia Commons/John Hill -, CC BY-SA 4.0; Right image: © European Union)

Earlier this year, EMODnet Biology started a collaboration with the Meise Botanic Garden (Belgium). At the Botanic Garden, the online crowdsourcing platform – DoeDat  – is being developed, hosted and maintained. The purpose of DoeDat is to help scientists document and digitize herbarium specimens, historical documents and images, while giving the public the chance to take an active part in the process, contributing to making data from historical biological collections more easily accessible for a broader community of scientists and other citizens alike. Such an enormous task is one scientists cannot do alone, and so this DoeDat platform allows enthusiasts to help them in this task, hopefully in an enjoyable and interesting fashion.

Why does the rescue of such old data matter? Because every type of data that can reveal something about the situation in our ocean in the past will help us understand why things are the way they are in the present. In addition, that can then help scientists estimate what the future of our ocean might look like.

A first EMODnet Biology - DoeDat citizen science test-project is about the digitization of the expedition data from the Mercator training ship. The Mercator was in service as a training ship for the Belgian merchant fleet till August 1960 and made 41 voyages altogether, during which almost all seas have been sailed on and a great deal of ports called at. The Mercator accomplished many scientific missions and many times represented Belgium abroad. This publication – in need of digitization and transformation – is specifically about the Atlantic fish collection data from its 1935-1936 expedition.

As soon as the content of this publication has been transformed to the needed format, through the DoeDat platform, the data will be made widely available to the scientific community and all other interested parties all over the world through the EMODnet Biology project. These data can then be brought together with other available data, leading to new investigations in association with some of the major challenges of our era, for example climate change.

So, do not hesitate any longer, and sign up to the DoeDat platform  to take part and dive into the ocean’s history!

This data rescue effort is undertaken as part of the European EMODnet Biology project, with support of the Meise Botanic Garden , their DoeDat Platform and the DiSSCo Flanders  project. EMODnet Biology provides free access to distribution data of marine species from all European regional seas. Upon digitisation, these rescued observations will be made available through this project, where they will be easily Findable, Accessible, Interoperable and Reusable (FAIR). EMODnet Biology is part of the EU funded European Marine Observation and Data Network and is built upon the World Register of Marine Species (WoRMS ) and the European Ocean Biodiversity Information System (EurOBIS ). The hosting and continuous management of WoRMS and EurOBIS is possible through the support of the LifeWatch Species Information Backbone . This Backbone of LifeWatch  aims at bringing together taxonomic and species-related data and at filling the gaps in our knowledge, including making available marine historical or archaeological data.