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July 24, 2003

Burke Joins With Other Museums to Create Integrated Conservation and Research Tool

Seattle, 7/24/03 -- In a groundbreaking project called MaNIS (Mammal Networked Information System), the Burke Museum and 16 other North American research institutions are collaborating to create a single electronic network that allows simultaneous access to their mammal collection databases. This store of important data will ultimately provide scientists, resource managers, public health officials and the general public with information on millions of natural history specimens through just the click of a mouse. The innovative MaNIS network promises to enhance conservation and research initiatives, both locally and globally.

Prior to development of the MaNIS network, information housed in each of the collaborating institutions was trapped in hand-written ledgers or individual databases inaccessible to the World Wide Web, and thus invisible to millions of potential users. Now from the comfort of their computer workstation, any person can access information that formerly required weeks, months, or even years and many museum staff hours to assemble.

Easy access to this information is crucial for:

  • Identifying conservation hotspots - with accurate information about geographic distribution of species, potentially threatened areas can be more easily identified.

  • Monitoring ecosystem change - with access to geographic distribution data that span more than a century, scientists can isolate historic shifts in the distribution of mammal populations and document the impact of habitat modification or climate change.

  • Tracking emerging diseases - many newly recognized diseases such as Hantaviruses or Monkey-pox have mammals as hosts. By better understanding the biology of these mammals, scientists can understand the biology of the diseases, methods of transmission, effectiveness of treatments, and their effects on human health and welfare.

  • Monitoring invasive species - with knowledge of historical and current geographical distributions of mammals, the spread of destructive and costly invasive species can be better understood and more easily contained.

  • Biodiversity and evolutionary studies - identifying new species and understanding evolutionary relationships among species requires access to museum specimen databases, which document the tangible evidence of this diversity.

MaNIS represents the first implementation of a networked database using Distributed Generic Information Retrieval (DiGIR, http://digir.net). DiGIR is a solution that can be easily adopted not only by all existing natural history data networks, but also by data providers in any discipline. DiGIR provides a mechanism to create a virtual museum encompassing the entire tree of life on a global scale.

The MaNIS project is the vanguard of a new paradigm among natural history museums. It is only through data sharing can the value of these extensive collections provide maximum benefit to society. Because research collections in museums and universities are the authoritative source of knowledge about the identity, relationships, and properties of species on this planet, harnessing this accumulated knowledge is fundamental to sustaining global biological systems for the benefit of all.

The development of MaNIS is funded by a grant from the National Science Foundation to the Burke Museum at the University of Washington, as well as other participating universities and museums. A list of participating institutions, links to supporting documents, and links to active data portals can be found on the MaNIS web site: http://elib.cs.berkeley.edu/manis/.

The MaNIS project is featured in the current issue of Nature, which is available at newsstands beginning today. More information can be found at http://www.nature.com.

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The Burke is located at the corner of NE 45th St and 17th Ave NE on the UW campus. Hours are 10 am - 5 pm daily, and until 8 pm Thursday. The Museum Store and Museum Caf?are also open during these hours. Admission to the permanent exhibits is $6.50 general, $5 senior, $3 student/youth, FREE to Burke members, children 5 and under, UW faculty, students, and staff. Admission to the special exhibition Out of the Silence is $8 general, $6.50 senior, $5 student/youth.. Out of the Silence is FREE to Burke members, children 5 and under, UW faculty, students, and staff. For 24-hour information, please call 206-543-5590, or visit www.burkemuseum.org

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