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The Burke MAMMAL COLLECTION has joined with 16 other museums to create a joint database

In a ground breaking project called MaNIS (Mammal Networked Information System), the Burke Museum, along with 16 other North American research institutions, is collaborating to create a single electronic network that allows simultaneous access to their mammal collection databases. This means that records of geographic locality(including latitude and longitude) are available for nearly a million museum specimens. This information can be used to enhance conservation and research initiatives, both locally and globally.This store of important data will ultimately provide scientists, resource managers, public health officials and the general public with access to information on millions of natural history specimens with the click of a mouse button.

Prior to development of the MaNIS network, information housed in each of the institutions was trapped in hand-written ledgers or individual databases inaccessible to the World Wide Web and millions of potential users. Now anyone can access information that formerly required weeks, months, or years 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 data on geographic distributions that span more than acentury, 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 historic and current geographic 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 represent the tangible evidence of this diversity.

The MaNIS project represents the vanguard of a new paradigm among natural history museums. 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 and the 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.

To go directly to the joint MaNIS database click below

MaNISdatabase portal: http://manisnet.org/

MaNIS represents the first implementation of a distributed database using Distributed Generic Information Retrieval (DiGIR). DiGIR is a solution that can be easily adapted not only by all 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.