The National Science Foundation (NSF) has awarded a five year grant to iDigBio to continue leading the national effort to digitize biodiversity collections and make them available online. The award of $15.5 million will continue the initiative, which is housed at the University of Florida and started in 2011. More than 64 million specimen records are now online as a result.

“There are probably a billion specimens in the U.S., but the information about them isn’t easily accessible,” said Larry Page, iDigBio director and ichthyology curator at the Florida Museum of Natural History. “If it’s online, you can find in seconds what it might have taken you weeks or even months to find before.”

Page said the project could double the number of specimen records in the database during the next five years.

“Some people think it’s going to slow down because we have the really big institutions in the database already, but most of the records are for plants, fungi, fossils and vertebrate groups,” Page said. “A lot of the really big collections are invertebrates, and I’m hoping the Florida Museum and other institutions with large insect and marine invertebrate collections start flooding us with specimen records.”