Because specimen collection is a centuries-old practice, the majority of plant specimens were collected before GPS capabilities were widely accessible. As a result, the location data of millions of specimens remains trapped in a textual description of the location, unavailable for mapping or modeling. This is why georeferencing—determining latitude and longitude coordinates of plant locations from textual descriptions—is a vital step in digitization. Georeferencing can be like a scavenger hunt, requiring consideration of geography, topography, collection practices, and historical context to determine the precise location describe on the specimen label. The process is also very rewarding. The resulting data empowers novel research and helps fill the gaps in our understanding of plant life on Earth.
- Digitization - the process of converting analog data (such as written text) into a digital format (such as word-processed, computerized text)
- Georeferencing - the process of assigning latitude and longitude coordinates to an object given, e.g., a textual description of the location
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