After two years of work, the Sternberg Museum of Natural History has launched for the first time a database showcasing pictures and information about the fossils that are housed at the museum.
“Museum paleontology specimen data are now available to educators, students, researchers and the general public around the world,” said Laura Wilson, curator of paleontology at the Sternberg Museum and an associate professor of geosciences at Fort Hays State University.
Funding came from a National Science Foundation grant awarded to Wilson.
“Making specimen data easily and openly accessible is a huge push in the museum community,” said Wilson. She said data accessibility is one of the main goals of the National Science Foundation.
Christina Byrd, paleontology collections manager at the Sternberg Museum, and students from FHSU worked with Whirl-i-Gig, “a software developer who designed the database CollectiveAccess, to customize the database to fit our data and needs,” said Wilson.
Sternberg Museum’s database is known as a relational database, meaning each specimen’s data is stored in tables, and those tables are linked together by common information. This is helpful when researching because with one search you can pull more relevant information. Wilson said, “Overall, a relational database is more easily searchable and makes data more accessible.”
A STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) workshop in June allowed educators from different parts of the state to interact with the database as well as create activities for the classroom. Students involved in these lessons will have the opportunity to “build big datasets, analyze actual data to test ideas, collect their own data, ask questions, and explore images of Kansas fossils” said Wilson.
The database can be found at https://sternbergca.fhsu.edu/ and is available to the public.