By Diane Ako
HONOLULU (KHNL) -- Found any strange plants, weird animals, or unusual insects in your backyard lately? How about that funny green lizard that suns itself on your deck every afternoon?
Aren't you a bit curious? Bishop Museum's online forum, Ask a Bishop Museum Scientist, makes it easy for you to interact with the Museums experts to identify any unusual organisms (plants, animals or fish) you've found in your yard, in the ocean, or while hiking around any of the Hawaiian islands. Casual observers are HawaiŒi's first line of defense against invasive species.
Ask A Bishop Museum Scientist was developed so students, educators, and the general public could communicate with Bishop Museum's expert and world-renowned scientists whenever they found a plant or animal about which they wanted more information. By joining a "flikr" group online at the Museum's website, observers can easily upload jpeg images of the found organism (plant or animal) for identification.
The more information you can provide, such as where you found the specimen, its size, color, type of habitat, and physical description, will help scientists uncover its secrets and help them make an accurate identification for you. Does it have legs or special features? Does it bear flowers or fruit? Once you fill in the comment box with your descriptive information, you easily post it to the Ask a Bishop Museum Scientist group.
Then wait a few days and check back to see what the scientist has to say. (Sometimes there are longer delays when the scientists are working afar on field assignments in remote areas and can't be available for immediate responses.)
Your picture and the scientist's response will be posted online for all to see and learn! This educational program is supported in part by the Education Through Cultural and Historical Organizations (ECHO) grant programs. (Scientists cannot identify plants and animals from outside of HawaiŒi.)
Bishop Museum has engaged in biological and geological studies in HawaiŒi and the Pacific Islands for over 100 years. The Museum has also been a major force in biological studies in Micronesia and New Guinea for over 45 years.
The Museum's collection of biological specimens, library of published and unpublished documents, and biodiversity databases, and staff expertise make it an unparalleled source of knowledge on the biology of the Pacific Basin.
In 1992, HawaiŒi became the first state in America to engage in a thorough biological survey inventory of all the organisms known to occur within its boundaries, creating bibliographic and taxonomic databases available to all on the web as the survey is being conducted.
The HawaiŒi Biological Survey has identified over 25,600 species inhabiting our islands and the ocean that surrounds them. Over the last ten years, Museum staff and resident associates have produced over 100 books, book chapters, and journal articles dealing with the unique and unusual biodiversity of the Pacific Basin.
Foundational work on insects, land snails, marine invertebrates, marine fishes, terrestrial vertebrates, and plants has been established.
Bishop Museum is the HawaiŒi State repository for specimens and maintains the most comprehensive collections of plants and animals from the State.
Among the collections are 650,000 specimens of plants; 14,000,000 specimens of insects, spiders, and mites; 150,000 specimens of fish; 6,000,000 specimens of Mollusks; 400,000 specimens of Marine Invertebrates; 200,000 specimens of Vertebrates and fossils.
Bishop Museum also maintains one of the best libraries in the world related to biological and environmental studies on Pacific Islands including over 115,000 volumes, and is recognized as a major research library by the US Department of Education.