The Berkeley Fossil Insects (BFI) initiative began with a two-year NSF-funded project to partner with the ongoing Fossil Insect Collaborative Thematic Collections Network (FIC) digitization project entitled, “A Deep-time Approach to Studying Diversification and Response to Environmental Change.” This project was for four years and started in July 2013. In June 2015, UC Berkeley Museum of Paleontology (UCMP) joined the FIC under the NSF PEN program (Partner to an Existing Network). The FIC is comprised of the University of Colorado, Boulder (lead PI), Virginia Museum of Natural History, American Museum of Natural History, Illinois State History Survey, Harvard, University of Kansas, and Yale. These institutions house some of the nation’s largest collections of fossil insects. The charge was to database and image these collections for serving on the Web via the online data portals iDigBio (the national hub), iDigPaleo, Global Biodiversity Information Facility (GBIF), and other data aggregators. These data are now being used for research, education and public outreach, and provide for a long-term digital collection archive.
The BFIP team for their part added Cenozoic fossil insect faunas new to the FIC that lived during geologic time intervals when Earth was undergoing dramatic climatic and environmental change, and specimens from new and/or underrepresented geographic areas. Specimens include historically significant type, figured, and non-type amber from the early Miocene of Chiapas, Mexico; the Stewart Valley, Nevada assemblage preserved in mid-Miocene lake sediments; and the type, figured, and non-type specimens from the Pleistocene Rancho La Brea and McKittrick asphalt seeps of southern California. Additional smaller collections of three-dimensional arthropod remains from the late Pleistocene Crystal Caverns cave site in northern California as well as insects from a number of other localities in western North America.
Success from this initial NSF project has generated additional support from the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) (2018-present). This funding has allowed us to form our current IMLS-funded team, aka Team Resin, to preserve the amber collection in epoxy resin per best practices, and to digitize the amber archives for online access via linkage between the UC Berkeley Docubase site and our online Amber Files finding aid.
The BFI fossil insect images and metadata are now being published via the Berkeley Natural History Museum IPT for harvesting by iDigBio and other data aggregators. These data are contributing to the FIC’s goal to advance understanding of changes in insect diversity, insect phylogeny and evolution, co-evolutionary relationships and geographic distribution through deep time, and the impact environmental change had and will have on insect biodiversity.