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Natural History Collections


For over a century, the team at Mohonk Preserve has been diligently collecting data on all aspects of the natural life in the Shawangunk Mountains region. Everything from weather patterns to the phenology of local species is carefully monitored and catalogued each year, creating a treasure trove of data for anyone who wants to know more about the phenology of the “Gunks.” Today we use technology to store and track our data, but this was not always the case. Daniel Smiley, the creator of this project, originally would walk the Shawangunk Ridge lands with notecards in hand, writing down whatever he saw. Over the course of his lifetime, over 10,000 notecards were created by him and researchers with whom he worked.

These notecards are rich with detailed information that is useful in a multitude of research projects in areas like ecology, land-use change, animal migration, and species’ range changes. Rather than keeping this important research tool tucked away in file cabinets, we want to make these cards digitally available to scientists, students and all who want to use them. Through a generous grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services through the Museums for America program, we’ve been able to establish a project protocol and create digital images of over 9,000 Dan’s note cards.

Now we’re asking for your help in making this information fully searchable by looking at individual cards and transcribing the information on them. Click here to find out how YOU can help make natural history! 

Thank you for helping us share and expand access to this remarkable resource!

Natalie Feldsine, Research Collection and Citizen Science Coordinator 
Jordan Williams, Digitization Technician

The Daniel Smiley Research Center (DSRC) – Mohonk Preserve’s conservation science unit – is recognized nationally and beyond for its extensive collection of long-term research data, including 86 years of natural and cultural history observations, over 120 years of daily weather data, 60,000 physical items, 9,000 photographs, and research library. Of those physical items, there are over 3,000 herbarium specimens, 139 mammal specimens, 107 bird specimens, 140 butterfly specimens, 400 arthropod specimens, and over 10,000 index cards with handwritten and/or typed natural history observations. Some cards contain a single entry but most contain multiple entries, meaning the total number of data points is much higher. The data and natural history collections support the Preserve’s land management and stewardship activities and our educational programming. The collections are also frequently cited in research on climate change, biodiversity, bird migration, and human impact on the environment.

DSRC staff are working to digitize the collections by producing high resolution images of the specimens and index cards, transcribing label and card data, and uploading the information to online, open access data repositories. Digitizing the collections and making them available via multiple online portals will help us to support new research on a variety of scientific topics, including phenology and species response to climate change and variations in land use over time, and demographic information about species of conservation concern. The project will help the DSRC to improve access to the collections.  

Banner photo by Tom Weiner