Among the growing family of Symbiota portals, the Guatemala Biodiversity Portal has an increasingly prominent role in the mobilization of Guatemala’s biodiversity heritage. Initially, the portal was a serendipitous consequence of the onset of the global pandemic, which coincided with a trip to Guatemala that suddenly left Samanta Orellana, PhD student at Arizona State University, unable to return to the US. At a time when many collections became acutely aware of the advantages of digitization, Orellana used this opportunity to virtually engage Guatemalan collections with various Symbiota portals, like CSVColl, Ecdysis, and Neotropical Flora.
In only a few short months, enough interest had been generated that the critical mass needed to support a new portal had emerged, and in September 2020, the Guatemala Biodiversity Portal was launched. Two years later, the portal has grown from 4,400 to nearly 30,000 records, representing not only a significant increase in the number of records shared, but also an unprecedented rate of digitization across Guatemalan collections. As of August 2022, the portal supported:
- 31 collections from 3 national institutions
- 29,802 occurrence records
- 5,747 images
- 4,245 species
- 23 collections in GBIF
- 23,448 occurrences in GBIF
The Guatemala Biodiversity Portal is also unique in scope. While narrowly defined geographically, its taxonomic coverage is broad, and it includes vertebrates, invertebrates, plants, fungi, and even some fossil organisms. Guatemalan researchers are now using the portal to curate taxonomic checklists, live manage, and publish their research collections. The portal has bilingual options, allowing users to select an English or Spanish interface; this feature has been especially helpful in engaging the Guatemalan research community.
Enthusiasm generated by the Guatemala Biodiversity Portal has spread to other collections in Latin America, and–in addition to her ongoing research at ASU–Orellana is now the Symbiota Support Hub’s liaison for international communities. In this role, she will be running a workshop to promote the digitization of biological collections for Spanish-language speaking collections professionals and researchers. iDigBio and the Symbiota Support Hub are excited to see how the Guatemala Biodiversity Portal evolves, and hope that it serves as inspiration for other collections communities.
Follow the Guatemala Biodiversity Portal on social media for more updates: @GuatemalaPortal
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