2024 ETS Best Emerging Technology Application Award

Cyril Oberlander, Library Dean and Project Sponsor, Aj Bealum, Programmer & Project Manager, and Team Flora, of Cal Poly Humboldt Library, for 3D Digital Herbarium

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Jennifer Shipley, Library Operations Manager, Miami-Dade Public Library System for Multi-sensory POP-UP Storywalk™

Chosen for the 2024 Best Emerging Technology Application (BETA) Award Sponsored by Chatstaff and LibraryH3lp

Established in 2019, the ETS Best Emerging Technology Application Award (BETA) offers $3,000 to an individual or group in recognition of a technology application that directly benefits library users. This award is sponsored by Chatstaff and LibraryH3lp.

3D Digital Herbarium

3D Herbarium, Computer Science major David Yaranon

3D Herbarium, Computer Science major David Yaranon
3D Herbarium, Aj Bealum, alum class of 2022, Programmer and Project Manager
Cyril Oberlander
David Yaranon
Grayson Prater
Heather Davis
Team Flora

The committee found 3D Digital Herbarium to be an innovative method for advancing the work of herbariums through 3D imaging. The committee found the site easy to use and accessible, and most importantly, engaging for the viewer, but also the students involved . They were also impressed with the impact it has had on the Cal Poly Humboldt community and its great potential to advance herbarium scholarship and engagement, as well as to create new partnerships for the Cal Poly Humboldt Library. – Award Committee Statement

Cal Poly Humboldt Library built the 3D Digital Herbarium from groundbreaking research in the development of an immersive 3D digital exhibit tool offering an engaging open-access environment to learn and understand botany, as well as, a meaningful digitization project for class assignments or internship activities. We were inspired by the Library’s digital dissection table, and when we searched for a botanical version, we did not find an equivalent for flora, so we developed a prototype software proposal for Dr. Sherrene Bogle’s software engineering class, and four students developed a successful prototype. At the end of the course, Aj Bealum was hired to continue as the Programmer & Project Manager, and the Library hired computer science and botany students to continue developing this into version 1. 

Traditional herbariums are not very accessible and contain dried, flattened specimens that lose their color and shape. Existing digitized herbariums are simply digitized photographs of the 2D specimen sheets. Team Flora published more than 40 models and plans to have 100 by July 1, 2024. With thin leaves, fine grasses, and complicated geometries, plants prove to be the most challenging specimens to scan and model in three dimensions, making this an excellent experience for considerable research and optimization of photogrammetry and 3D modeling methods. The 3D Digital Herbarium provides true-to-life models of specimens with correct color, texture, characteristics, and structure both for botanical study and for identification purposes. One of the most important ways to research and learn botany is to explore and understand the processes from seed to full-grown plant to the development of seeds again, as well as the intricate plant structures that are so crucial for life on Earth. The 3D Digital Herbarium provides an engaging platform to inspire learning and researching botany in new ways with 3D models, annotations written by students, and links to information from other herbaria and sources. 

The 3D Digital Herbarium combines authentic 3D models with educational resources and citizen science projects, such as iNaturalist. Currently, we configured the 3D Digital Herbarium with APIs to display information from the Global Biodiversity Information Facility and iNaturalist, while the annotation framework enables curated links to other information sources from text to video. Our research focus is on curating immersive 3D learning environments that are open to everyone as an open educational resource, and pedagogical platform for student teams to share the inspiration from their discipline, and across disciplines. 

The results are a powerful interactive open-source exhibit tool that enables high-resolution 3D models of plants on the web and in augmented and virtual reality, as well as, student-contributed annotations to promote the public understanding of science. We are advancing the research and scalability of this open-source 3D imaging and interactive learning tool, extending it to any discipline, and plan to make it a hosted cooperative platform.  Team Flora has already branched out and began training students at the Cal Poly Humboldt Vertebrate Museum on photogrammetry methods. Libraries play an important role in inspiring and encouraging learning 3D modeling techniques across all academic fields, a valuable skill to many professions. In creating a 3D Digital Herbarium, we discovered how our research with photogrammetry and software development advances botany education, and creates a powerful collaboration with computer science and botany students, recently highlighted in Humboldt Now. Our research and progress shows that many disciplines have inaccessible objects and specimens and would benefit from simple open-access publications, as well as workflows that engage student and graduate assistants, and internship projects to make more collections accessible and inspiring, helping to empower the public understanding of sciences.

Professional activities and contributions:

Aj Bealum is the Project Manager and Programmer leading Team Flora that successfully launched version 1 of the 3D Digital Herbarium on January 25, 2024, as well as one of the original Team Flora members that developed the prototype in the Fall of 2022 with students in Dr. Sherrene Bogle’s software engineering capstone course. Aj Bealum graduated with a Bachelor’s of Science in Computer Science from Cal Poly Humboldt in the Fall of 2022.

Cyril Oberlander serves as the Dean of the Cal Poly Humboldt Library since 2014, and is dedicated to fostering lifelong learning, and to curating a vibrant learning environment that positively transforms lives, libraries, and learning. Cyril has served at libraries such as; SUNY Geneseo in New York, University of Virginia Libraries, Portland State University, and served as a consultant to public, academic, and special libraries. Interests include collaborative innovation and software development, space and service design, teaching and learning, library publishing and open pedagogy. Current projects include: 3D Digital Herbarium, GIS Data Archive, Career Skills Pathways Project, and Discovering Humboldt with Google Maps.

Team Flora – The Computer Science & Botany Library Student Assistants: Heather Davis, Hank Dingman, Grayson Prater, David Yaranon, Naotoshi Yoshida 

Multi-sensory POP-UP Storywalk™

Jennifer Shipley

Two interactive exhibitions for people with disabilities were created utilizing QR Codes. The Multi-sensory POP-UP Storywalk™ combined Braille and QR Codes, allowing participants at the Story Extravaganza to use their phones for narrated stories and activities about nature. Parents engaged with children, repeating actions like “Flap your wings.” The tactile-friendly, multi-sensory POP-UP art exhibition at the Low Vision Seminar encouraged touching art and interacting with QR codes for descriptions. Environmentally themed pieces covering urban sprawl, how to attract butterflies, and Everglades preservation, incorporated three-dimensional art with found objects.

Professional activities and contributions:

Jennifer Shipley brings over two decades of library management experience to her role at the Miami-Dade Public Library System. As Library Operations Manager, she oversees diverse units, leads staff meetings, and ensures excellent customer service. With a passion for community engagement, Jennifer has been featured in media interviews and has presented at conferences on topics including literacy and disability services. Her dedication has earned her several awards, including eight National Association of Counties (NACo) Achievement Awards and recognition from the Southeast Florida Library Information Network (SEFLIN), Florida International University Learning for Life program and local Rotary Clubs for her commitment to library excellence and community impact.


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