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Wednesday, 29th November 2006

Resource of the Week: NBII (National Biological Information Infrastructure) Digital Image Library

Resource of the Week: NBII Digital Image Library
By Shirl Kennedy, Senior Editor

Three words, folks: public domain images !

While it would be thematically appropriate to say that a little birdie told me about this site, that would not exactly be true. In actuality, Gary unearthed this particular jewel, and we thought you ought to know about it, too. Even if you don't have a professional or personal need for nature- and wildlife-related photos, this site is worth a bookmark anyhow because...well, it's just nice to browse here. We like to see our tax dollars used for resources like this one.

National Biological Information Infrastructure (NBII) Digital Image Library

Welcome to the National Biological Information Infrastructure's Digital Image Library. Here you will find a diverse range of images related to nature and the environment. Our current and future collections contain images associated with plant and animal species, scenic landscapes, wildlife management, and biological study/fieldwork. You may browse our broad subject categories or search for specific images using the search feature. Each image's metadata record contains valuable information about the image, i.e. scientific name, description, location, etc.

The mission of the NBII digital image library is to develop, grow and provide a digital library of biological, photographic images – offering a rich, Web-based resource of high quality images dynamically linked to associated metadata accessible and available to scientists, conservationists, decision makers, educators, students and the general public worldwide. NBII will make available on-line images from it's (sic) own collections and from NBII partners, regardless of copyright, but we envision most images being in the public domain.

From an intellectual property rights standpoint, there are three types of images here:

  • If an image is listed as "public domain" you are free to use as you wish. No need to ask for permission for those images in the public domain. We just ask that you please give credit to the photographer and the National Biological Information Infrastructure.
  • If an image is listed as "Copyright held by Source", then the copyright is held by a designated third party. Please contact the person or organization listed under the "source field" to get permission to use their image(s). (Links to contact information for sources are provided.)
  • If an image is listed as "Copyright held by Creator", then the copyright is held by the photographer. Please contact the person or organization listed under the "source field" to get permission to use their image(s).

From a content standpoint, there are six main image categories:

When you click on some of these links, you'll see that certain categories are further subdivided -- e.g., Animals comprises Amphibians, Birds, Crustaceans, Insects, Mammals, Reptiles and Fish.

Notice the three colored tabs on the home page. By default, you are browsing via Biological Categories. If you click the middle Regional tab, you'll see what looks like an interactive world map in the making which, when completed, will allow you to browse the images geographically. Click on the Special Collections tab for closely focused image resources that concentrate on individual species, the Guyra Paraguay Biodiversity collection (a "don't miss" -- the burrowing owls), and five images from NBII's Pacific Basin Information Node, of a plant called hiddenpetal Indian mallow.

The image library is searchable; the form looks like a simple keyword search, but it also supports searching by category, common or scientific names, file names or geography. Even a child doing a school report can easily find excellent images here; simply typing "snakes" into the search box returns 26 different photos. I browsed half a dozen of these and they were all in the public domain.

About the Library offers detailed information about the image formats and sizes, how to download them, and tips on how to use them. Check the Related Resources link for a selective list of pointers to related sites, along with brief annotations.

Source: Center for Biological Informatics, U.S. Geological Survey

Keep in mind that most -- thought not all -- images on federal government websites are in the public domain. FirstGov offers a comprehensive alphabetical gateway to many different photo and multimedia collections.


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