Dear Reader,

in our attempt to introduce different projects dealing with ants and to create a forum for presenting new projects and for discussion, we proceed with our series of interviews with ant researchers.
We are proud to present an interview with Christiana Klingenberg, Scientific Trainee at the National Museum of Natural History Karlsruhe (SMNK) and Data Manager at the FoCol-Project of the Global Biodiversion Information Facility-Projekt (GBIF-D). The FoCol-Project aims at photographing all type specimens of ants that are housed in German museums. This work will be a major contribution to the documentation of World's ant diversity. We are looking forward to present these excellent photographs and the complete data set of this project soon on our website via the Systax-Server. In our interview Christiana talks about her work on the FoCol-Project.

Here is the text of the interview:

AntBase: Mrs. Klingenberg, you are responsible for data management of the FoCol-project at the SMNK (National Museum for Natural History Karlsruhe), where you are planning to gather information about all existing primary type specimens of ants in German museum collections. What has inspired you to start a project like this? Was there some crucial experience at your work, when you thought: "How do I get information about the ant types available at German collections"?

Christiana: The project was not planed by me, but Dr. Manfred Verhaagh had the idea and elaborated the proposal. I joined the team later. One of my tasks was the type research. Some museums have their type lists published at the institutional homepage and there are some museum-specific publications dealing with collections and their types. Additionally we developed a questionnaire that we sent to all museums where we suspected ant collections. Helpful was the "Zentralregister biologischer Forschungssammlungen in Deutschland" (ZEFOD), a database about all German zoological and botanical collections. With the questionnaire we asked about specific collection data, e.g. available type material. Major museums like the Natural History Museum in Berlin we visited personally to get a better overview.

AntBase: On your website www.anttypes.org you mention that you are planning to manage up to 3000 records of about 1500 type taxa. That sounds like quite an effort to get hold of all these specimens, to write in to the different institutes and to exchange material. And of course, somebody has to pay the costs. How do you finance your project, do you have funding from specific sources? Or is everything covered by the SMNK?

Christiana: FoCol is only an umbrella project of the whole GBIF-D project what was funded by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research. Unfortunately the funding was not sufficient for terminating all the work until the end of 2005 and a continuation of the funding was not planned. Since the beginning of 2006 I am working at the SMNK as "scientific trainee" so that there is the possibility to conclude the project till end of 2007.

AntBase: Apart from money, what you need is a lot of time. For how long have you been working at the FoCol-project, and do you have any idea when it will be finished?

Christiana: Since October 2004 I am working in the FoCol project. First only at a 50% position, later it was extend to a 75% position. Since 2006 I am working as a "scientific trainee" in full time. At the beginning of the project there were only some imprecise estimations about the number of ant types deposited in German collections and we thought, that the funding was sufficient for doing all the work till the end of 2005. Now we know that there are more than three times more types as we had estimated. For this reason it takes longer time to finish FoCol. But we hope that we finish by end of 2007.

AntBase: Working on such an elaborate project, one is always confronted with problems and setbacks. What kind of problems have you encountered so far, and to what extent have you managed to solve these problems? Did you picture yourself the project to be this extensive, or where you surprised how difficult the project turned out to be?

Christiana: We are really impressed by the huge amount of type material we found. Actually we did not encounter any technical difficulties. The data collection routine was established as it was foreseen in the proposal. When I came to the museum the autoMontage equipment was still running. Later we purchased a new stereomicroscope (Leica Z6 Apo) and the quality of the images increased a lot. Certainly my own creativity was required when managing all the complex data sets on the local computers. Quite complicated was the completion of the interfaces of the Systax Server at the University of Ulm.

AntBase: Are you planning to extend your project, e.g. on the whole German-speaking area or even Europe? Or are you already happy when you have brought "light" into the German collections?

Christiana: An extension of FoCol to other countries is not planned. I am not seeing any possibilities for a financial funding from Germany. Countries like Austria, Switzerland, the USA and Brazil are observing the advances very closely, what we saw at several congresses. Personally I am happy when we finish the project here in Germany. If I could choose how to continue, I would decide for a completion of the data, e.g. a more elaborated literature research. This could be done with XML mark ups; certain keywords of the original descriptions (taxa, descriptions, locations, etc.) are marked with tags and prepared for data mining. Later you can search in a database for requested taxa, without having each original description in hands or the PDF-document opened at your machine. There are some interesting approaches for such a project. Another idea is the completion of the data in terms of georeferencing of the type localities and recent collection localities.

AntBase: You have written your dissertation and your Ph.D. thesis at the same time you were working on FoCol. Could you gain any advantage for your dissertation from your work on FoCol or did it end in a kind of double burden?

Christiana: Actually my PhD thesis and FoCol are totally independent. I started with FoCol when the data collection for my thesis was finished and I only needed to evaluate data and write it down. Furthermore at the beginning I was hired on a 50 % position, later it was 75%, so that there was enough time to finish all the PhD stuff. One of the parts of my PhD project was a taxonomic revision of a small ant genus, so I was already familiar with ant taxonomy and systematics. Certainly this was a kind of basic qualification to work for FoCol.

AntBase: You are cooperating with other projects in Germany, like Systax at the University of Ulm in your project as well. What do you promise yourself from this collaboration?

Christiana: The collaboration was excellent with all the institutions which have ants in their collections. All institutions loaned their whole type material, so that we could take the autoMontage images in Karlsruhe. As we visited the collections personally for getting and devolving the type material, many interesting and useful contacts were made. By doing this I got a very good overview about the ant collections in Germany.

AntBase: Unfortunately, the web appearance of FoCol so far only shows one example of a data base entry, which nevertheless looks very promising. When are we about to see more of your great pictures at FoCol?

Christiana: The presence of the FoCol images in the internet is not only depending on us. At the moment the Systax-Server has some import problems. Alternatively we are thinking about hosting the images on other servers and later link them to anttypes.org. Right now, we are negotiating this option. Unfortunately here in at the Museum in Karlsruhe we have no such technical possibilities for hosting the huge amount of images. But we hope to present all images very soon. Who needs the images or further information can send a request via e-mail to me and I will send the images quickly. This works fine and in most cases an additional lending of the type material is not necessary.

AntBase: You are working a lot with macro-photography and present these amazing automontage pictures of the ants of Baden-Württemberg on your website. Almost everybody dealing with macro-photography knows about the trouble one is confronted when it comes to taking pictures at small stages. Do you know certain "tricks" or do you have any good advice for people trying to perform macro-photography?

Christiana: In fact, you can increase the quality of the images with some very simple tricks. At least this is true for ant images which were done with a stereomicroscope. Very important is a good preparation of the specimens. Eventually angled legs should not cover parts of the mesosoma or petiole / postpetiole. In some cases the gaster hangs down and should be carefully lifted up in a way that it is in the same axis of the mesosoma and the head. The antennae shouldn't stick out to much; the scapes should be directed to the occiput with the funicle in an angle of circa 45°. If you do some close-ups of the head, at least one antenna should be completely visible. The correct alignment of the ant is also very important. When shooting photographs in frontal view, the head should be aligned and not inclined in one direction. The same is true for images of lateral and dorsal view. Furthermore each image should have a scale. Even the post-processing of the images can increase the quality. In many cases it is sufficient if the objects are cropped what means the isolation of the motive by removing the background. Adobe Photoshop offers some other interesting tools to improve the images, e.g. you can retouch some dirt and dust. Just be aware to modify anything of the ant, important here are the "none-ant" parts of the image. Some hints you can see at the webpage www.ameisen-net.de (in German). Alexander Riedel wrote a very helpful article about this issue: Riedel, A. 2005. Digital imaging of beetles (Coleoptera) and other three-dimensional insects. In: Häuser et al. (eds.): Digital Imaging of Biological Type Specimens. A Manual of Best Practice. Results from a study of the European Network for Biodiversity Information: 222-250. Stuttgart.

AntBase: Mrs. Klingenberg, apart from the work on FoCol, what are you planning for the future? Is there something to be anxious to?

Christiana: For now I am quite busy with the FoCol project. We have´nt decided yet, what is coming next. Actually we are thinking about a project on ants in Baden-Württemberg (southern Germany). But there are no ascertained plans.

AntBase: Mrs. Klingenberg, thank you very much for your time and the interview!

© 2007. Martin Pfeiffer. University of Ulm.
Antbase.net is designed and maintained by Martin Pfeiffer & Hans Peter Katzmann, Department of Experimental Ecology

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An Interview with Christiana Klingenberg, National Museum for Natural History Karlsruhe (SMNK), Scientific Trainee at the SMNK and Data Manager for the FOCOL-Project

Christiana Klingenberg
Christiana Klingenberg