Press Release

October 14, 2018Events & Announcements

International community science event to give visitors a peek behind the scenes at the Field

Less than one percent of the fossils, insects, birds, mammals, and plants in the Field Museum’s collections are on display—there are close to 40 million more tucked away behind the scenes. Scientists use these specimens to learn about the history of life on our planet and find ways to protect it from climate change and extinction. But a lot of the information about these specimens is hand-written on hundred-year-old labels and field journals. To make that information easier to access for researchers around the world, the Field’s scientists are asking for volunteers to come to the museum and help digitize these records.

From Thursday, October 18, through Sunday, October 21, the Field is opening its doors to volunteers to help with the worldwide digitization event, WeDigBio. Volunteers get in to the museum for free the day of their participation and get a free behind-the-scenes tour; interested parties can register on the museum's website. “There are a range of curation, databasing, and digital activities working on a variety of organisms including insects, mammals, ferns, early land plants, and tropical flowering plants—something to satisfy everyone’s curiosity,” says Matt von Konrat, the leader of the Field’s WeDigBio efforts and head of the museum’s plant collection. “This is the Field Museum’s 125th anniversary, so we’ve got 125 years’ worth of collections—WeDigBio is a great way for people to learn about them.”

This event is one of many hosted by the Field that encourages the public to become community scientists. “A major goal of these events is to improve and enhance physical scientific specimens or objects and their associated data through participatory science. Everyone can help and make a contribution to science. These are extraordinarily productive events and our science relies upon the help of people all over the world,” says von Konrat.

Community scientists are sometimes known as citizen scientists, but the Field is shifting to “community scientists” to be inclusive of everyone interested in helping move science forward, regardless of whether they’re citizens. “Everyone is welcome at the Field Museum and welcome to participate in science, no matter what country they came from or how they got here,” says Jaclyn Johnston, the museum’s PR and Community Awareness Director. “Referring to our volunteers as ‘community scientists’ rather than ‘citizen scientists’ helps underline that.”

The Field has emerged as a world leader in community science. “Last year, over 140 Field Museum volunteers databased and curated almost 5,000 specimens, greatly accelerating our efforts of discovery and documentation,” says von Konrat. “This year we have a diversity of participants from young students to retirees, but we are trying to increase youth participation as they will become our next generation of leaders in science.”

Ayesha Qazi, a science teacher at Northside College Preparatory High School who has over 20 of her students participating this year, says “My students get exposure to a world-class institution and deepens their engagement and understanding of the significance of natural history collections as well as driving their curiosity."

WeDigBio is open to everyone, even if they can’t make it to the Field Museum this week. Volunteers can participate remotely by going to and spending a couple minutes transcribing labels and counting the fruits and flowers visible in plant photos. “Little things like that add up to make a big difference,” says von Konrat. “Each and every one can make a difference. By participating, everyone can contribute to science and greatly benefit society and the world we live in.”

Members of the media interested in visiting the museum during WeDigBio, shooting behind the scenes, and interviewing participants are welcome to reach out to the PR team at or 312.665.7100.