From A history of North American birds:

Cabinet of Curiosity - a data science blog exploring natural history and biodiversity data

Ciera Martinez, PhD
Read, Write, Participate
3 min readFeb 7, 2019

This past year I have immersed myself into one of the most exciting resources humans possess: natural history data.

When you think of visiting Natural History Museums, you think of seeing magical objects like dinosaur fossils, taxidermy of extinct animals, and geological marvels like diamonds and other precious gems. This is all true, but what you may not know is that most Natural History Museums only display a small fraction of their collections to the public. For example, of the 156 million pieces in the collection at the Smithsonian, less than 2% is displayed [1]. So the question becomes — what is in the rest of these collections and how do we utilize these specimens?

Around 15 years ago museums around the world have put a significant amount effort digitizing their collections and making this data available to the public. So now we, as the public, get free access to these incredible resources. We need this data to understand our past, present, and most importantly, our future. We as humans are intrinsically linked to all other organisms and we all share a thrilling history of life on this planet. Our modern world, this generation, is but a snapshot in a long continuing line of life. This is the data in these collections. Human impact, the changing geological landscapes, and most relevant for today, our changing climate can all be measured and therefore all be used to understand patterns of biodiversity and how life succeeds.

For the first time in history we are capable of handling immense data sets — the time is now to harness the power of this data. Which is why we launched the Cabinet of Curiosity at The goal of the Cabinet of Curiosity is to get researchers, educators, and data scientists to use and value Natural History data.

Homepage for

The Cabinet of Curiosity Team Aims to:

1. Empower and lead data and computer scientists to build tools and tutorials to help researchers use natural history and biodiversity data.
2. Create curriculum and standards for incorporation of this data into biological, ecological, and data science classrooms.
3. Reinforce and support museum and similar communities for the continuation and sustainability of digitization efforts.

The Cabinet of Curiosity Team is working on content with open science, open source, and scientific reproducibility philosophies at the forefront of our efforts to keep data and tools open to all. The home base for our work is at, where we will post all content related to this project, including tutorials, essays, and interviews. Come follow along and join us!



Ciera Martinez, PhD
Read, Write, Participate

Ciera is an evolutionary biologist and Mozilla Postdoc Fellow working at the Berkeley Institute of Data Science.