RENCI Teams with UNC on Innovative Botany Curriculum

CHAPEL HILL, NC, June 27, 2008 – RENCI will be part of a UNC Chapel Hill team that launches a new curriculum designed to recruit, educate and retain nontraditional students in the study of botanical science.  The curriculum, which will be introduced to students this summer,  weaves together four key themes – botany, environmental conservation, the use of social technologies and metadata literacy.

The SILS/Metadata Research Center at the School of Information and Library Science (SILS) leads the project, called BOT 2.0 (Botany through Web 2.0, the Memex and Social Learning). In addition to RENCI, other partners in the project are the North Carolina Botanical Garden (NCBG), the UNC Herbarium and UNC Information Technology Services (ITS). BOT 2.0 is a two-year project funded by the National Science Foundation and led by Jane Greenberg, Francis Carroll McColl term professor and director of the Metadata Research Center at SILS, and Alan Weakley, curator of the UNC Herbarium, a department of the North Carolina Botanical Garden.

BOT 2.0 aims to actively engage students in the learning process and in self evaluation  using Web 2.0 social computing technologies, such as Facebook, MySpace, blogs, and cell phones. RENCI will help to create technology that will easily allow students share, access, link, and relocate digital information that students will collect in the field.

“BOT 2.0’s technology is conceptually modeled on a memex, a memory augmentation framework that allows students to share, link, correlate and re-find digital information through the application of structured metadata and collaborative tagging,” said Michael Shoffner, the project’s technology architect and a research programmer at RENCI and ITS.  Metadata  is used to describe other data and make data easier to find when it is stored. On the Web, metadata tags are often used to describe content, making it easier for search engines to find and catalogue websites and pages.

To introduce the program, the Bot 2.0 team has organized a summer camp, called BotCamp, for selected students with nontraditional backgrounds. BotCamp will kick off in July with 17 students from Alamance Community College, North Carolina A&T State University, North Carolina Central University, North Carolina State University and UNC at Chapel Hill.

“Our team is very excited about BotCamp, an invitational summer program that includes outings to the UNC Arboretum, the Herbarium and other natural surroundings with botanical experts, as well as information management and technology sessions at SILS,” Greenberg said. “We want to empower students, not only by using technology, but by enhancing their knowledge of botany and by teaching them about the power of metadata and tagging as they build a collective memex.”

“Web 2.0 technology offers an innovative and exciting opportunity to engage students in botany, throughout the state of North Carolina and beyond,” Weakley said.

Evelyn Daniel, a SILS professor and project principal, commented that “a long standing goal of the collaboration between botany and information science, over the last six years, has been to use information technology to link students with the natural world.  Bot 2.0 allows us to extend our efforts to undergraduates.”

Interested students and those from other colleges or universities who would like to participate in BotCamp 2009 should contact Greenberg by calling 919.962.8066 or by sending e-mail to:

For more information about BOT 2.0, please access the Metadata Research Center Web site at

RENCI…Catalyst for Innovation
The Renaissance Computing Institute brings together computer and discipline scientists, artists, humanists, industry leaders, entrepreneurs, state leaders and educators for collaborations designed to reshape science, the economy, the state of North Carolina and the world. RENCI leverages its expertise and resources in leading edge computing, networking and data technologies to ignite innovation and find solutions to previously intractable problems. Founded in 2004 as a major collaborative venture of Duke University, North Carolina State University, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and the state of North Carolina, RENCI is a statewide virtual organization.  For more, see