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Abstract Detail

Biodiversity Informatics & Herbarium Digitization

Stoughton, Thomas [1], Jolles, Diana [2].

An adaptive prioritization system for digitizing small herbaria and alleviating plant blindness at the institutional level.

The herbarium at Plymouth State University (PSU) in New Hampshire consists of five cabinets of primarily marine algae and Angiosperm specimens, ranging in age from the mid nineteenth century to the late twentieth century. Like other neglected natural history, “teaching” collections at many small colleges and universities, this amazing resource has been “hiding in plain sight” for many years in a multi-use space. Challenges to the preservation of herbaria include inter-departmental “space wars”, infrequency of use, and lack of herbarium literacy among faculty. Departmental reorganization coupled with faculty rotation can also result in the loss of institutional memory regarding how the herbarium can be leveraged. At PSU, we’ve developed a plan to educate community members about the importance and use of herbaria to garner support for effective, long-term preservation of our collection. Our approach is trifold: first, we use the herbarium in (a) teaching labs, where specimens are carefully examined for trait variation, and (b) independent projects, where students use specimens to investigate questions about biogeography, vegetation assemblages, phenological change, reproductive biology, and taxonomic revision. Part two involves cataloging and digitizing the collection for the first time using multiple passes, the first documenting the number of genera and families and updating the taxonomic organization, the second recording the number of species and historic collections, etc. Part three involves reaching out to faculty interested in archival studies, history of science, environmental science and policy, and others to make the herbarium an “open lab” under PSU’s new integrated cluster model of education. We found that botany students are eager to use herbarium specimens, especially historic collections, for a diversity of research projects. We also found that multiple passes through the entire collection allowed us to elicit support and action for proper herbarium curation (including space) from the university at large in a timely way. Generating baseline information about the herbarium holdings via this “adaptive prioritization system” before complete digitization of the entire collection allows university partners to envision their own involvement in using the collection and participating in the digitization effort. In this talk we will describe the strategy we are using, what has worked, what hasn’t worked, and how our project relates to (a) combating plant blindness at the institutional level and (b) successful herbarium preservation.

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Related Links:
Herbarium website

1 - Plymouth State University, Center for the Environment, 17 High Street, MSC 63, Samuel Read Hall 217, Plymouth, NH, 03264-1595, USA
2 - Plymouth State University, Biological Sciences, 17 High Street, MSC 48, Boyd 226, Plymouth, NH, 03264-1595, USA

New England

Presentation Type: Oral Paper
Session: 32, Biodiversity Informatics & Herbarium Digitization II
Location: Fort Worth Ballroom 6/Omni Hotel
Date: Tuesday, June 27th, 2017
Time: 4:00 PM
Number: 32002
Abstract ID:309
Candidate for Awards:None

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