Innovation in California Herbaria and Specimen Records Use
Thursday, October 20 at 10:00-11:40 am, Donner Room
*note alternate instance of this session – Friday at 8am
Session Description: This session is intended to include an array of presentations around the transformation of herbaria in the digital age, such as: new research conducted using specimen data, educational and outreach innovations undertaken by herbaria around digitization projects, progress made on the ethical, technical challenges presented by the digital age.
Session Chairs: Alison Colwell (UC Davis Center for Plant Diversity, Davis, CA, USA) and Jenn Yost (California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo, San Luis Obispo, CA, USA)
1.1 New developments from the Consortium of California Herbaria
Jenn Yost (Robert F. Hoover Herbarium, California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo, San Luis Obispo, CA, USA)
The Consortium of California Herbaria (CCH) continues to advance our understanding of the California flora through the creation and curation of new specimens. In the past decade over 3 million herbarium specimens from California have been digitized. These data are essential for floristics, conservation, and an understanding of the ecology and evolution of the flora. The CCH continues to innovate with new ways to augment and share our data. Now over 1 million of these records have digital images and phenological data associated with them. Specimens from California are doing more than ever before. We will discuss recent progress, innovations, and new directions from our partner herbaria. These digital records provide the basis for plant conservation in the state and continue to provide novel insights into the history, ecology, and evolution of California’s plants.
1.2 The involvement of students in digitizing the Fresno State Herbarium
Katherine Waselkov (California State University, Fresno, Fresno, CA, USA)
The FSC Herbarium at California State University, Fresno has contributed data from ~30,000 specimens (and counting) to the California Phenology Thematic Collections Network (CAP TCN), a digitization effort that currently includes 28 institutions. The collection dates from the 1890s to today, with a special concentration on coniferous forests and meadows at elevations above 2,500 meters in the Sierra Nevada mountains, surveyed from the 1920s-1960s, and also has substantial collections from other severely threatened Central California habitats, including vernal pools and alkali sinks, riparian corridors along the Kings and San Joaquin Rivers, and foothill chaparral and native grasslands. This important regional herbarium was completely off-line prior to 2016. To image, transcribe label data, and georeference locality descriptions for the FSC, we have taken two general approaches: undergraduate and graduate student involvement, and citizen science crowdsourcing. As of Summer 2022, 21 Fresno State students had been extensively involved in the digitization effort, either through research internships, volunteering, work-study, or employment through the CAP-TCN NSF funding. We have also made the herbarium central to two upper-division undergraduate plant courses by encouraging participation in iDigBio events, making semester-long plant collections from varied local ecosystems to add to the herbarium collection, and using data from the CAP-TCN’s CCH2 database to perform an in-depth study on a native California plant species. The citizen science initiative involves posting high-resolution FSC specimen images on the platform Notes From Nature, and soliciting help with label data transcription during iDigBio events, as well as local science outreach events in the Fresno area. The digitization of the FSC specimens will enhance understanding of historical Central California ecosystems, especially those high elevation habitats particularly threatened by climate change.
1.3 High Sierra herbaria on the digitization track
Blake Engelhardt (Inyo National Forest, Bishop, CA, USA)
The efforts of the California Phenology Network (CAP TCN) have dramatically increased the number and diversity of publicly-available, digitized herbarium specimens; however, the work is not done. Many herbaria across the state—especially small, regional collections—remain undigitized. These herbaria contain unique specimens that are critical to a complete understanding of the local flora, and the need to digitize these collections is underscored by their vulnerability to natural disasters such as wildfires. Two such herbaria are the Inyo National Forest Herbarium (INF) and the BLM Bishop Field Office Herbarium (BLMBI). These collections, numbering fewer than 6,000 specimens total, reside at the Forest Service and BLM headquarters building in the remote town of Bishop, California. These collections stoically preserve the flora of the surrounding landscape: the towering Sierra Nevada to the west, the arid expanse of Owens Valley, and the rugged White and Inyo Mountains to the east. Recognizing the importance of these collections, and having heard of the digitization efforts of the CAPN, National Forest botanist Blake Engelhardt contacted Cal Poly Hoover Herbarium for help with digitization. The Cal Poly Herbarium lent the INF and BLMBI herbaria imaging equipment and, in a brief trip to Bishop, trained their staff and volunteers in the digitization process. Over the course of only a few short weeks, INF and BLMBI imaged their entire collection with these few, critical tools and help from passionate local volunteers. Using a similar workflow to the CAPN, and with help from both virtual interns and volunteers, label transcription and georeferencing are well underway. We hope that sharing our collaborative and creative approach will inspire others to initiate or participate in ongoing digitization efforts.
1.4 The role of campus collections: 92 years of change at the UCLA Westwood Campus
Annabel Li (UCLA Herbarium, Los Angeles, CA, USA), Dr. Anthony Baniaga (UCLA Herbarium, Los Angeles, CA, USA)
Herbarium specimens have been collected on university campuses throughout their histories, making them unique areas of interest for using herbarium specimens to study global and local floristic patterns over time. Nestled in the foothills of the Santa Monica Mountains, the land that UCLA occupies was originally coastal sage scrub and oak woodland, which are represented by our campus’s two remnant natural areas, Sage Hill (“Faculty Hill”) and Stone Creek Canyon. We manually curated a digital checklist using publicly available specimen records through the Consortium of California Herbaria (CCH2) Data Portal. Our checklist consists of 217 taxa from 55 families and includes over 580 specimens that have been collected on the Westwood Campus since January of 1930. These specimens are best represented by two major pulses in collection intensity throughout the early 1930s and throughout the 1950s. We use these specimens to highlight changes in native and naturalized species diversity during a century of rapid urbanization and land use development in Los Angeles.
1.5 Advancing the extended specimen network: curating and digitizing the Sherwin Carlquist Collection
Mare Nazaire (California Botanic Garden, Claremont Graduate University, Claremont, CA, USA)
Among the notable “shoulders of giants” on which present-day botanists and plant systematists stand are those of Dr. Sherwin Carlquist (1930–2021). Carlquist leaves behind a rich legacy and significant collections resulting from over 30 years of important botanical research. Over the course of his distinguished career, Carlquist published prolifically, with numerous books and over 300 research papers covering such topics as anatomy and structure, systematics, taxonomy, evolutionary and ecological theories, floral development, morphology, and island biogeography. As a researcher, Carlquist considered the biological elements within an environment as comprising a dynamic network. This network informed his method for collecting specimens and the rich array of materials and records he generated through that practice. The Carlquist Collection, housed at the California Botanic Garden Herbarium (RSA) and the Botanical Research Institute of Texas Library (BRIT), collectively contains 191,789 objects, including herbarium specimens, wood specimens, fluid preserved specimens, wood anatomy microscope slides, field photograph transparency slides, black and white photographs, and field collection notebooks. A significant portion of the Carlquist Collection has never been curated or digitized, making much of the collection inaccessible. Funded by the National Science Foundation’s Infrastructure Capacity for Biological Research program, RSA and BRIT have partnered to curate and digitize the Carlquist Collections to create an Extended Specimen Network (ESN), wherein Carlquist’s specimens, field photographs, and collection notebooks will be linked to form an aggregated collection, thus creating additional preparations and digital resources. Highlighted in this presentation, this collaborative and interdisciplinary opportunity aims to shepherd a new paradigm for how natural history collections and archives envision, implement, and utilize ESNs within and between their collections.
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