The video recording of our March 18 seminar “Tales from the Botanical Crypt: How Digitized Herbarium Collections can Provide new Avenues for Salient Research” is now available. This seminar featured Curator of the A.C. Moore Herbarium, Dr. Herrick Brown. It illuminated some of the novel research that a new NSF-funded database enables including making informed predictions on air quality indices in the context of forecast climate scenarios, pollen levels, and changes in plant species distributions under future climate conditions.

About this seminar: 

Vast amounts of biodiversity data lie safely tucked behind closed doors in natural history collections across the globe. Until recently these collections remained largely inaccessible to the general public. Even specialized research involving the collections was difficult and progressed at a glacial pace.

These challenges were addressed by over 100 herbaria across the Southeastern United States in an NSF-funded, collaborative project to digitize an estimated 4.7 million specimens. Designed to facilitate research based on these primary reference materials, the project has exceeded its goal and currently offers over 5.1 million specimen records and counting.

The breadth of research topics based on these data has expanded from traditional taxonomic investigations to AI; and emerging studies involving rare species conservation, biogeography, and climate change continue to make use of this growing data set. Herbarium specimen data may also have some relevance involving public health. For instance, documented phenological shifts may help predict the beginning and duration of seasonal allergens associated with pollen dispersal. Species distribution models using forecast climate conditions may help predict emerging areas where allergenic species were not previously known to occur.