2009 NSF Collection grant

nsf_logo_bottom copyDBI-0847111 — Completing a virtual herbarium at the University of Connecticut. $476,020 awarded in 2009 to Drs. D. Les & R. Capers.


The George Safford Torrey Herbarium at the University of Connecticut proposes to complete work on its virtual herbarium, databasing all remaining vascular plant specimens and imaging all specimens. All specimen data are made available online already, and images will be as well. The herbarium collection is of regional importance and may represent the most comprehensive collection of plants in southern New England. The collections of several important early botanists are housed in the herbarium, dating to the earliest part of the 19th century, making the specimens particularly valuable for study of changes in phenology and community composition resulting from alterations of the landscape or climate caused by human activity.

Intellectual merit. Complete data on the entire 200,000-specimen herbarium were entered into the relational database BG-BASE. In addition, each of the 200,000 specimens were imaged at high-resolution. All data and images were made freely available through the BRCF website (bgbaseserver.eeb.uconn.edu/database.html) and other data aggregators (e.g., the Consortium of Northeast Herbaria, the Royal Botanic Garden in Edinburgh, iDigBio, and the Global Biodiversity Information Facility). Computing and imaging capacity was greatly increased in the BRCF. Activity involving BRCF plant materials both regionally and internationally increased substantially. As examples, specimens identified only to family were identified to species by expert taxonomists examining images on-line.

Broader Impacts. More than 50 undergraduate students were trained in the use of a sophisticated relational database. In addition, lesson plans were developed in conjunction with Connecticut high school teachers so that searchable, mapable specimen data could be downloaded and used in high school lab exercises. These lesson plans were also made available on-line via the BRCF website and were described in a publication directly resulting from the award (Capers & Les, 2010).

Capers, R. S. and D. H. Les. 2010. Web site promotes plan data as a novel educational resource. Connecticut Journal of Science Education 47: 35–38.


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