Help the UCI Herbarium When You Enter Plant Data from Home
We interviewed Rebecca Crowe, Collections Manager at the UCI Arboretum and Herbarium, to learn about her work cataloguing the plants of Orange County and how you can help:
What is the UCI Herbarium?
The herbarium is a museum collection of dried and pressed plant specimens collected by botanists. The plant specimen serves as a record of an individual plant species growing at a specific place at a specific time.
How are the plants collected?
In the field, a piece of the plant is collected and dried in a plant press. For trees and shrubs, this is usually a small section of a branch. For tiny annual plants, we try to collect several entire plants, including the root. We take care to collect so that the population of plants is unharmed, and we make sure the specimen contains the essential parts we need to make an accurate identification. The dried plants are mounted on paper measuring 11 x 17 inches, along with information listing the species, location, and the date and time the plant was collected. These samples are stored in herbarium cabinets that are air-tight and sealed to protect the plant specimen from insect damage, mold, and dust.
How large is the collection at the UCI Herbarium?
The collection includes 30,000 vascular plant, 5,000 lichen, and 300 marine algae specimens in 47 cabinets which take up about 1,000 square feet.
Is the data from the collection shared with botancial gardens and museums across California?
Yes! All of the UCI Herbarium's collection data will be available and searchable on cch2.org. We are still in the process of copying over the data from specimen labels to our database and we welcome volunteers to help us with this effort. The best way to join us is to do so virtually! Go to Notes from Nature. To get started, you follow a visual tutorial that takes you step-by-step through the process. After going through the tutorial, you will be ready to transcribe an herbarium record. You will see the label and follow the instructions.
What is the Capturing California Flowers project?
Capturing California Flowers is a multi-year and multi-institute project that will image, digitize, georeference, and score the phenology (the study of cyclic and seasonal natural phenomena, especially in relation to climate, plant, and animal life) of the plant specimens. Cal Poly San Luis Obispo professor Jenn Yost and Project Manager Katie Pearson lead the project. The UCI Herbarium is one of 22 herbaria, museums, and botanical gardens throughout California that are currently working hard on this project. Ultimately, when we finish capturing images and other data from specimens, we will be able to use this data to better understand the phenology of our California native plants. We have an excellent web site that documents all of our project goals, protocols, and phenological research here.
Does it take a long time to transcribe a record for the UCI Herbarium?
No, the process goes fairly quickly. Each record requires three people to enter the data to make certain there are no mistakes.
Why is this data entry important?
The UCI Herbarium hopes to get all of the herbarium data entered, including capturing all of the images of plant specimens and whether the plants are flowering, fruiting, or leafy. This gives us an historical snapshot showing patterns of flowering and fruiting seen across California.
Shown above is a photo of the first accessioned specimen to the UCI Herbarium. This is a sample of Justicia california collected by ecologist Richard H. Whittaker in 1963 from the Santa Rosa Mountains of Riverside County.
We encourage everyone who has a few extra moments at home to log into Notes from Nature and help the UCI Herbarium transcribe records of plants growing in Orange County. It's fun and will help document plant distribution and patterns statewide. You can help Capturing California Flowers!
If you have any questions, contact Rebecca at 949-824-5833 or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.