New NSF Grant to facilitate digitization of the Marshall University Herbarium (MUHW)
We recently were awarded NSF funding to facilitate a four-year process of digitizing and databasing the collection. Once complete, the collection will become available digitally, along with other collections in the southeast and beyond, facilitating various kinds of ecological, systematic, and biodiversity research. The grant begins during Fall 2014 and will run for four years. Check back as we get this project underway!
November 2014: We have had a busy couple of years! Our team of undergraduate Federal Work Study Students have been working hard to ready the herbarium for digitization. In the last year and a half, they have collectively mounted and filed approximately 2,000 backlogged specimens. There are many, many more to go...but what a good start! We've also been doing a lot of heavy lifting...rearranging things to make space for imaging equipment and emptying counterspace.
This fall, we re-organized the collection according to the Angiosperm Phylogeny Group, which is the 'modern' way to organize a herbarium. This will make future taxonomic changes more easily managed, but a handy side-effect is that we now have an official family-level inventory of the Herbarium for the ferns, gymnosperms and angiosperms. This will allow researchers to quickly determine whether our collection can help them in their research!
We've nearly received all of our equipment for imaging, so we'll be starting to photograph specimens right away during Spring 2015. In the meantime, we've begun pulling southeastern specimens and barcoding them.
February 2015: We have begun digitizing the Marshall University Herbarium collection! We just passed 800 specimens photographed in our first week. We're training everyone now, and anticipate that we'll be moving along quickly in a few weeks. You can see an example of an imaged specimen here.
March 2015: In News from the molecular lab, Tuesday Moats Simmons presented her work from this past year at Research Day at the Capitol, in Charleston, WV. Research Day focuses primarily on research completed by undergraduates. Tuesday presented a poster (pictured, right) on the work she's contributed to a larger, ongoing project on evolution within the southeastern deciduous azaleas. You can download a pdf of Tuesday's poster here. Tuesday's work this past year was supported by a STEM-DOW grant that she wrote during her junior year.
April 2015: in more news from the molecular side, Andrew Hart presented his research on the Labrador Tea group (Rhododendron Subsection Ledum) at two conferences. The first was the Association of Southeastern Biologists annual meeting in Chattanooga, TN (his second trip to this conference). His second presentation was at the Marshall University Sigma Xi Research Day.
Soon after these presentations, Andrew learned that he had been accepted into a summer research internship at the University of Pennsylvania. He will be taking his molecular and phylogenetic skills on the road, working in the lab of Dr. Michael Povelones on the evolutionary biology of the immune-pathogen response in mosquitoes!
August 2015: Lab alumna Tuesday (Moats) Simmons began her Ph.D. studies at the University of California, Berkeley. She will be working in the Department of Plant and Microbial Biology (we knew she couldn't go too far from plants...) as a microbial ecologist/genomicist. We can't wait to see what Tuesday does next!
September 2015: We have photographed and uploaded approximately 10,000 specimens to the Southeastern Regional Network of Expertise and Collections (SERNEC) portal! These images are currently searchable by scientific name or family name, but will soon be searchable by state and county as well. Research students are working to digitize specimen data on particular subsets of our collection that they study. We are actively engaging the public to assist in these efforts. If you would like to help, email Dr. Gillespie!
August 2017: We've been so busy we haven't done an update lately! So much has happened:
In the herbarium, we've completely photographed and uploaded our entire existing vascular plant collection, meaning that botanists from anywhere can access it and use it in their research and teaching. We're now transcribing specimen label data and geofererencing, thanks to the MU Federal Work Study program!
From the molecular side, Andrew Hart, who worked on the Labrador Tea phylogeny, published his paper during summer 2017 in the Journal of the Botanical Research Institute of Texas! He's also now pursuing a Ph. D. at U. Penn as an NSF-supported Graduate Research Fellow.
Shad Mitchell, who worked on the lepidote Rhododendron phylogeny, is now in grad school at Rowan University. My first three graduates are doing good things in the world and although we miss them, we're glad they're off on their next academic adventures!