thinking outside the cabinet

Leslie Mehrhoff vasculum at UCONNVM.UCONN.EDU
Thu Apr 17 13:07:35 CDT 2003

Hi everyone,

I apologize if this has already been said and I missed it.  One of the ways
to increase visibility of collections, thus increasing their support base,
is to expand their usage to conservation issues.  Most of us do this
already but maybe it is time to formalize this sort of thing.  While
nothing is concrete, making collections a part of conservation issues on a
state level can help increase their importance in some peoples
eyes.  Convincing legislators of the value of specimens in making decisions
can win friends in the right places if they are ever needed.  If a
collection is in the "books" as an official state repository it is only
helpful if someone reads those "books".  Spending a little time to make
sure a legislator knows what goes on in collections and that for certain
kinds of conservation or legislative questions he or she can turn to a
collection's curatorial staff for reliable, scientifically-based answers
means something to some legislators.

Our herbarium has been heavily involved in state and regional invasive
plant issues.  We have hosted a variety of state and regional invasive
plant meetings and workshops, always in conjunction with the herbarium.  At
one meeting, a state senator (acknowledged as "a friend of the university")
was there to talk to those in attendance about legislation he was going to
propose.  After the meeting, I took him on a tour of the herbarium and
explained to him how we could use specimens to reconstruct the history of
some invasives' spread across the state and how they stood as "irrefutable"
records for the presence of an invasive aquatic in ponds in the state where
people were saying it did not occur.  To his credit, he listened (it helped
that he lives on a lake loaded with Eurasian Water-milfoil).  He went back
to his office and included in his draft legislation a person representing
our herbarium on his proposed committee to evaluate a species' invasiveness
in CT.  (Unfortunately, the legislation passed our State Senate and 5
committees, all unanimously, only to be dropped on the House floor for lack
of time - and other politics I suspect.)  I have no qualms that he would
eagerly support the herbarium if administrators ever talked about major
cuts to our collections.

The point is, if we want to help keep our collections alive, we have to
come up with new and creative ways to enhance their visibility and make
friends in the right places.  Collections are inextricably important to the
conservation efforts of groups like The Nature Conservancy and State
Heritage Programs.  Since these groups come in contact with many
influential people in the course of their activities, they can be good
spokespeople for the importance collections contribute to their
work.  Making sure they are on board and active in the collections may have
far-reaching and very positive benefits in lean times.

It is worth the effort.


                                         ***NO NEW INVASIONS***
IPANE Web site:

"What is our educational system doing to encourage personal amateur
scholarship in the natural-history
Aldo Leopold

Leslie J. Mehrhoff, Ph.D.
Director, Invasive Plant Atlas of New England
George Safford Torrey Herbarium
University of Connecticut
Box U-43
75 North Eagleville Road
Storrs, CT  06269-3043

Office phone (860) 486-5708        FAX (860) 486-6364

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