[Taxacom] WDC012 - an initiative for US herbaria

Mary Barkworth Mary at biology.usu.edu
Sat Oct 20 06:41:53 CDT 2007

Please excuse duplicate emails.

This fall, the Directors of Agricultural Experiment Stations in the
western US authorized, for one year, creation of a Development Committee
for "Integrating Access to Information from Herbaria". See
<http://nimss.umd.edu/homepages/home.cfm?trackID=9576>  for the home
page of the original request. The committee is authorized as a
multistate project although currently only five institutions and five
states are listed as participants. I asked for some clarification and
Stella Coakley, the Administrative Advisor for the committee, replied:


"Multi-state projects are intended to bring folks together for common
interests/goals; the justification for having these (to the regional
directors) is that it provides opportunities for research/grant writing,
and related educational activities that might not otherwise be possible.
The success with depend on the participants and evidence of a product
from the collaborations (new things happening, more research, more
funding, etc.). I will be learning with you through this process as you
are the first development committee that I've have been assigned. ".


"All regional projects are open to all states; whether a state pays for
travel to multi-state projects in other regions is another matter. In
general, [Oregon AES] will pay for a single official rep to one annual
meeting of any multi-state project regardless of its region. Apparently
some institutions do not". The directors also stated that linkages
should be established with USDA Germplasm Resources Information Network

Like Stella, this is my first experience with a development committee.
The idea behind the proposal was that all herbaria would benefit if we
coordinated our activities to some extent and if more herbaria were
providing information via the Web. I also thought that we should tap
into all possible resources for helping  make herbarium information
available. Here are some ideas that could be pursued in the context of
this opportunity:

1.     Coordination: If we could develop a list of species for priority
data entry, e.g. a small number of widespread taxa, with some being
native and some introduced, we could, relatively rapidly, provide
specimen-documented national distribution maps that would permit
addressing questions that could not be addressed if we each set our own

2.     "Integrating Access:" To me, the best approach is to encourage
the continued development of regional networks. Perhaps the AES system
would accept such a proposal from a few states - and then have the
network nodes contribute information to a GBIF like node, but one with a
Web interface that is more oriented to non-taxonomists. 

3.     Broader participation: The best way to accomplish this seems to
be through promoting, on a regional basis, databasing and sharing of
information with the regional networks. The other need that I see, also
one that is probably best promoted on a regional basis, is integrating
more herbaria into the regional networks. 

Continued AES support will depend on the demonstration of: :

1.     "New things happening:" - Examples could include agreement to
start by entering data for one or two taxa that are widespread and
easily identified (all our records - not just those from our own state);
creation of a single threatened/endangered/species of concern list;);
list of desirable data cleanup tasks and individuals who have developed
routines for implementing them at a regional level; 

2.     "More research" At this point all that I can see is background
research - how many herbaria online, how many providing data to GBIF,
why those that are not are not, - all of which would be needed for a
substantial proposal; 

3.     "More funding" - This would probably need to be in terms of
proposals submitted rather than actual funding though we might be able
to obtain small amounts from local or state sources. 

IF YOU ARE INTERESTED IN PARTICIPATING and are not currently listed as a
participant, please approach your AES director about being added to the
list of participants. [Search the Web of Agricultural Experiment
Stations to locate the name of the director in your state]. There can be
several participants from each state. The meeting will be open to anyone
interested, but the AES directors will pay, at most, for one person per
state. We shall communicate through the Herbaria listserv, but there
needs to be a formal group of people who are willing to help achieve the
goals of the project - and the AES Directors. Please let me know as soon
as possible if you are interested in being part of this formal group.
The meeting will be in March, preferably March 20-21, in Logan, Utah.
However, we need to be in contact before then if the meeting is to be
productive and the year end report earns approval for the continued
existence of the committee. 

I want to stress that this AES-sponsored effort is not meant to replace
or conflict with existing regional and national collaborations among
herbaria. Rather it should be viewed as a small step in gaining broader
recognition of the value and importance of herbaria.


NBII has agreed to participate in this project and will be represented
by Jennifer Pollock. I shall be contacting GRIN and representatives of
the state wildlife offices who are engaged in synthesizing information
from state action plans on Monday. 


Mary Barkworth

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