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2021 Project Proposal

Plant Biodiveristy: Digitization of EMMA Herbaria

Mark Schlessman (Biology)

Project Type - C - In-person-only: It will be cancelled if we are not allowed to have URSI students come to campus this summer.

Herbaria, collections of pressed and dried plants, are important for documenting plant biodiversity, understanding how plant biogeography has changed over time, and predicting future change.  Advances in digital imaging, data capture, and georeferencing have made herbaria especially valuable for studies of the effects of climate change on plant distributions, flowering times, etc., and for pinpointing introductions and tracing the spread of invasive plant species.  Supported by the Advancing Digitization of Biological Collections program of the National Science Foundation, we are making a concerted effort to digitize six herbaria belonging to member of the Hudson Valley Environmental Monitoring & Management Alliance (EMMA).  You will be part of a travelling team that will image specimens at the Fordham’s Calder Center, the Highstead Arboretum, the Huyck Preserve, and the Mohonk Preserve.  You will learn how to prepare herbarium specimens, make digital images of them, geo-reference them, and transcribe specimen data for online availability.  You will also learn how to apply the international rules for naming plants, the science behind plant classification, why the correct name and classification for a species can change, and how herbaria are utilized in big data studies of climate change, invasive species, habitat fragmentation, etc. 

Prerequisites: Enthusiasm for plant biodiversity is a must!  Relevant course work, i.e. BIOL 208, BIOL 241, BIOL 393 on plant biodiversity, ENST 124, is desirable but not required.  You must also be comfortable with traveling to the EMMA herbaria and possibly staying at some locations overnight.

How should students express interest in this project? Please email Dr S. ( to express your interest, ask questions, and arrange for an interview.

This is an 8-week project running from June 7 – July 31