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Abstract Detail

Biodiversity Informatics & Herbarium Digitization

Horning, Amber L. [1], Yatskievych, George [2], Urban, Tomislav [3].

Digitizing Large Herbaria: History, Progress, and Challenges at the University of Texas at Austin.

The Billie L. Turner Plant Resources Center at the University of Texas at Austin comprises two herbaria (LL and TEX) totaling slightly more than one million specimens. It dates to 1890, about ten years after the university’s founding. Growth of the herbaria has been uneven, but by 1990 they already included more than 900,000 specimens. Digitization efforts did not begin until 1997, when we began entering Texas collection data into a Filemaker Pro database supported by internal funds. In 2005, a grant from the Mexican agency CONABIO funded the label transcription and geo-referencing of primarily Mexican specimens into MS Access. Subsequent grants included digitization of types through the Mellon Foundation’s LAPI program and participation in an early Thematic Collections Network (Tri-Trophic Associations) under the NSF ADBC program. More recently, we have participated in three TCNs (Pteridophyte Consortium, Endless Forms, TORCH) and in the process have moved existing data onto the Specify platform, as well as uploaded data and images to iDigBio and the Symbiota-based SEINet and Lundell online portals. As of 15 April 2021, these efforts have resulted in the label transcription of 507,778 specimens (ca. ½ of our holdings). Of these, 180,020 (35%) have been imaged and 135,520 (27%) have been geo-referenced. The top ten plant families make up 52% of digitized specimens: Asteraceae, Poaceae, Fabaceae, Euphorbiaceae, Lamiaceae, Malvaceae, Cyperaceae, Boraginaceae, Apocynaceae, Solanaceae. Larger herbaria face considerable challenges in mobilizing their holdings. These include but are not limited to: 1) Filling in gaps created by the focus of grants on specific families or regions; 2) Continuing to attract new grants, as internal funds for digitization are often severely limited; 3) Completing the geo-referencing step of the digitization process, which tends to lag behind transcription and imaging; 4) Keeping up with curatorial needs as records are digitized; 5) Paying for archival storage of digital images after grant support expires. Additionally, participation in each new grant creates a need to continue digitizing newly accessioned records from groups included in a TCN project after that grant expires. None of these problems is unique to larger herbaria, but their magnitude is amplified in larger collections. Most larger herbaria need to seek relatively unrestricted income streams such as endowments, donations, or general curatorial grants in order to accomplish complete digitization.

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Related Links:
Billie L. Turner Plant Resources Center homepage

1 - University of Texas at Austin, Billie L. Turner Plant Resources Center, Main Bldg Rm 127, 110 Inner Campus Dr, Stop F0404, Austin, TX, 78712, USA
2 - University Of Texas At Austin, Billie L. Turner Plant Resources Center, Main Bldg Rm 127, 110 Inner Campus Dr, Stop F0404, Austin, TX, 78712, United States
3 - University of Texas at Austin, Texas Advanced Computing Center, 10505 Exploration Way, Austin, TX, 78758, USA


Presentation Type: Poster
Session: P1, Biodiversity Informatics & Herbarium Digitization Posters
Location: Virtual/Virtual
Date: Monday, July 19th, 2021
Time: 5:00 PM(EDT)
Number: P1BI004
Abstract ID:697
Candidate for Awards:None

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