The Macroalgal Herbarium Consortium: Accessing 150 Years of Specimen Data to Understand Changes in the Marine/Aquatic Environment

Kenneth G. Karol

This project involves a consortium of 50 herbaria at universities, botanical gardens, and natural history museums across the U.S. and together represents more than a million macroalgae specimens. The Steere Herbarium houses approximately 150,000 specimens alone. Our goal is to generate high-resolution images and transcribe information about when and where each specimen was collected into an openly accessible, user friendly, web portal. Algae are the foundation of freshwater, estuarine, and marine ecosystems providing food, substrata and protection for a myriad of other aquatic organisms. Many algae species are sensitive to environmental change and some species, including kelp and nori, are grown via aquaculture or harvested from the wild for human food. Chemicals produced by algae are also used in cosmetics, food products, and pharmaceuticals. The information provided through the portal will allow researchers and the public at large to assess how algal biodiversity and our aquatic ecosystems have changed over the past 150 years in correlation with climate change, bioinvasions, and a wide range of human activity.

More information: Macroalgal Herbarium Portal