American Crossroads: Digitizing the Vascular Flora of the South-Central United States
Barbara Thiers and collaborators
Digitized herbarium specimen data for the South-Central U.S. are sparse relative to other parts of the country, leaving a large geographic gap in our knowledge of North American plant biodiversity that impedes both regional and larger-scale efforts in solving environmental issues. To address this problem, the researchers will 1) establish a Thematic Collections Network (TCN) to digitize the data from nearly two million vascular plant herbarium specimens collected in Oklahoma and Texas; 2) disseminate the digitized data through an integrated online platform; 3) develop and implement innovative strategies to increase efficiency in specimen digitization; and 4) engage citizen scientists and students on project-based activities. The project is primed for action by its strong integration with the well-established Texas and Oklahoma Regional Consortium of Herbaria (TORCH; www.torcherbaria.org), which will help oversee and guide the project. Coordination with Integrated Digitized Biocollections (iDigBio.org) hub will facilitate team-wide meetings, broader impact elements, and data workflows, mobilization, and access. Natural history collections are well positioned for the analysis of global change and the resulting impacts on regional biota. In this context, the digitized herbarium specimen data from the TORCH TCN will provide the capacity for addressing major hypotheses in the region concerning patterns of species richness and phylogenetic diversity, vegetation responses to climate change, and species distribution models based on substrate versus climatic data. Results of the project will be widely disseminated through professional publications and society meetings, local chapters of plant-enthusiast communities, social media outlets, and blogs on the TORCH website.
Web site: TORCH Data Portal