Project Summary

To create a data set catered to the study of climate change and land use history in New England, this project will digitize almost 1.3 million New England vascular plant specimens from 15 large to small herbaria located across the region. We will enhance the images and herbarium label data that we collect by generating geographic coordinates and phenological and habitat data using controlled vocabularies developed as part of the project. The digitization process will integrate with existing community efforts and will largely utilize community developed software. Industrial scale, high-throughput digitization technologies will be developed to increase efficiency and bring down the overall cost of digitization. At all stages of this project we will implement community developed standards and will integrate the resulting data into existing regional, national, and global databases. This project will create a network of citizen scientists and school groups who will be positioned to gather current phenological data on flowering times and leafing-out times that can then be compared with data that will be gathered from digitized herbarium specimens.

This project will mobilize an exceptional amount information associated with herbarium specimens that will be of immediate use to scientists studying climate change and land use history in New England. The phenological data collected as part of this project will be the largest dataset of its kind ever assembled and will allow for unprecedented studies of the effects of a changing climate on flowering times and leafing-out times at a regional scale. Likewise, the habitat data will allow for novel investigations that address a variety of ecological issues related to past and current land-use patterns. This will add critical insights into the long-term consequences of past land-use, providing a new understanding of herbs, ferns, and shrub dynamics in addition to commercially important trees and of less common or historically important and currently declining taxa. While these data will be useful for studies at a regional scale, better understanding of changes within New England will provide insights useful on a global scale. The citizen science network that will be created will establish a framework whereby phenology data from herbarium specimens can be connected with current phenology.

The results of our activities will be of immediate use to a diverse group of regional stakeholders including national and regional agencies charged with managing natural resources and researchers focusing on a variety of topics including rare and endangered plants and revisionary floristic activities. This project will introduce the next generation to herbarium and collections management by collaborating with an existing education program to offer year- long collection internships to a diverse group of teens and by involving numerous undergraduates and graduate students in collections activities associated with the project. As part of our citizen science efforts, this project will engage members of the general public, increasing their awareness of pressing environmental issues in their local area and introducing them to herbaria and the field of global change science.