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Old 07-14-2010, 11:06 PM
PeterJWarner PeterJWarner is offline
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Exclamation Botanical collections and accessioning

This appears to be the most relevant forum to discuss this issue.

Over the past several years, I've experienced increasing frustration with the process of submitting botanical specimens and the timely accessioning of those specimens by herbaria. This now amounts to over 100 specimens I've submitted to several herbaria since the mid-1990's. Some of these herbaria are either non-functional, apparently (e.g., Sonoma State University), or do not have any data posted in the California Online Consortium (College of the Redwoods). I realize some of these collections have not been accessioned, or the data has not been provided to the Online Consortium. This is a very serious shortcoming, in my opinion, as a potentially extensive amount of botanical information is not available to other botanists, in particular to authors of flora such as the Jepson Manual and Flora of North America.

I take my botanical work seriously, and have made efforts to improve my botanical collecting and specimen preparations over the years, although I rarely get any feedback from herbarium curators, despite my requests to provide me some. After hearing several admonitions (by some) and gentle encouragement (by others) at conferences over the past 15 years to do more collecting and submitting of specimens, I must say my efforts at this time feel largely wasted. Perhaps some of these speakers (Dean Taylor, Ellen Dean, Dean Kelch, et al.) or other institutional and academic botanists can provide some information on why submitted specimens are not accessioned in a timely manner, if the need for collecting is so great (an observation with which I agree, based on the sparse collection data available online). I also understand that some herbaria are not well funded or staffed, in which case I feel that the specimens might be moved to other herbaria where accessioning and data posting might be done more expeditiously.

In spite of my frustration, I will continue to submit specimens, although I'm not so sure about which herbaria I trust to accession material and post the data in a reasonable amount of time (a year?). However, I am interested in engaging others in a discussion about how to make more collections and accompanying data available (through the Online Consortium), so that the work of individuals is not wasted, and all botanists can have access to their work.
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Old 07-17-2010, 06:34 AM
Peter Peter is offline
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Default "Slow" herbaria accessioning ?

Slow, or no, accessioning of collections may include all of the reasons you suggest (insufficient funding, staffing, have been chronic and widespread issues for herbaria).

Also, priorities of herbaria (and their curators) may not include the particular taxa or specimens that you have submitted to those particular herbaria; your specimens may require an unusual amount of preparation (repair, mounting, labelling, field notes processing, specimen or label-data quality issues, lost collections, very common specimen species, no capacity for online data preparation and availability, for example) that lowers their priority for accession.

Without having the explanations of the respective herbaria vis a vis your submissions, it would be mere speculation as to the particular reason(s) for lack of prompt (whatever that may be defined to be) accessions.

The fact that these herbaria have not even responded to your inquiries as to the status of processing your submissions suggests an even more fundamental problem.

Peter R.

Quote:
Originally Posted by PeterJWarner View Post

..., I've experienced increasing frustration with the process of submitting botanical specimens and the timely accessioning of those specimens by herbaria. ... I realize some of these collections have not been accessioned, or the data has not been provided to the Online Consortium. This is a very serious shortcoming, in my opinion,...

Perhaps some ... can provide some information on why submitted specimens are not accessioned in a timely manner, if the need for collecting is so great (an observation with which I agree, based on the sparse collection data available online). I also understand that some herbaria are not well funded or staffed, in which case I feel that the specimens might be moved to other herbaria where accessioning and data posting might be done more expeditiously.

..., I am interested in engaging others in a discussion about how to make more collections and accompanying data available....
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Old 12-09-2010, 04:54 PM
DeanWmTaylor DeanWmTaylor is offline
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Peter
the Sonoma State Herbarium does not exist, at least according to the Consortium database. In order to get your material entered, you, YOU and anyone else you can conscript, are the only mechanism to collect, ID, label, mount, data capture and transmit records...

Do it and the result will please
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Old 01-14-2011, 04:35 PM
PeterJWarner PeterJWarner is offline
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Default thank you, and...

Dean and Peter,
Thank you for your responses. I don't think putting the burden of responsibility for providing full accessioning on the original collector is consistent with the purposes of academic and institutional herbaria. If the answer is that collectors provide the full spectrum of presumed herbarium services, why would anyone submit any vouchers? Why not just maintain them in my own collection, for instance? Or, why collect at all, if the information is not going to be available for sharing with others?

I trust my botanical skills in most cases, so for me, just noting occurrences will do. Dean, I've heard you cajole CNPS members to collect more, but putting yet more burden on volunteers, such as myself -- since I don't get paid by clients or CNPS for vouchering -- isn't really any kind of solution. If the botanical community recognizes the need for continuing documentation of botanical specimens, then we need to develop processes that encourage responsible collecting and vouchering, not discouraging individuals by making the process more time-consuming and seemingly pointless than it already is.
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Old 01-31-2011, 02:15 PM
terrestrial_man terrestrial_man is offline
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Peter,
Have you ever thought of going outside the state of California with your specimens? I see no reason why you could not contact an out of state herbarium that you can determine has online access and inquiring with them as to their desire to obtain whatever specimens you may have available to send to them.
On in state herbaria I would contact whatever herbaria and see if they are interested in your specimen first before submitting same for inclusion into their database. With specimens that have been extensively collected over the years the need to retain any current collection may not be possible except in the case of retaining exceptionally prepared specimens.

And on your subject of developing your own database I would see no problem in doing so as it should be relatively easy but very time consuming. In such a case I would recommend that you use a free site provider such as Photobucket on which to post your images of your database. While this may be somewhat limiting it does provide a challenge on how you handle the presentation in order to make it relevant.
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Old 10-24-2011, 03:46 PM
Andrew C. Sanders Andrew C. Sanders is offline
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Default Specimen accessioning

Sorry I'm late to this discussion, but I've only recently begun to participate in the CNPS forum and only found this area and discussion today.

Background: I'm the herbarium curator at UC Riverside.

Peter: Over the past several years, I've experienced increasing frustration with the process of submitting botanical specimens and the timely accessioning of those specimens by herbaria. This now amounts to over 100 specimens I've submitted to several herbaria since the mid-1990's.


That's discouraging to me. I don't want to see potential collectors getting frustrated and possibly discouraged: the need for more collection and documentation of the flora is acute. I could go on at length about how poor our documentation of the flora of CA (and almost everywhere else) is, esp. from a floristic/biogeographic/conservation perspective.

And -- 100 specimens since the mid-1990s is NOT a heavy load and someone should have taken care of this for you by now. Here at UCR we routinely process that many specimens in a day.

Peter: Some of these herbaria are either non-functional, apparently (e.g., Sonoma State University), or do not have any data posted in the California Online Consortium (College of the Redwoods). I realize some of these collections have not been accessioned, or the data has not been provided to the Online Consortium. This is a very serious shortcoming, in my opinion, as a potentially extensive amount of botanical information is not available to other botanists, in particular to authors of flora such as the Jepson Manual and Flora of North America.

Inactive or minimally active herbaria are less likely to be able to help you. It sounds like you've been in contact with the wrong herbaria. Have you checked with CAS and/or UC Davis or Berkeley? You need to find a place with at least one dedicated curator type who wants to support and encourage you, and who has at least a little time to do so.

Peter: I take my botanical work seriously, and have made efforts to improve my botanical collecting and specimen preparations over the years,

Good. Thank you!

Peter: although I rarely get any feedback from herbarium curators, despite my requests to provide me some.

Bad. But, given the places you've mentioned, I'm not sure there's anyone there who can answer you. Is College of the Redwoods a community college, for example? If so, the person in charge is likely taking care of the herbarium in their spare time after teaching five classes -- and with no support staff at all.

Peter: After hearing several admonitions (by some) and gentle encouragement (by others) at conferences over the past 15 years to do more collecting and submitting of specimens, I must say my efforts at this time feel largely wasted. Perhaps some of these speakers (Dean Taylor, Ellen Dean, Dean Kelch, et al.) or other institutional and academic botanists can provide some information on why submitted specimens are not accessioned in a timely manner, if the need for collecting is so great (an observation with which I agree, based on the sparse collection data available online). I also understand that some herbaria are not well funded or staffed, in which case I feel that the specimens might be moved to other herbaria where accessioning and data posting might be done more expeditiously.

No herbaria are well staffed or funded, at least not to my knowledge. Even the best-staffed could easily use 10X the people they have. Things move too slowly because there are not enough hands to do all the work. Herbarium work is VERY labor-intensive, but we only have a few people.

Peter: In spite of my frustration, I will continue to submit specimens, although I'm not so sure about which herbaria I trust to accession material and post the data in a reasonable amount of time (a year?).

Good. Look in CCH for specimens from your area that were collected in the past 2-3 years and see which herbaria curated them. That's one way you can find active places, at least with respect to new specimen curation.


Peter: However, I am interested in engaging others in a discussion about how to make more collections and accompanying data available (through the Online Consortium), so that the work of individuals is not wasted, and all botanists can have access to their work.

Thank you. I'm glad to hear that you're still trying, even though you've been running into walls.
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Old 10-24-2011, 04:32 PM
Andrew C. Sanders Andrew C. Sanders is offline
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Default Processing Help is Available

Dean: the Sonoma State Herbarium does not exist, at least according to the Consortium database.

It does exist, but I don't know how active they are these days. Richard Whitkus is in charge and some years ago he set out to database their herbarium, and we provided him with a copy of the UCR database format. He has little support, and a heavy teaching load, so I don't know how far the effort has gone. Probably not far: they are not yet participants in CCH yet.

Dean: In order to get your material entered, you, YOU and anyone else you can conscript, are the only mechanism to collect, ID, label, mount, data capture and transmit records...


Not strictly true. Here at UCR, for example, we will ID, label, mount, data capture and transmit records to CCH for people. The only thing we won't usually do is collect for people -- and sometimes I'll do that, if it's an interesting place, or something. Well, people also have to give us good clear field notes so that we can process their collections. That's an absolute. We'd love it if people would make their own labels, and we encourage that wherever possible -- but if label preparation is a barrier to getting collections made, we'll handle that. We've made LITERALLY 10s of thousands of labels (maybe 100k) for collections made by consultants, agency biologists, and random plant enthusiasts. I think some other herbaria will help this way too. SD, for example, has an online labeling system for specimens that are going to them.
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Old 01-06-2012, 02:00 PM
PeterJWarner PeterJWarner is offline
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Default update

Thank you to all who've responded, especially to Andy who's provided great information and support, in general, and specifically to my efforts.

I've begun compiling, with assistance from other CNPS members, the Sonoma State Herbarium collection's data, although moving it into the Consortium database is a ways off. This will take some time.

I've learned, as Andy has suggested to me elsewhere, and also noted by Robin at the Humboldt State U. Herbarium, that compiling my personal collections data into the same fields as those used in the Consortium will facilitate its posting therein. As for managing my data (and that of SSU) in Filemaker Pro, I have yet to tackle that challenge.

I strongly agree with Andy and others that the documentation of California's flora is essential. I recognize the vast shortfall of funding and personnel with which to do this. I also wonder if the various herbaria in the Consortium, meaning curators and staff and institutions, might work towards facilitating specimen collections and data entry, although I don't know much about what this might involve. But I can envision CNPS (or Jepson Herbarium, et al.) workshops on collecting ethics and techniques, data compilation and entry (including use of Filemaker or whatever software might be best suited to the task), and other pertinent topics, as well as access to the means to log data easily into the Consortium database. That would seem to be a more efficient approach than the maze I'm currently muddling through.

I also think this topic and many others posted in CNPS forums need to reach a broader audience!
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Old 03-04-2012, 11:35 PM
terrestrial_man terrestrial_man is offline
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"I also think this topic and many others posted in CNPS forums need to reach a broader audience!"
I believe that the reason that there is limited visitation to the CNPS forum is because there is no access to it from the various chapter sites. Would not it be appropriate for each chapter of CNPS to provide a link to the forum on their respective websites?
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Old 03-13-2012, 06:16 PM
PeterJWarner PeterJWarner is offline
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Default chapter access to forum discussion board

I agree. However, my suggestions, including providing greater chapter access to the forums, greater CNPS support for herbaria maintenance, etc., seem to have been ignored. I guess it's time to write about this in the Bulletin, since personal pleas haven't worked.
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