High-tech botany – cataloging dried blossoms into a digital database

Posted: June 12, 2015 at 7:57 pm, Last Updated: August 28, 2017 at 4:31 pm

It’s the second day on the job for George Mason University senior Ushna Ahmad, who’s part of a student team that’s digitizing more than 45,000 dried plant specimens for a national project.

Plants collected over decades from across Virginia will become part of a national database that will detail how the environment has changed. George Mason is leading the project for Virginia that is expected to include about 300,000 Virginia plants. It’s the first such project for the Southeastern United States.

The National Science Foundation is funding a $2.5 million nationwide project called “The Key to the Cabinets: Building and Sustaining a Research Database for a Global Biodiversity Hotspot.”

The 2,000-member Virginia Native Plant Society is funding a curatorial assistant, Mason doctoral graduate Manuela Dal Forno, to prepare the Mason collection for the undergrad team charged with imaging the specimens. The undergrad student team includes Ahmad, environmental science major Maryam Sedaghatpour, and biology majors Joseph Bradley and Sophia Stavrou.

They’re working in the basement of Exploratory Hall where giant metal cabinets house more than 60,000 dried plants for Mason’s Ted R. Bradley Herbarium. Some are 100 years old and haven’t been touched in decades, said Andrea Weeks, a botany professor and Mason’s herbarium director.

Read the full article from the Mason NewsDesk on 6/11/2015…