Abstract Detail

Biodiversity Informatics & Herbarium Digitization

King, Megan [1], Struwe, Lena [2].

How Collections-based Undergraduate Research Adapted to a Pandemic: A Case Study of the Herbarium Army at Rutgers University.

The herbarium collections at Chrysler Herbarium are home to over 200,000 collections of plants, fungi, and algae that have been part of many NSF-funded digitization projects during the last decade, with many still needing to be databased, imaged, and georeferenced. The School of Environmental and Biological Sciences at Rutgers University requires students to earn at least three credits in experience-based education to develop valuable career skills during hands-on learning. This had provided us with an opportunity to engage and train a number of undergraduates as herbarium and digitization assistants (92 students to date). During Spring 2020 when COVID-19 arrived in New Jersey, 16 students were working 6-10 hours a week. Within a few short weeks all in-person activity had shut down at our university, students sent home, and course instruction moved online. The same had to be done for the students of the Herbarium Army, which includes work study students, NSF-funded interns, and NSF and George H. Cook honors research projects. Despite that the herbarium was (and still Is as of June 1st, 2020) in physical lockdown, we succeeded in quickly moving digitization work to an online format transcribing imaged specimens. Due to the extraordinary external stressors caused by the pandemic and its effects on society, we reduced expectations on number of specimens to be transcribed, but otherwise kept the original workplan with written reports for graded work. The social community that the Herbarium Army students created among themselves in the herbarium were kept alive through GroupMe texts. Messages appeared about transcribing records, furry co-workers, problematic and gorgeous specimens, and offers to participating in regional georeferencing training. As a result of our quick modifications, all Herbarium Army students finished their research credits on time, (not the case for other lab- and field-based research shut down to reduce COVID-19 spread) while having gained a large set of collections-based life skills. Some of our Spring 2020 students are planning to volunteer remotely in the herbarium over the summer, along with several credit that will work remotely until the University opens the herbarium again, which is still very uncertain. For this we are planning to provide video-training and ‘hangouts’ with students to provide hands-on problem solving and guidance to herbarium collections and plant diversity. By moving the Herbarium to an online format, we can continue to work on NSF-funded digitization projects and add substantial amount of data to global databases for scientific research.

1 - Rutgers Chrysler Herbarium, Ecology, Evolution And Natural Resources, 14 College Farm Road, New Brunswick, NJ, 08901, United States
2 - Rutgers University, Ecology, Evolution, & Natural Resources, 237 Foran Hall, 59 Dudley Road, New Brunswick, NJ, 08901, United States

student engagement
natural history collection.

Presentation Type: Oral Paper
Session: BIHD2, Biodiversity Informatics & Herbarium Digitization II
Location: Virtual/Virtual
Date: Thursday, July 30th, 2020
Time: 1:00 PM
Number: BIHD2003
Abstract ID:786
Candidate for Awards:None

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