Digitization PEN: Partnering the Penn State Herbarium (PAC) to Contextualize the Mid-Atlantic Megalopolis

Project: Research project

Project Details


This project will generate and make publicly available digital images of 64,000 of plant specimens that are present in the Pennsylvania State University Herbarium (PAC). The project partners with the Mid-Atlantic Megalopolis (MAM) TCN, which is focused on generating and making available digital images of herbarium specimens from the urban corridor of the Mid-Atlantic states. The PAC collection spans over 100 years, from the early 1800s to the present, largely representing the flora of forested and agricultural landscapes west of the Susquehanna River and thus, can serve as a contextual counterpoint to plant assemblages in the MAM urban corridor. Its richness, both in time and space, will present a more complete picture of plant communities within the Mid-Atlantic Region and will contribute to the regional knowledge base. These records will, in turn, contribute to active research initiatives in biology, horticulture and environmental management at Penn State and within the larger regional botanical community. This project will fill critical gaps in knowledge of plant communities in urban environments of the Mid-Atlantic Region by providing key information on plant diversity in non-urban landscapes. It also serves to train the next generation of botanists through experiential learning in state-of-the-art digitization and databasing techniques, make important components of the collection accessible to a broad array of researchers within the region and beyond, and engage both students and faculty as well as the local community in herbarium programs and activities.

The goal of this project is to generate and distribute, through partnering with the ongoing Mid-Atlantic Megalopolis TCN, high-resolution digital images of the collection of vascular plant specimens at the PAC Herbarium. The project will perform high resolution photographic imaging, transcription, georeferencing, and web publishing of approximately 64,000 vascular plant herbarium specimens of Pennsylvania, filling an important gap in digital data that is currently lacking from online databases. Detailed information on plant communities across different landscapes, which will be enriched by the contributions from the PAC collection, will inform research on the factors that determine plant establishment, sustainability and invasibility in urban environments characterized by the MAM urban corridor. This project will also contribute to the wealth of vascular plant data currently available to botanists across the country and abroad through the iDigBio and UrBioNet portals. We will recruit and train undergraduate students and local volunteers in digitization protocols, transcription of herbarium labels, and georeferencing through a series of Digithons. PAC staff and interns will also participate in the mini urban research symposium hosted by the MAM TCN and held at Rutgers University. Interns will be encouraged to attend the mini symposium to interact with scientists in the field of urban research and gain valuable experience in research protocols. All of these efforts will also contribute to shared discovery of regional floras and the forging of alliances among herbaria within the Mid-Atlantic Region.

Effective start/end date9/15/178/31/23


  • National Science Foundation: $143,567.00


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