Using museum data for large-scale questions: modeling Florida plant diversity

TitleUsing museum data for large-scale questions: modeling Florida plant diversity
Publication TypeConference Paper
Year of Publication2015
AuthorsGermain-Aubrey, Charlotte C., Allen Julie M., Guralnick Robert P., Neubig Kurt M., Ponciano Jose Miguel, Lamy Thomas, Majure Lucas, Soltis Douglas E., and Soltis Pamela S.
Conference NameSociety for the Preservation of Natural History Collections 30th Annual Meeting
Date Published05/2015
Conference LocationGainesville, FL
AbstractThe effort to digitize all biological collections in the USA is quickly leading to an online dataset of over one billion specimens, available for addressing questions at unprecedented scales. Florida hosts several biodiversity hotspots and is home to over 4,100 species of plants. Using herbarium collections, we took advantage of the historical data linked with the specimens and constructed a pipeline that extracts environmental variables at the time of the collection for each of 1,550 species. We used the collections to reconstruct niche models and project the effect of climate change on the Florida vegetation landscape. Moreover, we reconstructed the regional phylogeny for those species for which we built models, investigating similar questions through the lens of the evolutionary history of the region. This study emphasizes the importance of museum collections for research. We will discuss several steps and assumptions made in order to use as much of the data as possible. Through our experience, we will recommend concrete actions that collectors, collection managers, and researchers can take to facilitate the use of museum specimens by the maximum number of scientists and non-scientists.