TCN: Collaborative Research: Digitization and Enrichment of U.S. Herbarium Data from Tropical Africa to Enable Urgent Quantitative Conservation Assessments

Collaborative Research: Digitization and Enrichment of U.S. Herbarium Data from Tropical Africa to Enable Urgent Quantitative Conservation Assessments

Digitization and Enrichment of U.S. Herbarium Data from Tropical Africa to Enable Urgent Quantitative Conservation Assessments
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Project Summary

Biological diversity has been the subject of hundreds of years of work by botanists and zoologists, accumulating rich stores of specimens and associated data in museums and herbaria around the world. These rich information resources, however, too often remain in analog format only, and have not been digitized and “enabled” in the service of science. This project aims to digitize, enrich, and share openly the rich data resources held in United States herbaria that correspond to plants of tropical Africa. By the close of the project, it will have captured data from 1.1 million herbarium specimens, and will augment digital accessible data records for the African continent by more than 15-fold. It will also have created a broad, international, intercontinental network of scientists and students interested in and experienced with management and analysis of such data. This combination of information resources and human capacity will enrich and improve biodiversity conservation planning across Africa.

Herbarium specimens represent a rich source of data on plant diversity. This project will focus on the tropical African seed plant specimen holdings of 21 U.S. herbaria, which will be imaged, associated data captured, and data records georeferenced and quality-controlled. Imaging and data capture will be carried out at each of the herbaria, and data will be aggregated for efficient georeferencing. For most records, georeferencing will be performed automatically; however, a small portion will be georeferenced manually by plant scientists in Ghana, Rwanda, Malawi, and Gabon. Finally, project data will be subjected to detailed quality-control assessment, and served openly to the scientific community via a dedicated “African Plants” portal on Symbiota, as well as integration into and the Global Biodiversity Information Facility ( These rich data resources will be used to understand the conservation status of African plant species in much greater detail than has been possible to date.

Current Research

Project Websites & Social Media

African Herbaria Collaborative Biodiversity Portal

Citizen Science & Outreach Projects

Project Leadership

Project sponsor: National Science Foundation

Principal Investigators (PIs):[A. Townsend Peterson (PI/PD)] [Brent D. Mishler (PI)] [Mare Nazaire (PI)] [Nico M. Franz (PI)] [Patricia Barberá (PI)] [Elena Kramer (PI)] [Nicole Tarnowsky (PI)]

Project Collaborators

University of Kansas

Principal Investigator (PI)/Project Director (PD): A. Townsend Peterson (NSF Award #2223875)

University of California, Berkeley, University Herbarium (UC) and Jepson Herbaria (JEPS)

Principal Investigator (PI): Brent D. Mishler (NSF Award #2223876)

California Botanic Garden, formerly Rancho Santa Ana (RSA) Botanic Garden

Principal Investigator (PI): Mare Nazaire (NSF Award #2223877)

Arizona State University

Principal Investigator (PI): Nico M. Franz (NSF Award #2223878)

Missouri Botanical Garden (MO)

Principal Investigator (PI): Patricia Barberá (NSF Award #2223879)

Harvard University (GH)

Principal Investigator (PI): Elena Kramer (NSF Award #2223880)

New York Botanical Garden (NY)

Principal Investigator (PI): Nicole Tarnowsky (NSF Award #2223881)

Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University (PH)

Subaward Principal Investigator (Sub PI): Tatyana Livshultz (NSF Award #2223875)

Carnegie Museum of Natural History (CM)

Subaward Principal Investigator (Sub PI): Bonnie L. Isaac (NSF Award #2223875)

Field Museum of Natural History (F)

Subaward Principal Investigator (Sub PI): Maria Lucia Kawasaki (NSF Award #2223875)

Purdue University (PUL)

Subaward Principal Investigator (Sub PI): D. Rabern Simmons (NSF Award #2223875)

University of Minnesota (MIN)

Subaward Principal Investigator (Sub PI): Timothy Whitfeld (NSF Award #2223875)

Yale University (YU)

Subaward Principal Investigator (Sub PI): Patrick Sweeney (NSF Award #2223875)

Bringham and Young University (BRY)

Contact: Robert Johnson

Brown University (BRU)

Contact: Rebecca Y. Kartzinel

Cornell University(BH)

Contact: Kevin C. Nixon

Louisiana State University (LSU)

Contacts: Laura Lagomarsino and Jennifer Kluse

National Museum of Natural History (US)

Contacts: Sylvia Orli and Eric Schuettpelz

Philecology Herbarium at the Botanical Research Institute of Texas (BRIT)

Contacts: Peter Fritsch and Tiana F. Rehman

Pittsburg State University (KSP)

Contact: Neil Snow

University of Arizona (ARIZ)

Contact: Michelle McMahon

University of California, Davis (DAV)

Contacts: Alison Colwell and Daniel Potter

University of Utah (UT)

Contact: Mitchell J. Power

Centre for Plant Medicine Research (CPMR), Mampong-Akuapem, Ghana

Contact: Alex Asase (Georeferencing Team Lead)

Center of Excellence in Biodiversity and Natural Resource Management at University of Rwanda, Kigali, Rwanda

Contact: Beth A. Kaplin (Georeferencing Team)

L’Herbier National du Gabon, Libreville, Gabon

Contact: Nestor Engone Obiang (Georeferencing Team)

Malawi University of Science and Technology, Mikolongwe, Malawi

Contact: Tiwonge Mzumara-Gawa (Georeferencing Team)

Georeferencing Coordinators

Contact: John Wieczorek, Rauthiflor LLC, Bariloche, Argentina

Contact: Paula Zermoglio, Instituto de Investigaciones en Recursos Naturales, Agroecología y Desarrollo Rural (IRNAD)

Protocols & Workflows


Professional Presentations

Other project documentation