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Mason Heberling, February 8

Please join the department of Biology in welcoming Dr. Mason Heberling, Assistant Curator of Botany at Carnegie Mellon Museum of Natural History, for his talk entitled, "Rethinking the herbarium specimen" The talk will be held via Zoom on February 8, 2021 at 4pm EST. For access to the Zoom information, please contact Becca Rohn at (304)293-5201 or at

More on the talk:

With over 390 million plant specimens collected by thousands of botanists over nearly five centuries in museums worldwide, herbaria (collections of preserved dead plants) comprise an enormous resource for understanding the world around us. Herbarium specimens are receiving unprecedented attention due to recently developed methods, new perspectives, and their increased accessibility through widespread digitization. While the longstanding functions of herbaria remain relevant in modern research, herbarium specimens (and biological collections, broadly) are increasingly used in unanticipated ways. Heberling will discuss the past, present, and future of herbarium specimen use, supported by a review of over 13,000 herbarium-related studies from 1923-2017. Specimens are increasingly appreciated as temporally and spatially extensive sources of genotypic, phenotypic and biogeographic data. Several unanticipated uses of specimens will be highlighted, including documenting trait changes in invasive plants, understanding impacts of climate change on flowering and leaf out times, and using specimen roots to measure a century of soil microbial communities. As novel uses of specimens become more prevalent, new curatorial needs and perspectives need to be considered, including an open re-evaluation of the very collection event itself. The integration of observational data and community science platforms, such as iNaturalist, provide a powerful approach to complement and enhance the research value of specimens. As we enter the Anthropocene, herbaria have likewise entered a new era with enhanced scientific, educational, and societal relevance.