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Digitization TCN - Collaborative: The Macroalgal Collection Consortium

Start Date - August 2013
Completion Date - July 2015
P.I - Chris Dick
Project Coordinator - Samantha Winder 
Samantha Winder, project coordinator, shows an algal specimen

From August of 2013 and July 2015, the Um Herbarium was an active participant in The Macroalgae Digitization Project funded by the National Science Foundation. The Macroalgal TCN represents a consortium of 49 herbaria from across the country, which aims to digitize more than 1 million algal specimen records. The digitization steps include barcoding and photographing of each specimen, transcribing critical collection data from each label, and georeferencing every collection locality.

The U-M Herbarium was a Primary Digitization Center for this project, with the responsibility of digitizing nearly 10,000 records from Miami University, Michigan State University, and Youngstown State University in addition to our own 75,000 specimens. We have completed the initial digitization steps on 85,000 specimens. Through this process, we have learned a great deal about our holdings.

The Herbarium's macroalgae collections come from 257 families, though approximately two-thirds of these specimens are from 23 families. There are 1,224 genera, 6,087 species, and 6,575 total taxa represented (total taxa include subspecies, formas and varieties).

The U-M Herbarium collection spans the globe, encompassing 175 countries. Approximately one-third of our specimens were collected in the U.S., representing 45 states, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands and the District of Columbia. Bermuda is well represented, accounting for 8 percent of our collection. Our holdings from the Caribbean are also extensive, totaling more than 10,000 specimens.

The oldest specimens were collected over 200 years ago, between 1800 and 1810, while the most recent collections were made during spring 2015. The majority of the collections came from the 20th century, with peak collection intensity between 1940 and 1970.

University of Michigan curators made the greatest contributions. Late Professor William Randolph Taylor collected approximately 16 percent of the algae collection. Professor Emeritus Michael J. Wynne collected 11 percent of the specimens.

The U-M Herbarium also houses approximately 850 historically and scientifically interesting collections made at the Marshall Islands before and immediately after the atomic testing in the 1940s and 1950s.

These collections represent a wealth of ecological and historical data, and will be useful for studies of taxonomy, floristic inventory and macroecology. All digital records created through this project are available to the public on the Macroalgal Herbarium Portal

Herbarium Director and EEB Professor Christopher Dick is the Michigan principal investigator. Professor Emeritus Mike Wynne served as senior personnel. Five technicians helped over the course of this project: Sebastian Belmar, Charles Davey, Beth Dorgay, Zu Dienle Tan and Joanna Tatomir. Samantha Winder, a graduate of Middlebury College, served as the project coordinator and oversaw all of these efforts.

Chris Dick
Michael Wynne

Background about this and other digitizing projects at the Herbarium

The Herbarium has been awarded seven National Science Foundation grants since 2011. Six of these grants involve Thematic Collections Networks (TCN), which are collaborative projects administered by the Advancing Digitization of Biodiversity Collections (ADBC) project.  

Each TCN is a network of institutions with a strategy for digitizing information that addresses a particular research theme, according to iDigBio. Once digitized, data are easily accessed and available for other research and educational use. The nationwide effort is coordinated by the iDigBio program based at the University of Florida.

Since 2011 over 475,000 specimens from the collection have been imaged as part of these projects.  Most of the images, either of the specimen labels or of the specimens themselves, are available online. Another aspect involves digitizing the data about the individual specimens and georeferencing localities.

iDigBio is sharing this news series on their website