herbarium lab--some ideas

Monique Reed monique at mail.bio.tamu.edu
Tue Jan 25 10:31:53 EST 2000

When I teach our undergrad botany students about our herbarium, I like
to tell them it's like a library--only with books instead of plants. 
You can look at anything any time, and don't have to wait for the one
week a year that it blooms in some inaccessible location.

You could do quick little projects such as:

How many species of X grow in our state, judging by holdings?

What is the habitat preference/ bloom time/ altitude preference/
distribution of Y, judging by info recorded on labels?  You can
probably think of something that has a limited distribution in your
state so you can introduce them to simple mapping applications.

Find an assortment of sheets that have been annotated for various
reasons and see if the students can come up with some reasons why this
might be so? (change in classification, correction of
misidentification, etc.)

Assemble an assortment of sheets that are vouchers for chromosome
number, habitat survey, systematic work, etc., and discuss those.  You
may even have types!

Incorporate computers--you can talk about computer-based accessioning,
computerized data presentation such as at:
http://www.csdl.tamu.edu/FLORA/tracy/hsb.html  (this can show specimen
lists as well as maps!), on-line type registers such as:
http://www.utexas.edu/ftp/depts/prc/type_intro.html , and taxonomic
databases such as: http://www.csdl.tamu.edu/FLORA/b98/check98.htm

Assemble and discuss some good herbarium sheets (complete, info-rich
labels, fragment folder, good mounting, etc.) and discuss why they are
more useful than bad ones (incomplete specimen, sketchy label info,
bad mounting job, brittle paper, etc.)

Hope this helps get those creative juices flowing.  If nothing else,
pretend to shut the rowdy students in the compactor.  Makes believers
out of them every time...

Monique Reed
Texas A&M

Dana Ann Dudle wrote:
> Hello,
> I will be teaching a senior-level seminar in plant population
> biology this spring, and I will incorporate some indentification,
> collection, and mounting of specimens into the laboratory portion of the
> class.  Since my institution currently lacks an herbarium, the class will
> be taking a 'field trip' of sorts to the local Big 10 University that has
> a functional herbarium, so that the students begin to understand the
> herbarium as a resource for scientists.
> While we are there, I would like to have the students do some kind of
> activity to get them familiar with the kind of information that herbarium
> specimens can provide to experimental scientists, but I can't quite put my
> finger on what I would like to do.  I have a vague idea about a project
> involving comparisons of specimens collected over time in a particular
> location, or over space in different locations, but I am not thrilled
> about this plan as it stands.
> I wonder if any of you have used an herbarium as a teaching tool in your
> botany or ecology courses?  It seems as though this would be a good
> resource, and that it might give students an appreciation for a valuable
> set of techniques and tradtions that may be falling by the wayside in some
> departments as we make way for high-technology techniques in our labs.
>   (Not that I have anything against gels and sequences, mind you!)
> Any ideas, inspirations, or advice from this group would be appreciated,
> as always.
> Thanks,
> Dana
> ******************************************************
> Dana A. Dudle           (765) 658 - 4773  Office
> Dept. of Biology        (765) 658 - 4766  FAX
> DePauw University
> Greencastle, IN  46135
> ddudle at depauw.edu
> ******************************************************

More information about the Plant-ed mailing list