herbarium lab

David W. Kramer kramer.8 at osu.edu
Tue Jan 25 11:25:20 EST 2000

The best advice will come from the curator of the herbarium you will be
visiting.  Much depends on the nature of their collection.  The curator
will know which kinds of examples of herbarium research can best be
demonstrated by that collection.  For example, if they have a "type
specimen" the students might like to see it and this could lead to a very
interesting discussion about the history of plant taxonomy and the idea of
type specimens in the past vs today.  If they don't own a type specimen,
they might have a holotype.  If they don't have either, this won't work!
The students might simply be interested in different kinds of preservation
and storage.  What do you do with a pine cone?  Are mosses and lichens
pressed?  How do you preserve and store fruits like tomatoes?!!  The
herbarium might have collections of a population sample but this is rare.

I hope you will have the students do some collecting and plant pressing
this Spring.  You could even have them collect and press woody twigs,
evergreen gymnosperms, etc. during the Winter months!  They could produce
some very valuable teaching specimens by collecting the winter twig now,
marking the specimen, then returning to the same tree in the Spring to
collect flowers, leaves, etc.  Very seldom can one find a specimen that has
parts from several seasons.  In this process they will learn how specimens
are identified, how they are collected, how they are pressed, and how they
are mounted.  They will learn that it isn't as easy as it looks!  It forces
them to look more carefully at a plant than they would otherwise.  If you
require each student to collect and turn in just 5 plants, they will learn
all this and you will gradually build a teaching herbarium that will make
it unnecessary to visit the other institution.  I have a herbarium cabinet
in my classroom with hundreds of specimens after about 10 years of teaching
Local Flora.  The specimens are used by many of the introductory biology
classes here.  Duplicate specimens are necessary because they get hard use
and some eventually need to be discarded.

By the way, plant presses can be expensive but you can usually find a
father, grandfather, or uncle, or a member of your college maintenance
staff (or enterprising student!) who can build them less expensively.  You
can buy the straps, dryers, and ventilators from vendors (e.g., Herbarium
Supply Company at http://www.berbariumsupply.com or Carolina Biological
Supply at http://www.carosci.com/).  At DePauw you are not far from the
Amish communities where woodworkers abound.

Good luck!

Dave Kramer

>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.
>Dana A. Dudle          	(765) 658 - 4773  Office
>Dept. of Biology	(765) 658 - 4766  FAX
>DePauw University
>Greencastle, IN  46135
>ddudle at depauw.edu

David W. Kramer, Ph.D.
Asst. Prof. of Evolution, Ecology, and Organismal Biology
Ohio State University at Mansfield
1680 University Drive
Mansfield, OH  44906-1547
Phone:  (419) 755-4344      FAX:  (419) 755-4367
e-mail:  kramer.8 at osu.edu

More information about the Plant-ed mailing list