Ray, Jessica , Artigues, Renee , Azzolini, Jill , Buczynski, Rebekah , Cusimano, Victoria , Fastige, Rachael , Hess, Garrett , Howe, Natalie , King, Megan , Lin, Tesia , Olivares, Carlos , Rodriguez, Rachel , Sun, Alexandria , STRUWE, LENA .
The undergraduate Herbarium Army at Rutgers University: Promoting interaction between students and scientific collections in teaching, research, and outreach.
Engagement of undergraduates in active, real research is a goal of most university administrations, as well as one of the most valued experiences by college students. How to involve a large number of undergraduates in research with faculty mentors and teach a wide variety of relevant career-building research skills is often a challenge. We present an example for biology (specifically botany) from Rutgers University’s Chrysler Herbarium (CHRB). The Herbarium Army of CHRB was formed in 2016 by 17 self-identified undergraduates, who committed over 1700 hours of volunteer, experience-based research credit, or paid part-time hours. The ambitious goal was to reorganize our angiosperm collection of 140 000 herbarium sheets from the old Cronquist system to the new APG III classification, while checking and updating every species name on every herbarium sheet. By April 1 we had reached more than halfway through the collection, the largest reorganization in the herbarium's history. Students have mastered all aspects of curation: mounting and repairing specimens, freezing and filing, checking current names and synonyms in databases, understanding reclassification and nomenclature. Additional valuable skills important for future careers are the ability to plan and organize complex team projects requiring detailed organization and communication, master outreach and science communication, reading cursive handwriting, and increased geographical and historical literacy. One student with previous herbarium experience served as supervisor while developing excellent leadership skills. Students were encouraged to take ownership of specialized subprojects and encouraged to post their experiences and findings on the Facebook page of CHRB. Finding students interested in herbarium research can often be a challenge. At Rutgers, all students were self-identifying before the start of the semester. Part of the success at Rutgers was due to a reinvented plant systematics course during Fall 2015 that included a visit to The New York Botanical Garden’s herbarium. In the course students encountered and built many needed skills (species identification, classification, use of digital tools and resources, morphological vocabulary) while learning to love plants and botany. They participated in projects such as Flora and Fauna of Rutgers Campus on iNaturalist, Expedition Dinner, Morphology Bingo, and Botany Buttons. To conclude, by engaging undergraduates in herbarium work, our university has accomplished an enormous update of our herbarium collection (at a very low cost) and a large set of students have acquired valuable, marketable research skills that make them suitable for jobs in a variety of governmental, non-profit, and for-profit institutions and companies.
Website CHRB Herbarium
1 - Rutgers University, Dept of Ecology, Evolution, and Natural Resources, 14 College Farm Road, New Brunswick, NJ, 08901, USA
2 - Rutgers University, Dept of Ecology, Evolution, and Natural Resources & Dept of Plant Biology and Pathology, 59 Dudley Road, New Brunswick, NJ, 08901, USA
Presentation Type: Poster
Candidate for Awards:None