American Crossroads: Digitizing the Vascular Flora of the South Central United States

 [NSF Award #1902078]

The advent of data mobilization from biological specimens housed in U.S. institutions has profoundly enhanced the value of museum collections and has allowed scientific questions to be addressed in novel ways. The process of mobilization involves specimen digital image capture, transcription of label data, addition of geographic coordinates, and dissemination of the data through searchable online portals. This four-year project brings together 46 collaborating herbaria to mobilize the data from nearly two million plant specimens collected in the states of Oklahoma and Texas. Most of the herbaria in these states, as well as key herbaria from other states with large Oklahoma and Texas holdings, will participate. Because these two states constitute a major crossroads of North American ecological and plant diversity, digitizing their plant specimen data can serve as a key element for understanding ecosystem evolution across the North American continent. The project will include data for species of conservation concern, invasives, and environmental health indicators, thus enhancing species and habitat conservation and management and contributing to wide-ranging applications in biodiversity science. It will also involve as participants members of plant enthusiast organizations (such as native plant societies) in specimen data entry. The project will contribute to a globally competitive STEM workforce through workshops and lectures for its technicians and practical training for undergraduate interns.

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