Green digitization: Botanical collections data answer real-world questions | EurekAlert! Science News

“Special issue of Applications in Plant Sciences explores new developments and applications of digital plant data

Even as botany has moved firmly into the era of “big data,” some of the most valuable botanical information remains inaccessible for computational analysis, locked in physical form in the orderly stacks of herbaria and museums. Herbarium specimens are plant samples collected from the field that are dried and stored with labels describing species, date and location of collection, along with various other information including habitat descriptions. The detailed historical record these specimens keep of species occurrence, morphology, and even DNA provides an unparalleled data source to address a variety of morphological, ecological, phenological, and taxonomic questions. Now efforts are underway to digitize these data, and make them easily accessible for analysis. Two symposia were convened to discuss the possibilities and promise of digitizing these data–at the Botanical Society of America’s 2017 annual meeting in Fort Worth, Texas, and again at the XIX International Botanical Congress in Shenzhen, China. The proceedings of those symposia have been published as a special issue of Applications in Plant Sciences; the articles discuss a range of methods and remaining challenges for extracting data from botanical collections, as well as applications for collections data once digitized. Many of the authors contributing to the issue are involved in iDigBio (Integrated Digitized Biocollections), a new “national coordinating center for the facilitation and mobilization of biodiversity specimen data,” as described by Dr. Gil Nelson, a botanist at Florida State University and coeditor of this issue….”