The Biology Department Herbarium, housing nearly 50,000 dried plant specimens, has grown 10-fold since its initiation as a departmental facility in 1975.  Specimens maintained by this unit include unmounted research vouchers from around the world and mounted, accessioned, specimens that document the local flora.  The main herbarium is housed in specially designed, movable plant specimen storage cases in room 009 of Butler Hall.  A smaller assemblage of specimens is maintained as a student reference collection in the nearby Plant Systematics Teaching Laboratory (Butler Hall, room 004).

    Aside from its basic mission of providing support for teaching and research in basic botany, the Biology Department Herbarium also supplies plant identification/information services for the Texas A&M academic community, government agencies, and the public.

    The departmental herbarium facility is one of 24 Texas herbaria. These maintain a combined total of over one million plant specimens which carry detailed information relating to global plant diversity and the plants of Texas. This includes specific distribution records for all taxa (species, subspecies, and varieties) in the state flora (over 5,000), as well as habitat preference, flowering periods, frequency of occurrence, and structural variation. Herbarium specimens also represent a unique historical record of Texas biodiversity. They document collections ranging from initial botanical explorations of the early 1800's, some representing species that are now extinct, through current work on endangered and threatened elements of the state flora. Until recently, this mass of useful information has been 'buried' in herbarium cases throughout the state. Current environmental problems have generated a need for immediate access for regional biodiversity data. 

    While relatively small, the Department of Biology stands as the only Texas herbarium with fully computerized specimen data. This local database played a role in initial research concerning methods for converting herbarium specimen label information to electronic form.  It formed the basis for initial, preliminary work in 1994 with Dr. Leland Ellis at the W. M. Keck Center for Genome Informatics of the Texas A&M Institute of Bioscience and Technology, to convert specimen data to full text indices, and subsequent 'specimen data' prototypes developed in collaboration with the Texas A&M Center for the Study of Digital Libraries.

    Initiation with this research was made possible by an Interdisclipinary Research Grant from the Texas A&M Office of Research and Graduate Studies (1995/96).  Further work in botanical informations (1996/97 and 2000/2001) was supported by Advanced Research Program funding from the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board. and, for teaching applications, the National Science Foundation's National SMETE Digital Library program.   Hardware, server support, and collaborative applications development was provided by the Texas A&M Center for the Study of Digital Libraries.  Unfortunately,  major systems developed by this research are no longer operational.

Last updated: 3 Sep 2008.  Return to Department of Biology Herbarium home page.