The Muhlenberg Herbarium – Developing an Open Collection to Achieve a Greater Understanding of Our Urban Areas One Plant Specimen at A Time
Muhlenberg College is currently undertaking a major effort to make its herbarium collection and associated data available on an open platform. This is part of the The Mid-Atlantic Megalopolis (MAM) Project, an NSF funded program with the objective of digitizing an estimated 700,000 herbarium specimens from eleven institutions in the urban corridor from New York City to Washington, D.C.; and to make that data available to the public. Muhlenberg College with its 60,000 specimen herbarium with some samples that dating back over 100 years is one of these institutions At this site I will document the process at Muhlenberg and create a portal to the searchable Muhlenberg database. I will also provide access to the open data from the other project institutions.
As the largest, oldest, and most populated urban corridor in the U.S., the MAM and its flora present a unique opportunity for the study of urbanization, particularly given its rich herbarium collections, containing specimens collected over the last 400 years. The data mobilized and shared openly in this effort will help us achieve a better scientific understanding of living urban systems, a critical need for urban planners, restoration ecologists, environmental engineers, (landscape) architects, and conservationists engaged in creating more sustainable and better designed cities, including the constructed and restored natural environments of our urban areas.
This project is also part of my work with the Muhlenberg College Faculty Learning Group on Open Scholarship #open