Natural history specimen collections in museums and academic institutions document species diversity and provide essential information for broad applications ranging from conservation, securing national resources, discovery of new species, to agriculture and medicine. Collections are also an important resource for education and outreach. The Field Museum herbarium houses almost 3 million dried plant and fungi specimens. In 2013, the Museum acquired 35,000 liverwort specimens from the private herbarium of one of the most preeminent botanists of the 20th century. Liverworts are a small group of land plants that are closely related to the more familiar mosses. They play a critical role in our understanding of plant evolution and are ecologically significant. This recent acquisition makes The Field Museum liverwort collection, of over 220,000 specimens, the largest collection in the US and among the top four in the world. The recently acquired liverwort collection is in critical need of curation because of its poor condition. There is vital type material, used to describe and name new species, requiring urgent attention. This project will ensure the preservation of this collection as a national resource for future generations. The project also engages teens in understanding the role collections play in furthering scientific discovery. Families, students, and the general public can also participate as Citizen Scientists and help discover biodiversity by visiting http://microplants.fieldmuseum.org. The project has strong training, outreach and educational components that will improve science instruction and student learning, leveraging museum resources.
The principal objective is to curate the recently acquired private herbarium of an estimated 35,000 liverwort (Marchantiophyta) specimens of the late Prof. Rudolf M. Schuster, one of the most preeminent bryologists in the history of the discipline. The current condition of this collection, ranging from specimens in original newspaper and brown paper bags to original collecting packets, necessitates extensive curation. The bryology research community has been waiting decades to access this important collection in its entirety as many significant specimens remained in private residence and were not made available. There is vital type material that requires urgent attention. The principal objectives include curating, barcoding, databasing and imaging all label data and selected specimens. The timing of these collection improvement activities will leverage and is synergistic with national digitization efforts and international research programs. The digitization effort will provide digital access to this collection, unlock new distribution records and new species to science, and contribute to international databasing activities such as GBIF, The Plant List, and EOL. All data resulting from this project will be shared with iDigBio (www.idigbio.org/), ensuring accessibility to researchers and educators. Duplicate specimen material will be distributed to countries of origin that would provide valuable reference material, mainly from under-resourced yet biodiversity rich regions.