All 9,000 plant specimens in the Sewanee Herbarium were scanned this past week by a crew from University of Tennessee-Chattanooga led by Dr. Joey Shaw. The Sewanee Herbarium is part of a consortium of Tennessee herbaria that has received funding from the National Science Foundation to digitize plant collections. The goal of the project is to have all Tennessee plant specimens scanned and part of a common database that can be used collectively within the state to inform research and conservation efforts relating the flora of Tennessee and, more broadly, the plant diversity of the southeastern United States. One of these projects will be the compilation of an online Vascular Plant Atlas for Tennessee, such as are currently available for Florida and Alabama.
As part of the NSF grant, Drs. Joey Shaw (UTC) and Ashley Morris (MTSU) purchased portable digitizing equipment and assembled the student teams that have been visiting each herbarium and scanning their specimens. The consortium has already scanned most of Tennessee’s ~850,000 herbarium specimens, with Sewanee’s specimens being among the last that had yet to be completed. Fortunately, all our plant specimens were already logged into a database, so it was just a matter of scanning and attaching barcodes to the specimen sheets. We had approximately 6,800 Tennessee specimens to scan and process, but we ended up scanning the entire 9,000-specimen collection. Shaw’s team set up shop in the Herbarium for the weekend and was amazingly efficient. In the near future, you will be able to explore our collection for the flora of the Domain online, without ever having to open a herbarium cabinet!