Beaty Biodiversity Museum

University of British Columbia Herbarium

June 1999 Herbarium Paper, Vol. 1, Number 1

After becoming Director I had hoped to have some big announcement or good news about my fundraising attempts to put in our first herbarium newsletter. Alas, I don't. But Mike Hawkes has been more successful, so see his report below in the Phycological Herbarium News. Nevertheless, it is time to bring you up to date on what we are trying to do and on our various research and collections initiatives.

The mission of the herbarium remains what it has always been. That doesn't sound very innovative, but our mission is ETERNALLY CORRECT (3 levels higher than politically correct) so it doesn't need changing. For innovation, I've put it in a box:

The Mission of the UBC Herbarium:
1. preserve plant biodiversity collections and make them available for research internationally. 
2. pursue scientific research using our collections and our expertise. 
3. provide public service to the community. 
4. provide learning resources in the University and community.

Within the next decade, there is no reason why the UBC Herbarium cannot become the largest and most productive in Canada, and north of Berkeley and west of Missouri, for that matter. To accomplish this we must concentrate on the five focuses of Trek 2000, UBC's Vision for the 21st century: people, learning, community, research, and internationalization. In regard to people, our initial efforts should be to improve support and facilities for people who work in or use the herbarium, and get more staff positions. For learning and community, we should start by expanding access to our learning resources to the community through collaboration with the UBC Botanical Garden and local Colleges and University Colleges. In research we need to initiate projects we are uniquely qualified to pursue or use our collections, or which meet community needs or support international and local efforts at biodiversity conservation. For internationalization, we have international expertise and collections in bryophytes, algae, and some groups of vascular plants, and need to expand our opportunities and impact in the study and conservation of plant biodiversity in Pacific Rim countries.

The Herbarium needs money to fulfill its mission to its maximum potential. Rightly or wrongly, I have made my first priority to search for additional money for the Herbarium to carry out its mission. This is not easy, as there are no normal sources of funding available for herbaria or for most herbarium research. I have noticed that herbaria which have been successful and grown are those that embark on worthwhile projects, and aggressively get support for those projects from a wide variety of sources. My strategy is to try to think of good projects that fulfill our mission and UBC's vision, and to try to get money wherever I can think of. This includes the University, governments, foundations, corporate donors, and private donors. One innovative way we can express our appreciation for major gifts from patrons will be to name a newly discovered plant species after them, or whomever they wish to commemorate.

We have shown that we can successfully complete research projects that utilize our collections and expertise for the benefit of the community. In the recently concluded Lower Fraser Basin Eco-Research Project, two projects used herbarium specimens as their source of data. Helen Kennedy, Frank Lomer, and I documented extinctions of native species and invasions of alien species in the Fraser Valley over the past century. Botany graduate student Ute Pott analyzed heavy metals from moss specimens to monitor air pollution in the Fraser Valley over time. Dr. Michael Healey, director of the Project, said in the Vancouver Sun, September 26, 1997, that these two herbarium based studies were two of the three most significant results of the whole project. We are pleased that the Herbarium scored two out of three even though we had only about 4% of the total budget of the project.

We have several projects for which we are seeking funding. Two involve maintenance of current collections:

Fireproof Specimen Cases: On her visit to the Botany Department, UBC President Martha Piper was concerned that the herbarium collections were kept mostly in wooden cases and shoeboxes, and would be destroyed in a fire. A committee she instigated has determined that it will cost a minimum of $180,000 to provide metal fireproof cases for the most vulnerable collections. We hope she can help.

Computerized specimen database: The goal is to have all the label data from all of our specimens in the computer and available on the internet for users anywhere in the world, to find specimens, print out distribution maps, or species lists.

Three projects are ongoing or partially completed research projects:
A Fraser Valley Flora: This book would allow easier, more accurate identification of plants by students, environmentalists, and resource managers, and provide a baseline for monitoring extirpation of species and alien introductions in an area undergoing great human disturbance.

Discovering and conserving endangered tropical rain forest prayer plants: Helen Kennedy, Curator of Vascular Plants has been asked to collaborate on the treatment of the family Marantaceae (prayer plants) for a Flora of the State of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. We would like to expand this to an innovative international effort to discover unknown species of prayer plants in the endangered Atlantic forests of Brazil and introduce them into cultivation before they become extinct.

Plant Evolution on Islands: The Botany Department is well known for research on Hawaiian plants. Research on the evolution of biodiversity on Pacific Ocean Islands has discovered a new species of Bidens of great scientific interest on Starbuck Island, a desert island with only about 12 kinds of plants growing on it. This species is biologically very interesting because it is unrelated to other Bidens on Pacific Islands.

One is a new project, first suggested by Dr. Neil Towers, that meets an important community and national need, and would expand our collections:
A Chinese Medicinal Herb Collection: Chinese medicinal herbs are a big business in British Columbia, but they are often misidentified, faked, or dangerously adulterated. No one in Canada has the ability to identify them because there are no authentic reference collections of the plants and unprocessed drugs.
The plan is that the herbarium can acquire needed equipment, people, and space from the funding for one or more of these projects, and the projects are worth doing. We'll see if it works.

UBC Chronicle article about the UBC Herbarium

Watch for the next issue of UBC Chronicle, published by the UBC Alumni Association. It should be out in early July, with an article about the UBC Herbarium. If you don't get the UBC Chronicle, and would like a copy, call, write, or e-mail the Herbarium.

Bryophyte and Lichen Herbarium News

Curator Wilf Schofield has been busy, leading a bryophyte workshop on Vancouver Island for 19 people in May, and in June flew to the Queen Charlotte Islands to testify against draining Takakia Lake. Takakia Lake is the type locality for a species of lichen, and named for the mystery plant Takakia, which had been considered a moss, a liverwort, and an alga at various times, because its sporophyte had never been seen. It is now known to be a moss. Wilf also obtained $4000 to buy the Merlin SQL Database program for the Bryophyte and Lichen database from René Belland at the Univ. of Alberta. The program was more or less specifically developed for bryophytes.

Patrick Williston, a botany graduate student, is working part-time accessioning Dr. Willa Noble's lichen collection. His salary is paid from The Bryophyte and Lichen Fund administered by the Vancouver Foundation, an endowment donated by Peggy Schofield.

Two graduate students from other institutions are or have recently spent time using the collections: Karen Galinsky from the Univ. of Victoria is studying Sphagnum, and Taro Asada from the Univ. of Waterloo came for some intensive bryophyte training.

Phycological Herbarium News

--- from Mike Hawkes

Gwaii Haanas National Park Reserve requested electronic copies of all seaweed and seagrass specimen records for Haida Gwaii (the Queen Charlotte Islands). Parks Canada is paying the Phycological Herbarium $5000 for this information. Parks Canada is working to establish National Marine Conservation Areas in British Columbia and is interested in an ongoing partnership with the Phycological Herbarium to provide specimen records, to accession specimens collected from National Marine Conservation Areas, and to collaborate on research projects.

Dr. Sandra Lindstrom, Honorary Research Associate, is collaborating with Dr. Gayle Hansen of the Hatfield Marine Science Center, Oregon State University, to produce a database of all marine algal records from Alaska. This project is funded by the US National Science Foundation's Biotic Survey and Inventory Program, and is scheduled to continue through January 2001. The specimen table currently has 14,176 records, and there are 1428 names in the name table. The final product will be an internet-accessible database of records of benthic marine algae from Alaska, and will form the basis for a funding proposal for a Flora of the Benthic Marine Algae of Alaska. The UBC Herbarium has the single largest collection of Alaskan seaweeds in the world.

More than 25 visitors came to the herbarium this year so far to use the facilities or with requests for algal identification.

The Herbarium Fund

--- from Fred Ganders

With the help of the Faculty of Science Development Officer, Hales Jones, we have set up The Herbarium Fund, an account to accept donations or grants to support the work of the Herbarium and specific herbarium projects. Hales is working with me to try to get donations from corporate donors, and to get our projects on the priority list for University fundraising. Last November Wilf Schofield, Curator of Bryophytes, and I "volunteered" to call alumni for donations as part of the University's telephone campaign. I don't like it when I get telephone calls begging for money, and I don't like to do it to other people. So I'd like to thank everyone I called for not yelling at me. I enjoyed talks with several people, former students as well as people I've never met. Thanks especially to the 13 people who donated a total of $913, and were the first Charter Donors to The Herbarium Fund. I have been unable to get a list of the donors in time for this newsletter but will hopefully have it for the next.

The Ultimate Vision

Big dreams require dedicated people willing to invest their time when the chances of success seem far away. The dream is a biodiversity collections centre housing herbarium and zoological collections and research and learning resources at UBC, with a data network and reference collections throughout the Province. The first stage is to get funding for technical personnel, the second stage to get a building, perhaps the old Agriculture Canada facilities or a new $40 million building. Dr. Tony Sinclair, director of the Centre for Biodiversity Research at UBC has prepared a proposal for stage one that is now rated on the A list for Faculty of Science fundraising. Dr. Geoff Scudder is a main advocate, and Dr. Iain Taylor, after he steps down as Botany head in July, will dedicate himself to working on the second stage proposal. The plan is based on the recommendations of the collections workshop he organized in February 1998.

Herbarium People

There are more staff and volunteers in the Herbarium than you might think. The following is, I hope, a current, comprehensive list. We are especially grateful to our numerous volunteers, who perform many needed tasks. You may note that some people have the title Honorary. That means they are not paid by UBC, but do these jobs out of the goodness of their hearts. It doesn't mean that they get all the honor and someone else does the work!

Head, Department of Botany: Dr. Iain E. P. Taylor
Herbarium Committee: Dr. Mary Berbee, Dr. Bruce A. Bohm, Dr. Fred R. Ganders, Dr. Michael Hawkes, Dr. Wilf Schofield, Dr. Jeanette Whitton
Director of the Herbarium: Dr. Fred R. Ganders, Professor of Botany
Emeritus Director and Emeritus Curator of algae: Dr. Robert F. Scagel

Curator of living collections: Carol Ann Borden, Senior Instructor in Botany
Curator of algae: Dr. Michael Hawkes, Senior Instructor in Botany
Curator of lichens: Trevor Goward, Clearwater, BC, Honorary Research Associate
Curator of fungi: Dr. Mary Berbee, Assistant Professor of Botany
Emeritus Curator of fungi: Dr. Robert Bandoni, Emeritus Professor of Botany
Curator of bryophytes: Dr. Wilf Schofield, Emeritus Professor of Botany
Curator of vascular plants: Dr. Helen Kennedy, Honorary Research Associate

Technical Staff:
Olivia Lee, Julie Oliveira, Chris Wulff (a summer career placement undergraduate student), Carla Rydholm (part-time), Patrick Williston (graduate student part-time worker)

Dr. Sandra Lindstrom, Honorary Research Associate
Frank Lomer, Honorary Research Associate
Bob Bandringa (work study student last year, now mounting his own collections [which are beautifully pressed], so I guess now he's a volunteer)
Stephanie Chan (specimen mounting)
Andrew MacDougall (specimen mounting)

The following volunteers are FOGS, Friends Of the Garden (the UBC Botanical Garden), who mount specimens for the Herbarium:
Vivian Glyn-Jones
Mildred Greggor
Audrey May
Marilyn Plant
Jane Woolnough

Back to ....
Return to the ....

© Beaty Biodiversity Museum - UBC