Royal Ontario Museum



[Museum] Approaches to the Study of Biodiversity


T. A. Dickinson Lectures and labs, 3 October - 19 October 2011


3 October - (Please note change of venue this day only) Tour of the ROM Green Plant Herbarium (meet in the ROM Mammalogy classroom). See also: "Bringing Biodiversity Data Online, One Leaf At A Time" [but NB, Index Herbariorum would have told the author that there are more than 37 herbaria worldwide]

  5 October - Lecture - Plants and their classification  

5 October - Lab: Herbarium vouchers, phylogenetic studies, and classification

  10 October - No Class (Thanksgiving Holiday)  
  12 October - Lecture - (Please note change of venue this day only to RW107) Plants online: data retrieval and identification tools  

12 October - Lab: Online access to specimen and taxon data

  17 October - Lecture - Uses of plant specimens and specimen data (1)  
  19 October - Lecture - Uses of plant specimens and specimen data (2)  

19 October - Lab: Herbarium research


Your assignment for these lectures will be due at 1300h on Wednesday, 26 October 2011. For this assignment you are to investigate the species (or perhaps the genus) that you were assigned on 5 October, (a) using the resources discussed on 12 October in the lecture and lab. In addition (b), you are to suggest possible research projects that could be done on your species (or perhaps the genus) using exclusively data from herbarium specimens and databases. The lectures on 17 and 19 October, as well as the lab that week, will aim to show you some of the kinds of research that have been done in this way. Please be sure to fully cite all of the resources you use in completing this assignment.

The past few lectures and labs should provide you with enough information to write complete this assignment; you don’t have to do much more research after yesterday. It might help to think of this assignment as a research proposal or the introduction, or materials and methods, section of a scientific paper. In any event, your assignment should have the following structure.

Introduction (1 paragraph) - Your topic sentence/thesis statement: what particular aspect of herbaria and online resources that you are about to discuss in the following paragraphs

In the one or two paragraphs discuss aspects (or an aspect) of herbaria, specimen databases, and/or other online resources. Questions you may want to address could include (1) Where is information on plants found? (2) What are the different types of resources? (3) How do different databases that provide similar types of information compare (accessibility? purpose? type of information provided?)? What data are supplied, where do they come from, and how reliable are they?

Then move on to your assigned species, and a research question related to it (1 paragraph). Some points to include could be a brief description of relevant biology (as it relates to the question you are going to ask), and what you learned in your experience in the herbarium yesterday. You might write about the question you worked on in the herbarium yesterday, and how that leads to your proposal here. Present your research question and your hypothesis.

In the one or two further paragraphs outline your research project, clearly explaining how it will employ herbarium samples and, if necessary, related online resources. Something we did not have a chance to discuss very much was the issue of destructive sampling; few curators or collection managers will agree to let researchers destroy museum specimens for their studies. How will your methods address this concern? Briefly describe the data you would collect and how they would help answer your question. Can you envision potential limitations of the data provided by herbarium specimens? How might you address these, or work around them? Discuss possible alternate outcomes of the study and how you might interpret these results.

Close with one paragraph of summary and conclusions.

Please note that the due date for this assignment has been move back to 1300h on Wednesday, 26 October 2011. Please e-mail your assignment directly to TAD, or give it to Ilke Van Hazel in class that day.

Additional note: marking of this assignment will be based not only on the information you obtain but also on the way in which you critically evaluate that information and the tool used to provide it.


| The ROM Green Plant Herbarium | Plants and their Classification | Plants online | Uses of Plant Specimens |
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