Town & Gown: JSU Herbarium holds inaugural open house
By Ashley Siskey, Graduate Assistant in JSU’s Public Relations Office.

In May 2012, JSU’s Dr. Jimmy Triplett was awarded a three-year grant from the National Science Foundation to revitalize the JSU Herbarium. As curator of the herbarium, Dr. Triplett is thrilled to be hosting an open house showcasing the project’s progress on Thurs., Jan. 17, from 4 – 6 p.m. in room 144 of Martin Hall. Students, faculty, staff and members of the community are invited to attend.

“People outside of the scientific community will often ask ‘what is a herbarium?’ ” Dr. Triplett explains. “A herbarium is a reference collection, or library, of plant specimens. Our herbarium, one of the four largest in the state, is home to over 65,000 plant specimens that have been carefully pressed, dried and mounted on card stock. Herbaria are globally instrumental in helping scientists learn more about plant diversity and conservation.”

Refreshments will be provided by the JSU Earth Club and Tri-Beta, and herbarium staff will be facilitating tours. Tours will highlight new technology and new preservation hardware such as a mobile storage system with 48 double-capacity cases. Each case is able to hold over 2,000 specimens bringing the herbarium storage capacity to an impressive 100,000 specimens!

A new camera, copy stand and computers also bring the project up-to-date in a web-based learning culture. Over several months, the staff and several students have documented 10,000 plant specimens for internet databases like the Alabama Plant Atlas. They will continue to document until all 65,000-plus specimens have been processed.

Visitors will truly get to experience an active, science research museum. Parking for the event is located behind Martin Hall.

Visitors will also learn more about an upcoming initiative called Friends of the JSU Herbarium. This program will seek to provide the local community with botany activities such as wildflower hikes, special lectures and plant identification workshops. Membership-driven, Friends of the JSU Herbarium will play a role in helping to fund student research projects.

Francine Hutchinson, assistant curator, is dedicated to bringing attention to plants and conservation. She is passionate when she says, “The herbarium is a tremendous tool for teaching the academic and public communities the importance of plants in our lives.”

One role the herbarium plays in the regional community is partnering with JSU Field Schools to host botanical field trips for K-12 students. Students actively participate in plant identification and learn medicinal uses for plants, as well as hear local stories and folklore. Field trips are available to places such as Desoto Caverns and Cheaha Mountain, as well. For more information on K-12 field trips, contact Renee Morrison, assistant director for the JSU Field School at 256-782-5697.

The Herbarium staff looks forward to hosting colleagues, students and the community at the open house on Jan. 17.

Calling JSU home since the 1960’s, the herbarium is now better equipped to provide future generations access to natural history research.

For more information, please contact Dr. Triplett at jtriplett@jsu.edu or 256-782-5215.
© 2013