Samara University to Place Largest Collection of Volga-Urals Region Plants Online
The University’s E-herbarium will be a part of the global electronic database of the Earth’s biodiversity
Samara National Research University will place online its electronic herbarium – a virtual copy of the largest collection of plants in the Volga-Urals Region. The University’s specialists have started digitizing the collection’s repositories which took more than half a century to assemble. The plan till year end is to create an online portal to place the e-herbarium collections.
"Overall, Samara University herbarium repositories contain more than 35 thousand sheets. Our collection consists of about 2000 plant species of Volga-Urals Region that includes the territories of the Samara Oblast, partially Bashkiria, Tatarstan, Ulyanovsk and Orenburg Oblast. Samara University’s E-herbarium will be available on the Internet and become a part of the global electronic database of the Earth’s biodiversity. The herbarium has already been registered in the Index Herbariorum* international system and attributed an international acronym (letter code) – SMR", - says Ludmila Kavelenova, Head of the Department of Botany, Ecology and Nature Protection of Samara University.
Digitization is performed with a tablet scanner intended for high resolution scanning of flora and fauna resources. Prior to scanning, each herbarium sheet is overlaid with a reference color scale (to control quality of color transfer by the scanner), a straight scale (for visual assessment of size) and a unique bar code containing information for the specific herbarium specimen. Scanning of one sheet takes about two minutes and has a resolution of at least 600 pixels per inch. The size of the resulting digital image amounts to 200–500 Mb. The scan’s level of detail captures every filament or fiber of the plant.
In the E-herbarium portal, each scanned sheet will be complemented with photographs of plants in their natural habitats and ample information for reference.
"The herbarium specimen scan is important, but so are the photographs made in the natural environment; they provide scientists with the indispensable information. The problem is that a herbarium specimen can be vastly different from a live plant. For instance, drying can make the plant darker due to the internal oxidation. A herbarium specimen is also not representative of the plant’s behavior when alive: whether it creeps, rambles, or rises upwards", - explains Irina Sharonova, Candidate of Biological Sciences who is in charge of the herbarium.
The global electronic catalogue of plants will also use space and satellite technology: the E-herbarium will contain precise geodata of locations where the represented species grow.
"The E-herbarium database will include an array of parameters: kind of plant, its Russian and international Latin name, when and where it was collected, who collected it and who identified it. We also add data of GPS coordinates of the place where the plant was picked. The geodata will help build a propagation map of the plant species in a certain region, find out which species are becoming rare and which are repopulated, inter alia through efforts of Samara reintroduction biologists, like fern leaf peony", - says Tatyana Korchikova, fellow researcher of the Department of Botany, Ecology and Nature Protection
* Index Herbariorum is a global catalogue of herbaria providing online access to the data of 3,100 herbaria worldwide, holding about 390 million plant specimens.