Introduction to SERNEC
What is a Herbarium?
A herbarium is traditionally known as a collection of plant specimens used for teaching and research. Herbaria are important for preserving species data, for historical distribution information, and for comparative reference information. There are nearly 233 herbaria in the Southeast United States, and each one has its own particular scope and focus. Together, these herbaria house an almost complete representation of regional plant information.
What is SERNEC?
SERNEC (SouthEast Regional Network of Expertise and Collections) is a consortium of 233 herbaria in 13 states in the Southeast USA. We organized in 2006 and were supported for five years by the National Science Foundation as a Research Coordination Network (NSF RCN #0542320). Over this period of time, we engaged 165 herbaria scientists in workshops and training sessions to mobilize the community and promulgate best practices in biodiversity informatics science. We focused our efforts at building state level structure, by identifying state representatives and then developing a “hub and spoke” model for each state, with smaller collections in each state partnering with the larger or more active collections to increase efficiency of information flow and resource allocation. Most active herbaria have an affiliate community of professional scientists in their institutions and in the surrounding area. These are professional scientists from various fields of study in their home institutions, scientists in state or federal agencies or in corporations, along with amateur botanists, students and teachers. The name for our group, SERNEC: SouthEast Regional Network of Expertise and Collections, highlights the value of both the collections and this broad community of experts associated with the collections.
We are now organized as the Southeast Chapter of the Society of Herbarium Curators (SHC) and SERNEC is an ongoing project supported by the SE Chapter.
Three states (Georgia, Louisiana and Mississippi) and several herbaria have obtained NSF funding to support their digitization efforts.
GA-VSC Herbaria Collaborative: Phase I of a Statewide Consortium www.georgiaherbaria.org
Cyberflora Louisiana: A virtual herbarium for the state www.cyberfloralouisiana.com
Magnolia grandiFLORA: The digital herbarium for Mississippi www.mississippiplants.org
We have recently been funded by the NSF ADBC program as a Thematic Collections Network. That project is entitled “Digitization TCN: Collaborative Research: The Key to the Cabinets: Building and sustaining a research database for a global biodiversity hotspot. In this project we will partner with GEOLocate (http://www.museum.tulane.edu/geolocate/), Symbiota (http://symbiota.org/tiki/tiki-index.php), Notes from Nature (http://www.notesfromnature.org/), the Adler Museum (http://www.adlerplanetarium.org/), and the Texas Advanced Computing Center (https://www.tacc.utexas.edu/) to build a data pipeline to gather data from 106 herbaria in the SE USA, expose these data to portals that will empower SERNEC to put our community skillset to work using the latest photographing and information capture tools. We intend to utilize the SERNEC scientists to engage citizen scientists and students to assist in transcribing and georeferencing this large dataset.