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Drexel BEES Graduate Research Seminar: Mason Heberling, PhD
Start Date: 6/3/2021Start Time: 3:30 PM
End Date: 6/3/2021End Time: 5:00 PM

Event Description

Mason Heberling, PhD, Assistant Curator of Botany, Carnegie Museum of Natural History, Pittsburgh, PA


Rethinking the Herbarium Specimen

With over 390 million plant specimens collected by thousands of botanists over nearly five centuries in museums worldwide, herbaria (collections of preserved dead plants) comprise an enormous resource for understanding the world around us. Herbarium specimens are receiving unprecedented attention due to recently developed methods, new perspectives, and perhaps most notably, their increased accessibility through widespread digitization. While the longstanding functions of herbaria remain relevant in modern research, herbarium data are increasingly used in unanticipated ways, providing insights on environmental change otherwise not possible. I will discuss the past, present, and future of herbarium specimen use, supported by a review of over 13,000 herbarium-related studies from 1923-2017. Specimens are increasingly appreciated as temporally and spatially extensive sources of genotypic, phenotypic and biogeographic data. I will also highlight several unanticipated uses of specimens in global change research, including documenting trait changes in invasive plants, understanding impacts of climate change on flowering and leaf out times, and even using specimen roots to measure a century of soil microbial communities. As novel uses of specimens become more prevalent, new curatorial needs and perspectives need to be considered, including an open re-evaluation of the very collection event itself. The use of digital observations and community science platforms, such as iNaturalist, integrated with museum specimen data, provide a powerful approach to document and understand biodiversity change. As we enter the Anthropocene, herbaria have likewise entered a new era with enhanced scientific, educational, and societal relevance.


Mason Heberling is the Assistant Curator of Botany at Carnegie Museum of Natural History. He is a plant ecologist who studies the physiological ecology of temperate forest understory plants, especially in the context of non-native plant invasions and climate change. He earned a B.S. in biology from Penn State University and a PhD in biology from Syracuse University, studying understory shrub invasions in Eastern United States. He was a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Tennessee Knoxville. Heberling’s current research is aimed at understanding the local impacts of global environmental change on plants, including plant responses to climate change and biological invasions. These studies are either complemented by or directly rely upon herbarium specimens. Read more at masonheberling.com

Contact Information:
Name: Amanda Leslie
Email: bees@drexel.edu
Please email bees@drexel.edu for the Zoom link
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