The Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University in Philadelphia is one of the participants in the Mid-Atlantic Megalopolis Project that aims to put a centuries-old plant collection online, writes Susan Phillips for WLRN.
For centuries, explorers, scientists, and amateur botanists traveled the country documenting and preserving plant species. The collections, once prized like fine art, were often bestowed to institutions with libraries of plants known as herbaria.
Over time, these collections fell out of favor, in part because they are difficult to access. But the new online database aims to change that.
Among the collections being catalogued online is the oldest herbarium in North America at Drexel University’s Academy. It has an estimated one and a half million plant species in its collection, with around 35,000 collected along the East Coast.
According to Rick McCourt, botany curator, its data could even raise the possibility of revitalizing extinct species through plant DNA.
“It’s more like a Jurassic Park dream,” said McCourt. “But DNA is DNA, who knows? Before 1952 we wouldn’t have known what DNA was, much less that you could get it out of museum specimens.”
Read more about the project at WLRN by clicking here.