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Research grant will enhance Herbarium at BHSU

Black Hills State University has been awarded a $499,844 grant by the National Science Foundation to study plants of this region and neighboring states.

According to Dr. Mark Gabel, Herbarium curator and professor emeritus at BHSU, the study will encompass plants from the Missouri Plateau which includes the western two-thirds of North Dakota and South Dakota, northern Nebraska, the eastern two-thirds of Montana and eastern Wyoming.

“The study area consists of approximately 1/12 of the land area of the continental United States, and is one of the botanically least known areas of the nation,” Gabel says.

Gabel explained that the goals of the work will be to verify identifications and further develop a database of all vascular plant specimens from the Missouri Plateau held by herbaria in the region and provide web access to data for all plant specimens.

BHSU personnel will capture data from smaller herbaria, coordinate the work and maintain the database. Principal investigators for the work include Curtis Card, database manager; Grace Kostel, Herbarium manager; and Mark Gabel, Herbarium curator. The construction of the database will be done with the help of undergraduate and graduate students in addition to professional botanists from 14 cooperating institutions.

The data will provide details about past environments, invasion of weedy species, and range of plant distributions. The database will be accessible to the general public at and to the world through the Global Biodiversity Information Facility.

The research will make knowledge of the flora of the area more accessible to researchers throughout the world. Regional land managers, native plant enthusiasts and the general public will be able to access this information. Workshops for middle school and secondary teachers as well as land managers are planned.

The BHSU Herbarium, located in Jonas Hall, has been housing plant specimens since the founding of the University in 1883 and now has approximately 45,000 plant specimens. The oldest specimen in the herbarium actually dates from 1877.

The Herbarium is a vital resource for the community. Staff members are often called upon to identify plants for government agencies, ranchers, gardeners, USDA Forest Service staff, Game Fish and Parks Department staff, county weed control officers, and curious citizens. Herbarium staff members are available to give presentations to a wide variety of groups including civic organizations, visiting student groups, USDA Forest Service groups or other audiences. For details or to visit the Herbarium call 642-6543.

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