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Online Access to the Plants of the World Is Available
WASHINGTON, DC.- For centuries, jungle explorers from Europe and North America have created art of the plants they discover—pressing bright flowers and green tendrils onto herbarium sheets for prestigious museums and plant collections. But scientists in the most biodiverse countries lack easy access to this basic information needed to identify plants. The Global Plants Initiative, meeting Jan. 11-13 at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute in Panama, catapults biodiversity research to a new level, sharing plant collections in a massive online database of high-resolution scans.

“In the past, when we wanted to confirm the identity of a plant collected in the field, we shipped samples to experts or travelled to herbaria—both extremely costly and impractical,” said Mireya Correa, staff scientist at STRI and professor of botany at the University of Panama. “New technological advances have put this information right at our fingertips on JSTOR—an online database of academic information.”

Turning a digital scanner upside down, a photographer at the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew, U.K., revolutionized digitalization of centuries-old plant specimens glued to brittle paper by suspending the scanner above them. By offering free scanners and training to major herbaria, the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation sponsored a project to make collections of African plants readily accessible even to botanists in the world’s most remote regions.

STRI is now a regional digitalization center for a Latin American Plants Initiative that coordinates scanning of specimens from herbaria that did not have collections large enough to qualify for their own scanner.

The Global Plants Initiative currently partners with 175 museums, universities and herbaria from 60 countries and is actively working to further extend participation. Its database holds almost 1.5 million images, among them 151,000 images of botanical artwork, photographs and reference materials. Nearly 7,500 new scanned objects arrive each week. Representatives from 36 countries will be present for the meeting at STRI.

“The Global Plants Initiative is a very big deal for anyone concerned with big questions that require going beyond analyses of individual sites,” said Helene Muller-Landau, an ecologist working with the 40 forest sites in 21 countries that form the Smithsonian’s Global Earth Observatory system. “One of the major problems with comparing data from different places is that the same species may be given one name in Brazil and another in Ecuador. Now, online plant specimens give all botanists access to the same references and should greatly increase the consistency and accuracy of species identifications.”

“This year we celebrate 100 years since Smithsonian scientists first surveyed the flora and fauna of Panama,” said Eldredge Bermingham, director of STRI. “Canopy cranes carry researchers into the treetops where the world’s insect biodiversity is found. Scientists who once studied animal behavior with binoculars now have satellite data on animal movement. The Global Plants Initiative, in conjunction with other new tools like genetic barcoding, will revolutionize plant biology—sharing information with countries where it was collected long ago.”





Today's News

January 12, 2011

Surreal $36 Million Salvador Dalí Museum Opens in New State of the Art Building in Florida

National Portrait Gallery Announces a Touring Exhibition "The Queen: Art and Image"

Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour Says It is Time to Build Civil Rights Museum

Italian Researcher Silvano Vinceti Claims He has Found Symbols in 'Mona Lisa'

Judge in New York Drops Claims in Shepard Fairey vs. Associated Press Obama 'HOPE' Lawsuit

Astronomers Release the Largest Digital Color Image of the Sky Ever Made

Banksy's Original Art Work for Greenpeace Campaign Poster Makes £78,000 at Bonhams

Masterpieces From the Alberto Della Regione Collection at the Estorick Collection

Italian Painter Marco Casentini's Signature Geometric Abstractions at Brian Gross Fine Art

Group of Important Works from 1963 and 1964 by Lee Lozano at Hauser & Wirth

Film Performance with Legendary Experimental Film-Maker Ken Jacobs at Moderna Museet

Smithsonian's National Museum of American History Collects Tony Hawk Skateboard

Longest Running Art Fair West of New York Celebrates Its 20th Anniversary, Opens January 13

Lizzie and Jonathan Tisch Make $10 Million Gift to Renovate Metropolitan's Costume Institute

Dennis Hopper's Bullet-Hole Andy Warhol Sells for $302,500 Today at Christie's

2011 AIA Institute Honor Awards Recognize Excellence in Architecture, Interiors, and Urban Design

Local Woman Immortalized in Bronze as Folkestone's Mermaid

Everson Museum of Art Launches New Interactive Website Component

Haggerty Museum of Art Receives Three Major Collections Valued at $1 Million

Researchers Find Earliest Known Winery in a Cave in the Mountains of Armenia

Bolstered by Strong Results, Art Experts Upbeat About London February Auctions

The Wapping Project Bankside Opens 2011 with Photographs by Christopher Thomas

A Blockbuster Two-Part Sale of European Masters Announced at Christie's New York

Rediscovered Self-Portrait by Andy Warhol to be Offered at Christie's in February

Miami International Art Fair to Kick Off on Thursday with 73 Local and International Exhibitors

Online Access to the Plants of the World Is Available

Christie's International Real Estate is New Name for World's Leading Network of Property Specialist

The Comité des Sages Calls for a "New Renaissance" by Bringing Europe's Cultural Heritage Online

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