Beneath the bleachers of Harder Stadium lies a dilapidated herbarium that will soon receive improved accommodations for its collection of over 100,000 plant specimens.
The collection, which is maintained by the Cheadle Center for Biodiversity and Ecological Restoration, is currently kept in deteriorated WWII-era cabinets and is at risk of damage from bug infestations, according to Faculty Director of CCBER Carla D’Antonio. Thanks to a $272,162 grant from the National Science Foundation — along with a $110,000 donation from Bill Cheadle — a new storage and classification system will be implemented to better protect and organize the specimens while also increasing the amount of space available for future samples.
“[The grant will go toward] improving the storage for the herbarium under Harder Stadium, the specimens are housed in cabinets [built in 1945],” D’Antonio said. “The new cabinets will prevent bug infestations and also shrink the amount of space [the collection] takes up, freeing up space we can use for other purposes.”
Vernon Cheadle, who served as UCSB’s chancellor from 1962-77, produced over 60,000 light microscope slides and collected over 5,000 plant samples during his career as a botanist, according to his son Bill Cheadle. The grant will help preserve his work for future scientists.
“This will provide critical funding to properly store and provide access to the herbarium collection,” Bill Cheadle said in a press release. “My father collected over 5,000 plants and produced over 60,000 light microscope slides during his long and distinguished career as a botanist. The compact storage system will provide access to interested scientists from all over the world to plant specimens for research, thus perpetuating his great legacy.”
The grant was made possible by the stimulus package put into place by the Obama administration, according to Jennifer Thorsch, the Katherine Esau Director of CCBER.
“Carla and I submitted the grant a year ago in July,” Thorsch said. “We received excellent reviews from the NSF on the grant, but we weren’t funded. … We received notice in May that, due to the stimulus package, there is new money that has been filtered to the NSF that allowed them to fund proposals that were next in line to be funded. We were fortunate to have been one of the grants.”
Over the next few months, the cabinets and the specimens contained within them will be taken out from under Harder Stadium and evaluated by students and faculty from CCBER. The samples will be checked for damage and itemized to better organize the collection, with a future goal being the uploading of the collection data to Specify, a Web-accessible database for searching museum collections.
While the collection is being reorganized, the new storage cabinets will be installed in the room under Harder Stadium, featuring a track system and tight-sealing doors to compact and protect the specimens. Thorsch said that the process may take up to two years.
Thorsch said the collection is one of a select few that is kept within a university and easily accessible to students and scientists alike.
“It’s a really important project,” Thorsch said in a press release. “This is a wonderful step in the right direction for a small university museum. … There are so many interesting questions that can be answered by preserved specimens.”
CCBER allows students and the public to visit the facility and view the specimens, and also offers internships for students interested in ecological restoration or biological collections.
More information can be found at http://ccber.lifesci.ucsb.edu.