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If anyone has any spare time on their hands (perhaps while snowbound at home!) and would like to volunteer for a very worthwhile biodiversity project, try the herbaria@home documentation project. This aims to put details of museum plant collections onto an online database, and anyone can help from the comfort of their own computer.
During 2009 over 15,000 specimens were documented - representing a substantial and very much appreciated contribution of time and expertise by many volunteers. Data generated by the project is all freely accessible on the website, and has been contributed to external databases (for example the most recent update to the BSBI maps scheme database added 5,460 records from herbaria@home). The project is now nearing a total of 50,000 sheets documented, but there are thousands more specimen images yet to be worked on.
Over the course of next year work is planned with several regional herbaria to further expand the scope of the project - some work is already lined up, but if you know of museum or university collections that might like to collaborate with the project then please let herbaria@home know. Early in the new year, with the support of a grant from OPAL, we'll be working on improvements to the website software. In the short-term the focus will be to make the historical background information about collections and collectors more accessible and to improve the support and collaborative resources available to volunteers.
To find out more and to take part click on herbaria@home.