Presenting undergraduate research at the SPNHC 2019 conference

The Metzgar lab at SPNHC 2019: (L-R) Allen Milby, Erin Quesenberry, Ksenia Pereverzeva, Jordan Metzgar, Amber Reaney, Jake Riney.

The Metzgar lab at SPNHC 2019: (L-R) Allen Milby, Erin Quesenberry, Ksenia Pereverzeva, Jordan Metzgar, Amber Reaney, Jake Riney.

Curator Jordan Metzgar and his undergraduate researchers attended and presented their research at the SPNHC 2019 conference. This meeting focuses on natural history collections and my students were active in the Natural History Collections Club workshop and symposium.

The conference was in Chicago and we enjoyed exploring the Windy City. We visited Cloud Gate (aka, the Bean), had deep-dish pizza at Navy Pier, strolled along the river walk, and had dinner in Chinatown.

We attended the NHCCN workshop in the Field Museum on Monday. Jordan and Erin helped lead one session on the mechanics of forming a club. The workshop was in the Field Museum so it was a great chance to see Sue the T. rex and other exhibits!

The rest of the conference was in Chicago Hilton. Four students (Allen Milby, Erin Quesenberry, Ksenia Pereverzeva, and Jake Riney) presented their research in the Natural History Collections Club symposium and one student, Amber Reaney, gave a five minute Specimen Spotlight on fatal fungi. The students did an awesome job on their presentation and engaged the audience, with lots of questions and twitter buzz about their presentations! (Tweet, another tweet, another another tweet, yet more tweets!)

We had lots of fun times in the down time of the conference too—from driving the 600+ miles in a huge rental car to hanging out in our airBnB after practicing talks in the evening.

Good times in the airBnB!

Good times in the airBnB!

Our SPNHC pit crew!

Our SPNHC pit crew!

Combining illustration and identification at our Bryophyte workshop

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Our first workshop covered the identification and illustration of mosses, liverworts, and hornworts this past spring break. We hosted Dr. Blanka Aguero from Duke University to assist participants with learning local bryophyte species and identification techniques.

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The following day we hosted Lara Call Gastinger to demonstrate illustration methods for mosses. Students also had the opportunity to learn pen and watercolor illustration methods.

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Giant hogweed in the news!

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Last week I helped to confirm the ID of Virginia's first population of giant hogweed (Heracleum mantegazzianum) in Clarke County. The Facebook post about it has exploded and made its way all over the internet! We were a small part of the team that identified it--the landowner's report was made to their local master gardener's chapter and the local extension agent. They reported the sighting to VT's Weed Clinic, who asked for my help in ID'ing the plants. Confirmation was also made by botanists at the UNC herbarium, Derick Poindexter and Dr. Alan Weakley.

If you think you have giant hogweed on your property there is actually a good chance that you have the more widespread, native plant cow parsnip (Heracleum maximum). It can still cause a rash but not as severe as giant hogweed. Check this ID guide to see if your plant might be giant hogweed. If you still think you have giant hogweed, take detailed photographs and contact your local extension agent or the Virginia Dept. of Agriculture and Consumer Affairs.

Please visit this VT News media advisory for details, quotes, and video of me discussing this development!

VT News: Virginia Tech scientists who identified dangerous Giant Hogweed in Clarke County hopeful that it will be contained

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Holiday Herbarium tea!

We enjoyed our last Herbarium tea of 2017 this past Friday. Our theme was holiday plants so we had specimens and displays of notable holiday plants like poinsettias, holly, and mistletoe! I was surprised to learn that mistletoe is quite rare in the area with only one known population in the Montgomery & Giles Counties area.

My highlight of the event was hearing faculty and students connect with each other for the first time and discover ways they could collaborate or help each other!

We also featured Christmas tree ID!

Thanks to all who attended!

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Fall foliage at the Science Festival!

We participated in the VT Science Festival on Saturday, Nov. 4 and talked botany with some of the over 5,000 attendees!

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Our table featured three activities. The Wheel of Destiny had a fall foliage theme and taught players the major pigments responsible for our colorful autumn leaf displays.

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We also had a make-your-own-specimen station for kids to make their very own museum specimen to take home! These pint-sized versions included leaf or flower samples and ID labels for kids to arrange and glue down.

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And don't forget the Selfie Frame! It got a lot of use throughout the day by attendees both young and old.

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A full house at our specimen transcription day!

We had a full house with 15 volunteers at the Massey Herbarium's first specimen transcription event last Friday. Our event was part of the four-day global WeDigBio initiative. By transcribing specimen labels from photographs, volunteers can unlock these data and make them available for anyone to use online. Volunteers at universities and museums on four continents combined to transcribe over 19,000 specimens during the event.

Brian and Rebecca celebrate finding the oldest specimen of the day (1891).

Brian and Rebecca celebrate finding the oldest specimen of the day (1891).

Our volunteers contributed over 550 of those specimen transcriptions. We had a diverse pool of volunteers, with many Master Naturalists attending. Virginia Tech undergrads arrived in force too, with many Natural History Collections Club members and two students from the Corps of Cadets. Virginia Tech staff were represented by the University Library's Biological Sciences Liaison Ginny Pannabecker.

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Some of the highlights on the day included finding several specimens from the 1800s, including  one sheet from 1891! Our funniest locality was definitely the flower from "Lick Skillet!"

We finished the event with our second Herbarium Tea. Volunteers and other Biological Sciences members enjoyed tea, coffee, and baked goods while we celebrated our progress. 

Want to help out too? Visit our expedition here and start transcribing!

Drs. Martha Muñoz, Ginny Pannabecker, and Jim Tokuhisa engaged in discussion during the tea. 

Drs. Martha Muñoz, Ginny Pannabecker, and Jim Tokuhisa engaged in discussion during the tea. 

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Tom Wieboldt leading a tour for a cadet.

Tom Wieboldt leading a tour for a cadet.

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Undergrads help handle our specimen backlog!

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Yesterday we had thirteen VT students from the Natural History Collections Club attend a work night at the Massey Herbarium! The students helped with mounting specimens from our backlog and preparing material for mini-specimens for an outreach event. After pizza of course!

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Students prepared hundreds of samples for mini-specimens! These will be used in a hands-on activity at the VT Science Festival.

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And we set up an assembly line for mounting plant specimens for our collection!

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Some of the finished products! The mounted specimens are ready to be databased, imaged, and filed. The boxes of flowers are ready for kids to make their own mini-specimens!

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Plant pressing, hot tea, and good times at the first herbarium tea!

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The Massey Herbarium hosted its first herbarium tea last Friday! Over 50 people from several departments attended and enjoyed tea, coffee, cake, and a plant pressing demonstration.

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Attendees were given a tour of the collection and a chance to see some of our more unusual specimens, including a sample from 1829.

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Curator Jordan Metzgar gave a demonstration of plant pressing techniques for the crowd.

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Our Specimen Selfie Station was popular!

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People were particularly impressed by the beauty of this yellow lady slipper specimen.

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Thanks to Dr. Brenda Winkel, Gloria Schoenholtz, and Lindsay Key for photos! More images are on our facebook post.

First meeting of the Natural History Collections Club!

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The Massey Herbarium was proud to host the first meeting of the student-led VT Natural History Collections Club last night. 15 students and two curators attended the meeting, led by president Erin Quesenberry.

The students discussed natural history collections and their interest in helping collections. They then toured the herbarium and particularly enjoyed seeing our oldest specimen (1829), specimens of extinct species, and hallucinogenic mushrooms.

Students also enjoyed the pizza and the Specimen Selfie Station!

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We're a regional herbarium with a global impact

Figure legend: Transfers of specimens to the Massey Herbarium (maroon lines) and from the Massey Herbarium (orange lines) are shown. The top image shows a closer detail of transfers within North America. The bottom image shows global transfers. The lines are unweighted, so a single line can represent from 1 to 14 transfers. 

Figure legend: Transfers of specimens to the Massey Herbarium (maroon lines) and from the Massey Herbarium (orange lines) are shown. The top image shows a closer detail of transfers within North America. The bottom image shows global transfers. The lines are unweighted, so a single line can represent from 1 to 14 transfers. 

The Massey Herbarium is referred to as a regional herbarium. Our size (115,000 specimens) means that our collections are centered on Virginia and the southeastern USA. Larger herbaria (millions of specimens) can have global representation in their collections.

This doesn't mean the Massey Herbarium doesn't pull its weight globally! I looked at our specimen transfers over the last twenty years. These transfers include instances when we participated in loans or exchanges with other institutions. We have worked with herbaria, museums, universities, and research centers on five continents and 12 countries! Our publication record is even more impressive, but that will wait for a future blog post!