Director's Update

EuphorbiaAfter six years at the University of Michigan, I am about to embark on a sabbatical leave, and we welcome Associate Professor Christopher Dick, who will be interim director for the 2012-13 academic year.

During this period, the main change here has been organizational, with the Herbarium becoming a part of the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, rather than an independent unit within LSA. We have seen the Varsity Drive facility enhanced by the construction of modern facilities to house the alcohol collections of the Museum of Natural History, and we anticipate further changes resulting from plans to completely renovate the Ruthven Building on campus and move additional natural history collections to our building.

Internally, we have focused on enhancing our collections and access to them. This began with an award from the Mellon Foundation to make high-resolution scans of our nearly 20,000 ‘type’ collections, those which are specially designated to represent new species when they are described and published. Then we received a six-year award from the National Science Foundation to conduct a global inventory of the spurges, or the genus Euphorbia, which is the second largest genus of flowering plants with over 2,000 species. This has involved a team of workers across the globe, with additional field collecting, molecular sequencing, and taxonomic revisions of this very complex genus. Recently, we have received three new subawards from the National Science Foundation to digitize important parts of our collections, such as North American lichens and bryophytes, most of our fungal specimens, and several families of flowering plants that from part of a plant-herbivore-parasitoid system.

On the local front, Curator Tony Reznicek culminated many years of revision of the Michigan and Great Lakes flora by publishing with Ed Voss the new Field Manual of Michigan Flora, a complete update on the earlier 3-volume Michigan Flora of Ed Voss. Sadly, Dr. Voss passed away in February of 2012, just as the book was being released. As a complement to the printed volume, a new web site for the Michigan flora was also created (Michiganflora.net), with considerable help from Collections Manager Beverly Walters. This site provides additional information and photographs to complement the new Field Manual and is being constantly updated. Bev Walters has also been collaborating the past two years on a project with the Matthaei Botanical Gardens and Nichols Arboretum to make a floristic census of all their land holdings in the Ann Arbor area, and Tony Reznicek has been an important partner with the Garden to help develop their new Great Lakes Garden facility.

Paul E. BerryIn these important ways, we continue to contribute to improving our knowledge about our local and global knowledge of plants and fungi, and we are developing plans to take us forward in the study of tropical tree diversity using novel identification techniques and DNA barcoding technology.

Please continue to follow us and support us as we strive to keep the University of Michigan Herbarium a major player in global plant research and an important element in our students’ education.

Paul E. Berry, Director