Administrative Curator, Herbaria, Libraries & Archives
I’ve been captivated by plants since my first gardening plot at Heatherdown School in the late 70’s. I later was assigned gardening tasks as ‘punishment’ at Charterhouse school in the 80’s. Over the years I have moved from living to preserved collections but still keep one foot in each field. I have worked in commercial horticulture, historic gardens and the nursery/landscape business for over 15 years and moved into collections administration and management 14 years ago after pursuing a botany focused direction at University.
One of my landscape projects as a freelance landscaper was the construction of this terraced garden in Godalming using local bargate stone. The problem with this project was access to remove 25 six tonne skips to take out about 150 tonnes of spoil by buckets and wheel barrows down many flights of stairs to create the terraces. All top soil was reused and a further 50 tonnes went up hill to level the lawn. This garden has many themes but had to be sensitive to native, semi ancient woodland above and becomes less formal the further you head up the hillside culminating in a woodland garden.
I came to U. C. Berkeley from the University of Connecticut, Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology where I was the Scientific Collections Manager in the Herbarium but in addition became the Curator of the Campus Arboretum. At UConn I moved and rearranged the herbarium and introduced a new phase of specimen digitization, including type specimens, relational links to protologues, collectors, loans and high resolution images. I have pursued a similar direction at Berkeley. I still maintain close links with UConn and facilitated the CONN herbarium to utilize BerkeleyMapper to map georeferenced specimens.
Prior to UConn I worked at Denver Botanic Gardens as a Horticultural Taxonomist and Plant Records Manager, which involved completely redeveloping the gardens labeling system and the crucial database behind it. This involved working closely with the horticulturists responsible for gardens records. Before moving to the United States I enjoyed brief spells at the Royal Horticultural Society’s Department of Botany at Wisley. While there I worked on their horticultural database to develop natural language descriptions for layman and professional descriptions of plants using the DEscription Language for TAxonomy (DELTA). At Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew I worked on the International Plant Names Project correcting typographical errors in plant names that resulted from early OCR errors.
Since moving to U. C. Berkeley I have expanded and funded our digitization and curatorial activities beyond California. Starting with our type specimen project shortly after my arrival, the herbaria now has digitized over 10,000 types. All of these are linked to protologues at the JStor Plant Science website.
I am fascinated with the wealth of archival materials at Berkeley that not only pertain to botany, but also transcend it in many areas. This led me to obtain funding to document these unique and hidden resources. Assisted by the wealth of institutional knowledge our successful application led to the creation of our on-line archives catalog, the creation of an archivist/librarian position and a new era for the use of our archives in conjunction with our specimens. This year the Institute of Museum and Library Services funded compactor shelving for our library and archives. I am currently moving and rearranging the collections to temporary storage with the help of our Librarian. This will provide much needed space and access for our collections.
Collecting on Brooks Island as part of a Bay Area Island Flora to collect plants from locally under collected localities in the San Francisco bay, particularly Islands like Alcatraz but also Brooks Island, and East Marin Island. The island is noticeable as having the last vestige of flora that the east bay shore vegetation had before development.
Our vascular plants have received a lot of support over the last twenty years. However our cryptogammic collections are now receiving the attention they deserve with multiple National Science Foundation grants funding seaweed, lichen, bryophyte and macrofungi imaging and digitization. This has led to revising our workflows and procedures, some of which have been in place for decades. It also made necessary the complete redesign of our database, something with which I am intimately involved. Working with our CollectionSpace partners and Berkeley Information Services and Technology, we are using the above projects to test and develop the new system to replace our old database.
The University & Jepson Herbaria continue to grow and I have overseen the acquisition and integration of a number of collections over the last 6 years. This began in 2006 with the second half of the Los Angeles County Museum cryptogams, swiftly followed by the historic Charterhouse School Herbarium (GOD) and the collections of numerous private collections and smaller orphaned herbaria.
Holding some of the folios from the Charterhouse School Herbarium. The collections date from the 1790’s up to the first world war and contain vouchers from the UK, South Africa, and western North America. Behind me is a painting of Old Carthusian, Lord Baden-Powell who founded the scouting movement and was one of the first Charterhouse Museum committee members.
Giving a herbarium tour to participants of the 2011 Society for the Preservation of Natural History Collections (SPNHC). I give numerous tours every year to diverse groups from landscape architects to prospective students. In addition to tours and presentations I organize the highly successful seminar series “Botany Lunch” with a diverse range of weekly talks during semesters.
Due to the administrative activities of my position and hands on roles I play in projects I have to restrict my research interests to a limited amount of time. Traditionally this has been in the taxonomy/documentation of cultivated plants but has moved into Bay Area island flora and the history of natural history. Currently I am 1st Vice President of the California Botanical Society and am helping to organize our centenary celebrations and getting our journal Madroño scanned and linked to the many type specimens on the JStor Plant Science website mentioned above.
What I like most about working for the University & Jepson Herbaria is promoting the collections to a diverse range of users, from systematists to civil war researchers. We could never have predicted 100 years ago that specimens would now be used for molecular and climate change studies and using these collections we really can go back in time to observe historical changes in the flora. My goals at Berkeley are to integrate these collections internally and externally worldwide to provide tools for wider exposure of our collections to a diverse range of people and uses.