OSU Botanist Helps Build State-wide Plant Database

Carolyn Gonzales
Communication Services
Oklahoma State University
(405) 744-6260
February 10, 2003

Dr. Ron Tyrl, OSU botany professor, examines one of the plant specimens from OSUās Herbarium. Tyrl is working on a project that will create a database of all the stateās plant specimens from various state herbaria.
Dr. Ron Tyrl, OSU botany professor and curator of OSUās Herbarium, is a co-principal investigator on a $250,000 grant recently received from the Biological Research Collections Program of the National Science Foundation.

The money will be used to develop a centralized database and associated website that contains information about approximately 350,000 specimens of plants located in several state herbaria.

A herbarium is a collection of dried and pressed plants that are classified, mounted and used for botanical study. The stateās largest herbaria are located at OSU and the University of Oklahoma.

Dr. Bruce Hoagland, with OUās Geography Department and the Oklahoma Biological Survey, is principal investigator on the project.

Tyrl and his co-investigators have been working on computerizing this plant information for several years. They already have created an electronic database that contains information on about 80,000 of the stateās plant specimens.

When the database is complete, researchers will no longer have to travel to various herbaria across the state to locate specimen information for their work.

Tyrl says plant specimens will first be taken to OU for data entry by trained undergraduate and graduate students. Later, data entry also will be done at OSU.

In addition to the electronic database and website, Tyrl says the accumulated information will be published in a book, titled ćAtlas of the Flora of Oklahoma.ä

This three-year cooperative effort between OU, OSU and other herbarium curators will provide a database of valuable invaluable information for scientists, governmental planners and the general public.

The database can be used to guide biological survey activities and to help track rare and endangered plants. It can also be used with geographical information system databases and help to distribute information about Oklahomaās biodiversity quickly and automatically.

When completed, the project will provide one of few databases in the country that encompasses an entire stateās collections of plant specimens. Tyrl says it will serve as a model for others.

For information about this page, send e-mail to Carolyn Gonzales.

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