Herbarium Intensive – BIOL 393

Course Description

BIOL 393:  Special Topics in Biology:  Plant Biodiversity – Digitization of the Vassar College Herbarium. (0.5 or 1 unit, ungraded)
Herbaria, collections of pressed and dried plants, are important for documenting plant biodiversity and for understanding how plant biogeography has changed over time.  Advances in digital imaging, data capture, and georeferencing of herbarium specimens have made herbaria especially valuable for studies of the effects of climate change on plant distributions, flowering times, etc., and for pinpointing introductions and tracing the spread of invasive plant species.  The Vassar College Herbarium houses over 15,000 specimens, with some dating to the mid 1800’s and many collected by Vassar faculty and students.  With support from the Advancing Digitization of Biological Collections program of the National Science Foundation, we are making a concerted effort to digitize our herbarium.  In this intensive you learn how to prepare and care for herbarium specimens, make digital images of them, geo-reference them, and digitize label data.  You also learn how to apply the international rules for assuring that each plant species has only one accepted scientific name, the science behind plant classification, and why the correct name and classification for a species can change.  Those electing a full unit conduct a mini-curation project on a specific set of specimens within our herbarium, researching the person(s) who collected those specimens and why they were collected, and preparing a description of the collection to go online.  Relevant prior course work, e.g. BIOL 208, BIOL 241, ENST 124, is desirable but not required.  Special permission.  Mark Schlessman.


Current & Past Students


Spring 2021

Alison Carranza 2023.  Biology

Ella Foster 2022.  Environmental Studies

Hanna Hertzler 2021.  Earth Science & Biology

Ellie Janitz 2021.  Greek & Roman Studies & Biology

Chloe Montague 2021.  English

Olivia Page 2023.  American Studies

Oluwabukola Oloyede 2021.  Biology

Sedona Ryan 2022.  Biology 


Fall 2020

Frances Cornwall 2021.  Biology

Doruk Evcim 2022.  Biology

Jack Mahoney 2022.  Chinese

Lila Malin 2022.  Psychological Science


Spring 2020

Ada King 2023.


Fall 2019

Kathryn Burke 2020.  Science, Technology & Society

Zoe Camhi 2021.  Environmental Studies


Spring 2019

Anna Roberts 2020.  Biology

Samantha Sze  2021.  Biology