Discovering a passion for herbarium curation


Phil Klahs in the Ada Hayden HerbariumWhile working on his master's, Phil Klahs put plant specimens in herbarium collections. Now, as a Ph.D. student in EEOB, he has learned how a herbarium functions day-to-day. This past summer, Klahs worked with Ada Hayden Herbarium curator, Deb Lewis, in the every day tasks of running the facility.

A herbarium is a plant library, containing dried and pressed plants. It records the collection date and location a specimen, providing a record of time and place for future researchers. It also provides access to DNA for hundreds of thousands of plants.

Most of Klahs' summer work focused on the day-to-day activities of maintaining the herbarium. One such task was updating the Mycoportal, an online database of the mycology collection. Klahs's geo-referenced specimens by pinning the county and town on the online map.

There were also some out of the ordinary tasks over the summer. The departments of agronomy and horticulture held a convention for the Association of Education and Research Greenhouse Curators on July 13th. This included a tour of the herbarium. "I got to step up and give the tour. When I gave the tour, I asked everyone if they had any favorite plants they wanted me to find. We had one gentleman from South Africa who wanted me to find a plant he did his research on while in South Africa. Sure enough we had a specimen," he said.

With over 600,000 specimens, the Ada Hayden Herbarium has the largest collection of Iowa plants and fungi. It functions primarily as a research facility, with specimens loaned to specialists all over the world. Klahs, found this particular aspect of his herbarium work to be a good networking tool.

Over the summer, Klahs often assisted Lewis with mailing specimens to other institutions. "When we went to the Botany conference, I was able to meet people that we had mailed specimens to, "said Klahs.

Klahs found his experience rewarding. Not only did he learn how a herbarium works, but he is also considering a career as a herbarium curator after graduation.