Once the plants are dry, the endless task of processing them begins. Field notes are entered into a computer database from which labels--bearing the scientific name of the plant, the collector's name and number, a bar code, the locality (including coordinates and elevation) and date of the collection and the field description of the plant--are produced once the material is identified at least to family. As much further identification as possible is done by in-house specialists, and smaller annotation labels, bearing the name, are printed, a set is mounted for the herbarium, and duplicates are distributed to collaborating institutions, in return for identifications.
What is it all about? For starters, the plants and information so gathered are the basis for scientific publications such as identification manuals, World Wide Web presentations of databases, taxonomic revisions, and formally published descriptions of species new to science.
At both INBio and MO close relationships are also maintained with pharmaceutical, agro-chemical and other natural product companies, as well as universities, in an endeaver to find, through biochemical prospecting, new drugs, fungicides, fragrances and other products, demonstrating the economic importance of conserving biodiversity.
© Barry Hammel 1996