NEWS FROM WIS
In Memory of Dr. Hugh H. Iltis, 1925-2016
Dec 19, 2016 - We were saddened to learn of the passing of Emeritus Professor of Botany and long-time Director of the Herbarium, Dr. Hugh H. Iltis, who died on Monday, Dec. 19, 2016. He was 91. Born on 7 April 1925, in Brno, Czechoslovakia, he became a US citizen in 1944. Dr. Iltis attended the University of Tennessee and Washington University, taught at the University of Arkansas, and came to the University of Wisconsin-Madison as an Assistant Professor and Curator in 1955. A plant taxonomist and biogeographer, he studied the floras of Wisconsin and western Mexico and the classification and evolution of Cleomaceae, Capparaceae, and Zea (maize).
Dr. Iltis was a pioneer in advocating for conservation and environmental preservation and a tireless promoter of human ecology (“man’s need for nature”) and the preservation of genetic diversity in indigenous crops and their ancestral species. He exemplified the best of an environmentally, socially, and politically aware citizen and scientist, and he will be missed.
Friends of the UW-Madison Libraries Generously Support WIS
Dec 2016 - Friends of the UW-Madison Library have generously provided a $1,000 grant to the WI State Herbarium for the acquisition of several regional floras to be added to our in-house reference book collection. Within the past few years a number of outstanding floras have been published from states across the USA, and having them available Birge Hall will be a tremendous advantage to students and botanists who visit, study, and work within the Herbarium.
Formed in 1948, the Friends of the University of Wisconsin–Madison Libraries is one of the oldest university library support groups in the U.S. It includes people like you: alumni, faculty, staff, students, parents, and community members. Through the generosity of Friends they are able to provide materials and opportunities to the campus community that would not otherwise be available.
George Washington Carver's Fungi Specimens Rediscovered
Feb 2016 - At least 25 specimens of fungi that infect plants, collected by George Washington Carver more than a century ago, were re-discovered Feb. 8 in the Wisconsin State Herbarium at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. The herbarium holds one of the nation’s largest collections - as many as 120,000 specimens - of “microfungi,” a type of fungus that does not form a mushroom.
Carver (c. 1864-1943) was a prominent African-American scientist with a long record of achievement. Born a slave in Missouri, he became the first black student at what is now Iowa State University, then its first black faculty member. He spent 47 years directing agricultural science at the Tuskegee Institute, which was established during Reconstruction to educate blacks. Although best known for his research on, and advocacy of, peanuts as a profitable, nutritious crop for southern farmers, Carver had many other interests, including the collection of microfungi.
The discovery of fungal samples collected by Carver did not surprise William Jones, a professor of history at UW–Madison who teaches about the civil rights movement. “At Tuskegee, he studied blights as well as agricultural techniques and established agricultural stations to train black farmers in agricultural technology. This is similar to what UW-Extension does: empowering farmers with the knowledge to help them succeed.”
History’s perspective on Carver has changed, says Jones. In the late 1800s and early 1900s he, like Tuskegee founder Booker T. Washington, was considered a paragon of the race — a symbol of achievement for the newly freed slaves and their descendants. For more information see the following . . .
- Story from UW-Madison Campus News
- Story from Madison's Wisconsin State Journal newspaper
- Television video from Madison's NBC News affiliate
- Story and photo gallery from the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel newspaper
$355,000 Grant Awarded by NSF's Collections in Support of Biological Research:
“Critical Upgrades, Expansion, and Reorganization of the Wisconsin State Herbarium (WIS)”
Aug 2015 - With a collection of >1.2 million preserved plant specimens, The Wisconsin State Herbarium (WIS) at the UW-Madison ranks among the top 1% of the world’s largest and most active herbaria. Unfortunately, the herbarium reached its carrying capacity decades ago, despite the fact that its holdings continue to grow, and its facilities are now overcrowded, inadequate for maintaining curatorial standards of specimen storage, and unable to provide full public access. For example, the mechanized compactor holding 476 cabinets of flowering plants has failed and cannot be repaired.
Critical upgrades have now taken place on both floors of the herbarium; its 30-year old motorized compactor system on the main floor has been modified into a new manual system, and a new high-density mobile storage system and associated cabinets were recently installed in the herbarium’s newly acquired second floor. These enhancements will allow for consolidation of collections scattered throughout the building, their proper safekeeping, but also expansion of the collection, especially among its exceptional algae, fungi, lichens, and mosses. A reorganization of the entire herbarium collection will follow this expansion into new space, including adoption of the contemporary DNA-based system of plant classification, which is now taught in all formal university courses on campus.
Learn More about WIS' Expansion on UW's MadScience Blog
July 2015 - The Department of Biology at the University of Wisconsin-Platteville has asked the Wisconsin State Herbarium to take ownership of its collection of >7000 vascular plants. Many of their specimens were collected in the Driftless Area, and represent unique collections for the state. There are also a large number of sheets from the western USA and Central America, including many of D.B.Dunn's collections made with the former curator, Chester Dziekanowski. Some 4,105 UW-Platteville specimens (all from Wisconsin) had already been databased for the WisFlora project.
Three-year NSF Grant Targets WIS' Worldclass Collection of Parasitic Fungi
June 1, 2015 - Microscopic fungi (microfungi) represent a diverse assemblage that is distributed worldwide and includes bread molds, plant pathogens, powdery mildews, rusts, slime molds, and water molds. A large percentage of these organisms are harmless or even beneficial, but some cause disease and death in animals, plants, and other fungi resulting in major e conomic loss and serious negative implications for human and ecosystem health. Despite their importance, little is known about their distribution, diversity, ecology, or host associations. This project is a collaborative effort involving 38 institutions in 31 states and aims to consolidate data from specimens housed in biodiversity collections for 2.3 million microfungi specimens and make these data available through online resources. The consolidation and increased accessibility of these data is critical to inform and promote new and innovative research, education and community engagement around this little-known but important group of organisms.
Specimen data generated by this project will be used to assess natural and human-induced environmental changes on microfungi distributions, and evaluate the impact of these changes on the function and health of ecosystems. This project fills a critical gap in the national digitization effort by contributing images, digitizing specimen label data, and linking associated ancillary data for over 1.2 million North American specimens of microfungi. Additionally, nomenclature and taxonomic information will be updated to reflect the newest practices as dictated by the International Codes for Nomenclature. These data will provide a foundation for making informed decisions by agribusinesses, educators, forest managers, government agencies, horticulturalists, policy makers, researchers, and the general public. The broader education goals of this project will be facilitated through the development and implementation of a teaching module for high school biology on the economic importance of microfungi. This award is made as part of the National Resource for Digitization of Biological Collections through the Advancing Digitization of Biological Collections program and all data resulting from this award will be available through the national resource (iDigBio.org).
Visit the Microfungi Portal
Historical 1864 Civil War Specimen Discovered at WIS
Nov 2014 - Herbarium curators have discovered a remarkable 150 year old plant specimen while preparing for a public open house to celebrate the life of our founder, Increase Lapham. A handwritten note to Lapham attached to the specimen of Cassia obtusifolia ('wild sensitive plant') indicates that it was collected on the battlefield by Wisconsin native Captain John Cornelius McMullen in Georgia, just two weeks before the fall of Atlanta by Union Army forces. In the note, the soldier states:
"while I write, shot and shells are constantly passing over us. It may be some days before Atlanta falls but in the end it must yield, for the best army in the world are thundering at its gate. This flower was moistened by the blood of heroes, for Wisconsin men have died where it was plucked."
Read the full story of this touching piece of American history at: http://www.news.wisc.edu/23312
or the story as published by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel Newspaper (Nov 30, 2014) at: http://www.jsonline.com/news/wisconsin/wisconsin-herbarium-uncovers-plant-from-field-of-civil-war-battle-b99397573z1-284227521.html?ipad=y
Listen to a live interview with Dr. Cameron about the specimen recorded Dec 10, 2014 on WI Public Radio.
Oct 2014 - Using the collections endowment fund established by Ethel and Oscar Allen, WIS has acquired a rare and valuable collection of ca. 60,000 lichen specimens from German lichenologist, Klaus Kalb. The collection is especially rich in tropical and Old World species, especially from Africa, Australia, and Brazil, and includes a number of complete exsiccatae. Historically, WIS' lichen collection has been heavily weighted toward species from temperate zones and the Arctic, and so acquisition of Kalb's collection means now that WIS can boast possession of >70% of the world's known lichen species. To read more follow this link to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel online.
You can also listen to a live broadcast about the acquisition from Nov 20, 2014 on WI Public Radio.
Sept 2014 - One of the greatest threats to the health of North America's Great Lakes is invasion by exotic species, several of which already have had catastrophic impacts on property values, the fisheries, shipping, and tourism industries, and continue to threaten the survival of native species and wetland ecosystems. Additional species have been placed on watchlists because of their potential to become aquatic invasives. This project will create a network of herbaria and zoology museums from among the Great Lakes states of MN, WI, IL, IN, MI, OH, and NY to better document the occurrence of these species in space and time by imaging and providing online access to the information on the specimens of the critical organisms. Several initiatives are already in place to alert citizens to the dangers of spreading aquatic invasives among our nation's waterways, but this project will develop complementary scientific and educational tools for scientists, students, wildlife officers, teachers, and the public who have had little access to images or data derived directly from preserved specimens collected over the past three centuries.
This bi-national Thematic Collections Network of >25 institutions from eight states and Canada will digitize 1.73 million historical specimens representing 2,550 species of exotic fish, clams, snails, mussels, algae, plants, and their look-alikes documented to occur in the Great Lakes Basin. It is one of the first efforts to digitize liquid preserved specimens and to integrate cross-kingdom taxa and these methods could become national standards for cross taxon digitization. Students will be provided with hands-on experience in modern methods of specimen curation and this cross-taxon network will provide greater flexibility to existing web platforms for integration of data. This award is made as part of the National Resource for Digitization of Biological Collections through the Advancing Digitization of Biological Collections program and all data resulting from this award will be available through the national resource (iDigBio.org).
Read the iDigBio press release
Read the UW-Madison news story
Aug 2014 - The American Society of Plant Taxonomists awarded Dr. Ken Cameron, Professor of Botany and Director of the Wisconsin State Herbarium at University of Wisconsin-Madison, the Society’s 2014 Peter Raven Award. The award is named for Dr. Peter Raven (1936 – ), eminent botanist and President Emeritus of the Missouri Botanical Garden who has made outstanding contributions to science education and outreach.
Dr. Cameron is a world expert on systematics of the Orchidaceae (orchid family), in particular the genus Vanilla, and his lab researches the evolutionary history of many other tropical plant families. He has mentored 12 graduate students during his tenure both at University of Wisconsin-Madison and in his previous appointment at the New York Botanical Garden. Ken is currently part a team that was awarded a major research grant to study the interaction of evolutionary history and ecology in shaping the flora of Wisconsin. As director of the Wisconsin State Herbarium, Ken manages over 1.2 million specimens, including a major collection of arctic lichens.
Throughout his career, Ken has engaged with audiences ranging from professionals to chefs to horticulture enthusiasts about systematics and orchid biology. He is an in-demand speaker of many plant enthusiast societies, who remark that he has “a unique ability to explain complex scientific concepts in a way that everyone in the audience can understand.” His work has been frequently featured in the popular press, including an article in the New York Times and coverage on NOVA and HGTV. Ken has a long history of writing on natural history topics for non-technical audiences. His popular book, Natural History and Cultivation of Vanilla Orchids, was described by a letter writer for this award as “an enlightened read for plant lovers”. He has also written several children’s books about plant biology in English and in Spanish. Most recently he has involved his graduate students in authoring monthly articles for the American Orchid Society on current topics in orchid research. Their group has also crafted award-winning public outreach displays at major orchid society meetings.
Dr. Cameron received his bachelor’s degree in biology from Rhodes College (Memphis, TN) and Ph.D. from University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, with his doctoral dissertation about the evolution of vanilloid orchids. He has been a Professor of Botany at University of Wisconsin-Madison since 2008, with previous appointments as director of the Cullman Program for Molecular Systematics at the New York Botanical Garden, and professor at Guildford College (Greensboro, NC). Ken has served the American Society of Plant Taxonomists in numerous capacities, including as Associate Editor of Systematic Botany for several years. He is a former recipient of the ASPT George R. Cooley award.
Read the UW News Story here
Read the ASPT Press Release here
Oct 2013 - Dr. Mary Ann Feist has joined the staff of the Wisconsin State Herbarium as a new Senior Academic Curator. She recently completed postdoctoral training at the New York Botanical Garden after earning her PhD from the University of Illinois in 2011. Mary Ann's personal research focuses on the systematics of North American Apiaceae, and she has extensive experience with floristic inventory, plant collecting, and conservation of habitats throughout the Midwest.
May 2013 - The International Institute for Species Exploration at AZ State University included Viola liliputana as one of the top 10 new species of 2013. The tiny Peruvian violet was collected by WIS Emeritus Director, Dr. Hugh H. Iltis, and published along with UWMadison Botany alumnus Dr. Harvey Ballard.
January 2013 - A marvelous gift to the Botany Department recently came from Professor Emeritus Hugh H. Iltis and his wife Sharyn Wisniewski. The gift establishes the Hugh H. Iltis Biodiversity Fund to support the collections of the Wisconsin State Herbarium (WIS) and graduate student work in plant taxonomy. Dr. Iltis served as Professor of Botany and Director of the UW-Madison Herbarium from 1955 to 1993. During this time, the vascular plant collection of the herbarium more than tripled in size, from 196,000 to 670,000 specimens (including ca. 40,000 of Iltis’ own collections). As a result, WIS is respected today as one of the premier international research institutions of its kind. Dr. Iltis and most of the students he trained devoted their lives to the study of plant diversity, land stewardship, and conservation. The new fund will allow future plant taxonomy students to continue that tradition by providing financial support, especially summer fellowships and field research awards. According to the donors’ wishes, preference will be given to students collecting specimens for the Wisconsin State Herbarium, especially those working in Latin America. Anyone who wishes to add donations the Hugh H. Iltis Biodiversity Fund is encouraged to contact the UW Foundation, State Herbarium, or Department of Botany. Thank you Hugh and Sharyn for your generosity!
Toward Documenting Biodiversity Change in Arctic Lichens: Databasing the Principal Collections, Establishing a Baseline, & Developing a Virtual Flora
Jan 2012 - NSF’s Division of Arctic Programs has awarded a collaborative grant to the Wisconsin State Herbarium (WIS) and the University of Alaska’s Museum (ALA) in Fairbanks to provide baseline biodiversity inventory data for one of the most important elements of the Arctic biota – lichens. These symbiotic organisms are highly sensitive to environmental change, and have been used for decades as bioindicators to monitor air pollution, including fluctuating levels of sulfur dioxide and even radioactive isotopes. Their past, current, and future patterns of distribution in Arctic and Subarctic ecosystems are likely to be reflective of significant ecosystem change in temperature, water and nutrient cycling, as well as population dynamics of migratory animals such as caribou. Most of the data concerning current and historical distributions of Arctic lichens presently resides in the literature and within the large natural history collections of North America. These data are generally overlooked, underappreciated, and rarely accessed by the ecologists, conservationists, climatologists, and wildlife biologists who need them most. We are converting these data into electronic format in order to make them readily and freely available to all through the use of powerful biodiversity-informatics tools. Two of the largest collections of Arctic lichens reside in the herbaria of the University of Alaska Museum in Fairbanks, which is estimated to hold >20,000 Arctic lichens within its collection of 0.2 million specimens, and the University of Wisconsin State Herbarium in Madison, which curates >53,000 Arctic lichens within its collection of 1.2 million specimens. The lichens of this latter collection were amassed over 40 years by Dr. J.W. Thomson (1913-2009) who devoted his career at WIS to Arctic lichenology. That dedication culminated in the publication of three voluminous publications on the taxonomy of American Arctic lichens, a portion of which is now out-of-date. Together we are identifying specimens, updating nomenclature, barcoding, georeferencing, and databasing this pair of world-class collections. At the same time, an updated checklist of all Arctic & Subarctic lichen species has been generated, photographs and illustrations digitized, and taxonomic characters for each species coded for use in the creation of dynamic taxonomic keys and species descriptions. Together, this massive set of data is being integrated using the Symbiota software package to generate an online virtual Flora of Arctic Lichens that can be accessed on the web at http://lichenportal.org.
Plants, Herbivores and Parasitoids: A Model System for the Study of Tri-Trophic Associations
July 2011 - All the nearly 20,000 plant species in North America are attacked by insect pests, including those in the group Hemiptera (known as the "true bugs"), which are in turn attacked by parasitoid insects in the Hymenoptera (sawflies, wasps, ants), widely used for biological control of agricultural pests. This project will unify some eight million records in 34 collections to answer how the distributions and phenologies of the plants, pests and parasitoids relate to each other, in a Tri-Trophic Databasing and imaging project--the TTD.
Data from this approach will benefit basic scientific questions and practical applications in the agricultural sciences, conservation biology, ecosystem studies and climate change and biogeography research.
Technological tools and methods will be introduced to graduate students, affiliated universities, and grant-sponsored students from other institutions through a short course. A data-mining and species-distribution modeling symposium at the University of California-Riverside will foster interactions between systematics and ecological researchers, and explore the TTD as a platform for instruction and inquiry.
North American Lichens and Bryophytes: Sensitive Indicators of Environmental Quality and Change
July 2011 - Lichens and bryophytes (mosses and their relatives) are sensitive indicators of environmental change, and are dominant organisms in arctic-alpine and desert habitats, where the effects of climate change are well-documented.
This project will image about 2.3 million North American lichen and bryophyte specimens from more than 60 collections to address questions of how species distributions change after major environmental events, both in the past and projected into the future.
Large-scale distribution mapping will help identify regions where such changes are likely, fostering programs designed to protect these organisms. Awardees plan to build and enhance a national volunteer community, and provide online seminars, extensive online training materials, and local workshops and field trips.
June 2013 - An important collection of several hundred native Ribes specimens collected in the 1930s by former Herbarium Director Norman C. Fassett was recently transferred to WIS. These had been ‘lost’ for decades within a set of herbarium cabinets kept in a backroom of the WI Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection’s Plant Industry Laboratory in Madison. As that agency began to prepare for a move across town, staff re-discovered the cabinets and their contents. Ribes (currants and gooseberries) were once an important fruit crop in many areas of the northern USA, but their cultivation was restricted or even banned in some states when it was realized that the shrubs may serve as a host plant for white pine blister rust. At least twelve different species of Ribes grow wild in Wisconsin, and Dr. Fassett appears to have traveled across the state to collect these and to document their distribution. A guide to growing currents and gooseberries in Wisconsin has been published by UWExtension, and can be downloaded here.
Sept 2014 - The Wisconsin State Herbarium will be open to the public from 6-8pm on October 23, 2014 for tours of its collection and to host Martha Bergland and Paul G. Hayes, who will share stories and insights from their new book about Wisconsin’s pioneer citizen scientist: Studying Wisconsin: The Life of Increase Lapham. Presented in partnership with the Wisconsin Historical Society Press, Wisconsin Academy of Science, Arts, & Letters, and Wisconsin Book Festival.
Sept 2013 - The Wisconsin State Herbarium has taken possession of >4,000 sq ft formerly occupied by the UW Biology Library, and located directly below the existing herbarium in historic Birge Hall. This will allow for a near doubling of collection space, and represents an unparalleled opportunity in the herbarium’s rich history. Herbarium staff are now working toward consolidation and expansion of the institution’s disparate cryptogamic collections (i.e., algae, fungi, lichens, and bryophytes), which will be housed along with other collections and functions on the B1 level of Birge Hall’s 1983 southeast corner extension. Vascular plants and most of the Herbarium’s library will remain on the first floor. WIS reached its carrying capacity decades ago, and has been forced to house many of its world class collections in suboptimal hallways and rooms on at least five floors within 100 year old Birge Hall. The ongoing consolidation and expansion taking place this yer will greatly enhance WIS’ ability to use some of its most underappreciated but most important collections for research and teaching.
December 3, 2012 - Today marked a milestone in the history of the Wisconsin State Herbarium as Mr. Theodore S. Cochrane, Senior Academic Curator, retired after more than 42 years of service. Ted was raised in Beloit, WI and attended the University of Wisconsin, Madison where he earned his B.S. and M.S. degree in Botany. In 1970 he was hired as a Curator and would eventually become recognized as one of the state’s leading authorities on the flora of Wisconsin. His dedication to plant collecting, identification, and conservation were recognized by the department at a luncheon and reception, which was attended by current and former students, faculty, and colleagues, including a large number of biologists from the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources. Everyone in attendance commented on the unparalleled knowledge, dedication, and work ethic exhibited year after year by Ted for more than four decades. He and his wife, Barbara, intend to travel more than they have in the past now that he is retired, but Ted expects to continue working as a volunteer in the herbarium on a regular basis for the foreseeable future. Congratulations!
July 2010 - Nearly 15,000 vascular plant specimens were accessioned into our collection this year as a gift from the Department of Biology at Carthage College in Kenosha, WI. Many of these specimens were collected in the late 19th and early 20th Centuries throughout the upper Midwest, but especially in Illinois. Specifically, the bulk of the collection was made in Hancock County, IL by Dr. Alice L. Kibbe (1881 – 1969), who served as a botanist at Carthage College from 1920 to 1956. She was noted in the region as a natural historian, philanthropist, and traveler, and for her role as an early female academic leader. Alice Kibbe was born in Bridgewater, SD, and later attended Cornell University where she earned a MS degree in 1920. In the fall of that year she reported to Carthage College as a teacher in the Biology department and immediately began work on her doctoral theses, a botanical survey of Hancock County, which was published later, in 1952, as A botanical study and survey of a typical mid-western county: Hancock, Illinois; Covering a period of 199 years, from 1833-1952. The research brought her in contact with the work of other botanists, including Drs. Meade, Kellogg, Tandy, Ehinger, and others whose work had been forgotten by local residents. Correspondence preserved by families of these men, from Asa Gray, and other famous American botanists was the basis for her second book, Afield with Plant Lovers, published in 1953.
Carthage College was founded in 1847 by Lutheran pioneers who settled in Hillsboro, IL. In 1852, the College relocated to Springfield, Ill., and assumed the name of Illinois State University. Just a few decades later, in 1870, the College moved again, this time to the rural, west-central city of Carthage, Ill. By 1927, enrollment in the College had reached nearly 300 students, but the Great Depression and World War II lowered enrollment to 131 students in 1943, and the college struggled to recover. Ten years later, the Board of Trustees agreed to consider relocating Carthage once again. By 1962, Carthage had established its lakeshore campus in Kenosha, WI, where it has prospered and become recognized as nationally ranked liberal arts college. In exchange for its historical herbarium collection, WIS has assembled a small, but representative, collection of common Midwest plant species that will serve the student body of Carthage College as a botanical teaching resource.
We are especially grateful to Dr. Deanna Byrnes, Assistant Professor of Biology at Carthage College and UW-Madison alumna (Zoology Ph.D., 2005), for coordinating the adoption of the CART herbarium.