Access to biodiversity information: the Cornell plant pathology herbarium CALS Impact Statement uri icon


  • Abstract

    Historical data and photographs of plant pathogens and fungi stored at the Cornell Plant Pathology Herbarium are being made available online.


    A critical function of an herbarium is to assemble information on the biodiversity of organisms across time and location. Herbarists do this by storing biological specimens and their associated data. A key challenge to Herbaria is to make these data available to other researchers and the public in a simply. Over 400,000 preserved specimens and 60,000 historical photographs form the Cornell Plant Pathology Herbarium collection, which was founded in 1907. We are working on making these important data broadly accessible to the public.


    At the Cornell Plant Pathology Herbarium, we have lately focused on three important tasks: First, we are making specimen data accessible to others by creating a web-based specimen browser, through which users can find data based on location, species, or other criteria. We have entered over 20,000 specimen records to date. Second, we are conducting an inventory of type specimens. Types are those irreplaceable preserved specimens that represent the first of their kind to be described, and which support the application of species names. To date we have inventoried over 6,500 type specimens. Thirdly, we have constructed a parallel web browser for users interested in historical images of agriculture, plant pathology, and fungi. Over 4,000 images have already been scanned at high resolution and are available for web browsing, thanks to an interface jointly developed with Mann Library.


    The availability of international specimen data online supports research in life sciences at Cornell and elsewhere. It promotes work that directly benefits Cornell constituents and benefits science in general. Cornell images have been used in several publications and websites, and have facilitated the work of historians and taxonomists alike. Data from the Herbarium collections can now be synthesized and browsed according to different user criteria (place, date, species), transforming individual data points into something that approaches wisdom in a digital age.

    Funding Sources

    • Federal Formula Funds - Research (e.g., Hatch, McIntire-Stennis, Animal Health)
    • base funding


    • Janet McCue, Director, Mann Library, Cornell University.

    Key Personnel

    • John Cline, IT Programmer, Mann Library, Cornell University
    • Kathie Hodge, Department of Plant Pathology, Cornell University