Feature: Michigan Flora website
Monday, October 24, 2011
The Michigan Flora website presents comprehensive and up-to-date information about the diversity and occurrence of Michigan’s wild-growing vascular plants, which is essential to understanding and stewarding Michigan’s environment and appreciation of its natural heritage.
Dr. Anton Reznicek, curator of vascular plants at the U-M Herbarium, points out that Michigan Flora is searchable, browsable and contains photos, maps, full keys, species pages, and comprehensive download capability. The next phase of the website (completed, but not yet public) will include a specimen level search capability.
According to the websites’ introduction, “few things in science are more certain than the fact that floristic works become outdated almost as soon as they are printed,” and this is certainly true of the three-volume "Michigan Flora," the first volume published in 1972, which is being updated into a single volume by Reznicek, Herbarium curator and research scientist. “The web is, however, ideally suited for presenting such dynamic information.”
The information presented in this website is updated from the “Michigan Flora” volumes in three main ways. First, advances in understanding of plant relationships result in the need to change a number of names to reflect this new information. These advances have been tremendous in the last couple of decades, driven by our ability to directly access the genetic code, as well as the development of computational tools and computer power sufficient to analyze such vast amounts of data. Second, there have been a large number of species added to the flora, giving considerable insight into our changing flora. Third, the maps are updated, following the precedent set in “Michigan Flora” that the maps are based only on specimens examined. Nearly 44,000 new collections have been added since the first volume of “Michigan Flora” was published, resulting in considerable changes to our understanding of the distribution of Michigan plants.
The website is based largely on data carefully gathered over decades by Ed Voss, Herbarium curator emeritus, Reznicek, and information from the three-volume “Michigan Flora.” Beverly Walters, Herbarium collection manager, is the site’s data manager who has also contributed many photos, proofread, and helped update information. The site was designed by Reznicek and Walters, with programming by Kraig Korroch, Michigan Natural Features Inventory’s information technologist.
The project was supported by a grant from the U-M Office of the Vice President for Research with matching funds from the College of Literature, Science, and the Arts, and the U-M Herbarium, with appreciation to Professor Paul Berry, Herbarium director and curator. Complete acknowledgements can be viewed on the website.
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