A herbarium is a collection of dried plant specimens that are primarily used to describe and document new plant species and changes in the classification or naming of plants. Specimens housed in herbaria are used to better understand morphological variability among and between species, catalogue and identify the flora of a given region and to preserve a historical record of change in vegetation over time. Specimens are held in perpetuity and can last for hundreds of years if cared for properly.
The collection is an important resource for education and scientific research and receives wide use through loans solicited from researchers and institutions around the world, as well as researchers at UVic. Researchers have used UVic specimens to study genetic relationships among plants, species variation and plant phylogeography. This research has contributed to numerous publications.
The UVic Herbarium helps increase our understanding and appreciation of botany and plays a key role in conservation by documenting plant biodiversity, providing material for scientific research, and protecting B.C.'s botanical resources. Information associated with herbarium specimens can be used for a variety of conservation-related projects. For example, herbarium specimens can be used to document the spread of non-native invasive species and the past distributions of endangered plants.
The UVic herbarium is an important educational tool for both university students and the public. The UVic herbarium provides learning resources for university students through graduate student teaching assistantships, work-study positions and undergraduate courses.
Graduate students are responsible for maintaining the herbarium and the botanical database as well as coordinating work-study students and volunteers. Undergraduate work-study positions in the herbarium have enabled students interested in plant diversity and conservation to become familiar with curation of a natural history collection and the role of a modern herbarium in teaching, research and outreach. Work-study students contribute to preparation, maintenance and organization of plant specimens for the collection and assisting in lab setup for plant-related courses.
Currently, the herbarium plays a critical role in UVic undergraduate coursework by providing material for plant identification and offering students an opportunity to gain practical skills in assembly and documentation of plant collections.
The UVic Herbarium is an important public resource for ecologists, conservation managers and the general public. Many rely on the UVic collection for plant identification and plant distribution information as well as for artistic inspiration. We offer tours of the herbarium, host workshops and have ongoing projects with the public. Contact us for more information.