New herbarium to house valuable plant collection

June marked the official opening of the new herbarium at Kingston that houses one of the most valuable assets of the AAD — the taxonomic plant collection. This herbarium houses over 25,000 specimens of mainly mosses, liverworts and lichens, collected from locations in Antarctica and subantarctic islands as well as many alpine and arctic localities. The specimens are a valuable record of life at the ecological extreme.

The new herbarium contains a specially designed specimen vault to protect the specimens from fire and water damage. Regular pest control measures are also in place to protect the specimens from insects such as silver fish, dermestid beetles, weevils and other small insects that may sneak through the door when the vault is open, and which could easily destroy the collection. Coupled with stringent quarantine rules regarding new material, these measures will ensure that the collection remains pest free. Adjacent to the vault is a new laboratory for taxonomic research.

The specimens are linked to a state-of-the-art Antarctic biodiversity database which contains 10,205 plant specimen records so far. A current project is in place to curate a collection of a further 5000 specimens from Heard Island and botanist Perpetua Turner has joined the AAD to assist with this enormous task. Curator of the herbarium, Professor Rod Seppelt described his studies as being ‘fundamental to our understanding of biodiversity and conservation in Antarctica — we need to know what is there and where it is before we can develop a sensible and informed management and protection policy'.

Dana Bergstrom
Biology program