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September 28, 2018

This article was written by Serina Taluja, 2018 BRIT Summer Intern and student at University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Serina interned with Research Manager and Special Collections Librarian Alyssa Young working on aspects of scicomm (science communication).

In April 2018, I was overjoyed to receive an email from Alyssa Young offering me the chance to come back and intern at BRIT for the second summer in a row. I spend the previous summer (2017) at BRIT, learning what a herbarium was, why it was important, and how I could contribute to it. I was excited to return to BRIT for another summer of learning! This summer definitely lived up to my expectations, and I’m now in my senior year in the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign’s Molecular and Cellular Biology program.

The previous summer was very important to me because I learned that classic microbiology research was not my destiny, and instead got the chance to work with Collections Manager Tiana Rehman in BRIT’s herbarium. I enjoyed working with the Ferns of Arkansas collection so much, I returned to it again the next summer and helped move the collection onwards to being completely labeled, barcoded, and imaged. Around half of the specimens in this collection have also been databased now, thanks to the help of many other interns that got involved with this project. I also got to do something a little different through helping Joseph Lippert curate a collection of Texas agave specimens that needed a little extra care before getting filed. I had the pleasure of seeing this project through to completion this summer as well.

Herbarium specimens
Some of the herbarium specimen images I gathered, cropped, and made minor edits to for the BRIT Instagram.

This summer I assisted Alyssa Young on writing pieces for the BRIT blog, creating Instagram posts, curating a display for the herbarium, and creating an informational video about plant collection. Getting the chance to produce media that communicates science and natural history to the general public was such a treat, since science writing and communication is what I hope to pursue after graduation. I also enjoyed collaborating with the other interns in making a display for the herbarium, which was all about Texas-native orchid species.

Finally, Alyssa and I finished the summer strong by making a stop-motion video about plant collection and mounting. Not only was this one of the most fun projects I got to work on, but the result was also very rewarding, and I’m excited to see the video up on the BRIT website!

[Editor's note: BRIT staff would like to point out that plant specimen collections should include more of the plant (i.e., leaves and possibly roots) so that the specimen is as useful as possible to future researchers. Nevertheless, this video is an amazing accomplishment and properly conveys the basic steps of making a specimen. Well done, Serina!]

Overall, another fantastic summer at BRIT. I learned even more during my second summer at BRIT - and from some of the coolest people I know. I’m excited to see what the future holds for my fellow interns, BRIT, and myself!

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