A Ferntastic Day with NLU

March 15, 2018

On Sunday, February 25th, BRIT staff had the pleasure of hosting members of the Southwestern Fern Society, our local chapter of the American Fern Society, for a volunteer day. Six volunteers worked hard to organize and sort ferns and lycophytes from the recently acquired University of Louisiana at Monroe’s (NLU) herbarium collection. Ferns and lycophytes (once referred to as “fern allies”) are two special groups of plants that do not have flowers or seeds but rather reproduce by spores.

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Happy volunteers and BRIT staff hold "golden tickets" found among the collections. Tickets were exchanged for fun prizes!

NLU Collections Assistants Miranda Madrid and Ashley Bordelon and BRIT Research Botanist Dr. Alejandra Vasco led the group on a tour of BRIT’s plant preservation studio, digitization studio, and herbarium. This was the majority of the group’s first introduction to BRIT and to a herbarium.

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Touring the "PPS" (plant preservation studio).
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Dr. Vasco explains how our fern collections are arranged.
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Love these expressions!

After touring, we got right to work! Our small team split up into two smaller work groups. One group worked to alphabetize our ferns by genera and geographical location into the herbarium cabinets. The second group sorted our lycophytes within their folders, checking that each individual specimen was organized alphabetically by parish and belonged to the correct name on its folder.

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Volunteers worked in the upstairs herbarium where our new NLU collections are housed.
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Sorting and organizing specimens requires good light!
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Camaraderie among lycophyte-lovers...

We all had a ferntastic time! Here are some quotes from the volunteers and staff about this experience at BRIT:

“[W]e all came away with an awareness of what an important role the BRIT is playing in the world. The opportunity to become acquainted with the many varieties of the plants we love so well was gratifying.”- Mike Lorfing, President of the Southwestern Fern Society

“It was great to have volunteers that love ferns here at BRIT helping us organize such a valuable collection. Besides helping us, I was really happy to see that they left BRIT that day with a deeper understanding of not only the importance of an organized herbarium, but also of the large amount of information and work that is behind each herbarium specimen.”- Dr. Alejandra Vasco, BRIT Research Botanist and fern expert

“Seeing how the BRIT is organizing the different libraries of botanical specimens, taking care of them, and making them available to the world through the internet was an eye-opening experience for me. I loved seeing botanical specimens collected years ago in places that today may have changed greatly since the plants were collected. It is exciting to see that the BRIT is preserving botanical history.” -May Lorfing, member of the Southwestern Fern Society

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Thank you to all who came to Fern Day!
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We hope to have another Fern Day soon!

The NLU Collection team is always seeking hard-working volunteers to help us curate this priceless collection! We occasionally host one-day volunteer days such as the Fern Day, and we regularly have opportunities to help during the week from 10am-4pm ranging from mounting specimens to filing and organizing. If you want to learn more and get involved, please email Miranda (mmadrid@brit.org) or Ashley (abordelon@brit.org).

Click here to learn more about the R. Dale Thomas Collection (NLU).

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