specimens

specimens

Recent Articles

Yunnan, China

Dr. Peter Fritsch, BRIT’s VP of Research and Director of the Herbarium, is on a visiting scholarship from the Chinese Academy of Sciences, based at the Kunming Institute of Botany in Kunming, the capital of Yunnan Province. Peter went on a brief (8-day) field trip in late October-early November to far northeastern Yunnan Province and the bordering area of Guizhou Province.
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Youth Range Workshop 2016

Just imagine trying to keep up with 25 energetic, enthusiastic, inquisitive high school students for a week in the middle of a hot, dry summer in the semi-arid country around Junction, Texas. Well, I accepted that challenge even though it had been 35 years since the last time I did it!
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The changing plant life of small islands in the Sea of Cortéz

We met at the office at 6:30 am and proceeded to spend about two hours packing the truck with food. 40 mouths are many to feed, and after hundreds of pounds of coolers, boxes, bags of rice, and beans, stuffed in between with fresh fruit, we load up and hit the road...
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BRIT’s Computer Vision(aries)

High school students from Trinity Valley School spent their summer break utilizing their computer science skills to create a quick and easy way to determine the fullness of our herbarium cabinets.
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Best. Paper. Ever.

I’ll admit it. I’m biased toward brevity. It’s hard to write succinctly, though. Blaise Pascal knew it (“I have made this letter longer than usual, only because I have not had time to make it shorter”). Shakespeare knew it, too (“Brevity is the soul of wit”). You can imagine, however, how additionally difficult it is to succinctly write for science, a field defined by its details. So when I come across science writers practicing an economy of words, I’m doubly impressed.
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Insert Clever Title Here

“Hell — is sitting on a hot stone reading your own scientific publications.” ~ Erik Ursin, fish biologist. One of my favorite journal articles is a little number called “How to write consistently boring scientific literature." Penned by Kaj Sand-Jensen at the University of Copenhagen, this piece is a glib editorial about technical writing…that was somehow published and promulgated by a technical writing source. (Brilliant!)
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The Sweep of Time

Article originally submitted for The Leaflet (June 2014) by Brian Witte, PhD, BRIT Research Associate Most of us live in the moment. Paycheck-to-paycheck, living for the weekend, summer vacation, twitter updates. Updates now are measured in seconds. America, too, is a young nation. Few places west of the Appalachians boast buildings over 150 years old, and most of us live in suburbs built in the decades following World War II. So much around us is new…even our landscapes are new, transformed by mechanized farming, car culture, and introduced species. That’s not entirely news, and it’s not entirely new, either. Look, for example, at this sheet I recently encountered while tidying up a database of digitized herbarium specimens. Click to enlarge and read labels. This was one of the last colle...
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The Living Herbarium: Many Hands Make Godzilla

Article originally published in The Leaflet (May 2014) by Brian Witte, PhD, BRIT Research Associate There is a stereotype of the scientist as a lone genius, laboring in obscurity until their “Eureka!” moment changes the world. If Hollywood is to be believed, this Eureka moment is usually followed by the destruction of Tokyo and/or New York by a giant robot/genetic mutant/superstorm. In reality, we have a tragic lack of giant robots, and nothing that we’ve done in the herbarium has (yet) threatened a major metropolitan area. We also rely heavily on collaboration, rather than solitary toil. In fact, I would venture to say that collaboration is the fundamental characteristic of science. NOT what we do…exactly. Nowhere is this more on display than in the herbarium at BRIT. Over the past month,...
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