FRLH Herbarium’s WeDigBio 2016 enables citizen scientists to upload details of medicinal plants to create flora distribution maps

Our Bureau, BengaluruWednesday, October 26, 2016, 14:20 Hrs  [IST]

FRLH Herbarium of the Trans Disciplinary University and the Foundation for the Revitalization of Local Health Traditions (TDU-FRLHT) which organised WeDigBio 2016 provided a platform to 25 citizen scientists to add data on 600 medicinal plants and uploaded them on the internet. The data is useful to create species distribution maps for endemic and endangered species.
Through the WeDigBio 2016 initiative FRLH Herbarium is working to bring scientific data about medicinal plants to everyone instead of limiting it to museums and herbaria. It helps digitize specimens of medicinal plants used in the Indian Systems of Medicine. The citizen scientists were students, teachers, researchers and non-technical individuals, said the organisers.
The work of the citizen scientists gains significance as their contribution through such initiatives adds to the repository of knowledge about global biodiversity and medicinal plants. The addition of information online helps researchers, scientists, students among others interested in plants access to the same.

The other collaborating institutions for WeDigBio 2016 are SouthEast Regional Network of Expertise and Collections (SERNEC), Natural History Museum, University of Florida, Florida Museum, National Science Foundation (NSF), California Terrestrial Arthropod Database and Florida State University.
The platform used for transcribing information from the herbarium specimens was from ‘Notes’ of Nature project. The Notes from Nature project allows people to make a scientifically important contribution. TDU-FRLHT has more than 45,000 herbarium specimens, which is a one-of-its-kind herbarium on medicinal plants used in the Indian System of Medicine, said the organisers.
This is the first time that such an initiative for digitization of medicinal plants has been organised in India, said Professor K. Ravikumar, Head, Repository of Medicinal Resources (RMR), TDU-FRLHT.
Noorunnisa Begum, Curator, FRLH Herbarium, said that the WeDigBio enables citizens and non botanists to transcribe the scientific label data available on herbarium specimens into searchable and easily accessible information. This will make the herbarium information available to the wider community across the globe.
Sachin MH, a citizen scientist and research scholar, Ashoka Trust for Research in Ecology and Environment (ATREE), said that WeDigBio 2016 is a great initiative to digitize museum records. We need more such events to digitise data for botanical and zoological resources as well.
The FRLH Herbarium is supported by the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEF&CC), Government of India. It is located in the TDU-FRLHT campus in Bengaluru with over 45,000 voucher specimens, covering around 89 per cent of ISM species.