This tiny rain forest paradise has so many world-class research facilities in such close proximity and we’d like to you to know about one in Pandemonium City. As children, many of you may have had leaf or pressed flower collections that you used for scouting, class science projects or perhaps just amassed because you enjoyed their natural beauty. When you went on vacation, you would bring back your discoveries to mount on paper and show off to your friends and classmates and if you still have some of these artifacts, they are probably beginning to crumble away with time. Well plant research collections, many of them decades or more old, from around the globe are also facing the same problem. In addition, although it’s now easier to collect samples in remote areas, our environment shrinking and many plant species are disappearing. Just imagine the tasks of physically delivering these samples to herbaria around the globe where others can study and view them. Well a momentous advance in the collection and availability of the globes plant samples came to Panama in January 2011 for the fourth annual meeting of the Latin American Plant Initiative held at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute research installations located adjacent to Panama City.
A recent stroke of genius struck, when a technician at the Royal Botanic Gardens in England picked up and turned over a scanner to catalogue a plant, now means you don’t have travel to view the world’s exotic species. Now plant researchers in Panama can scan their own images to the Harvard University Herbaria for authentication, cataloging and storage before the HUH uploads them to the JSTOR Plant Science web site. Underwritten by the Mellon Foundation this program now allows even the most distant filed researcher or conservation group to both up and down load plant information. Now using the continually evolving digital capabilities researchers, students and teachers can view a plant sample from all angles without the fear of damaging it or its display mounting. Anyone on the globe can interact in real-time as “citizen botanist” to tag, discuss and catalogued any known or unknown plant species in the world. Those involved expect the number of species in the catalogue to reach three million by 2014 and praise the programs ability to help cut through local and national euphemisms for different plant specimens often known by different names from valley to valley, village to village and country to country.