One of the world largest digital herbaria launched
Within the framework of the "Noah's ark" project, scientists from the Lomonosov Moscow State University have developed the largest digital herbarium in Russia — a collection of scanned images of herbarium samples from the Faculty of Biology funds.
Piotr Kamenski, the project scientific coordinator, a Senior Scientist at the Lomonosov Moscow State University shares: "The "Noah's ark" project is absolutely unique for Russia and even worldwide. Its main goal is saving, studying and beneficial using of the biological diversity of our planet. Undoubtedly, many other projects also have served and are serving this goal. However, within the framework of the "Noah's ark" project we work with all possible types of biological samples – from dried insects to human biomaterial. The creation of the common biological collection information space is an important part of the project. In other words, we are working out a digital resource, which will join maximum possible amount of information about biological collections. Meantime we work within the Lomonosov Moscow State University, but in the future we are going to extend, including the whole of Russia. The digital herbarium of the Lomonosov Moscow State University turns out to be a first shot of our information system, clearly demonstrating all profits, provided by the global approach to analysis of biological diversity".
At the moment the digital herbarium of the Lomonosov Moscow State University numbers 786 thousands of samples. Images are freely available at the web portal of the National bank-depository of the living systems, existing at the Lomonosov Moscow State University.
Alexey Seregin, one of the digital herbarium developers, Doctor of Biological Sciences, Senior Scientist at the Lomonosov Moscow State University Herbarium, and Plants Division Manager within the "Noah's ark" project, says: "We have begun to digitize the University Herbarium in spring 2015 and till now have scanned all numerous floral forms of Eastern Europe, Siberia and the Far East, Crimea, Caucuses, Mongolia, African and South Asian countries. The database created is the largest storage of information about plants diversity and propagation in Russia. It could be used not only by specialists, but also by non-biology people who are interested in flora. In order to take advantage of the digital herbarium, it's enough to enter the scientific name of a plant or use a function of advanced search. All images are of high resolution, so one could study the given pieces of the sample without digitizing every detail separately. The scientific stuff of the Lomonosov Moscow State University has digitized samples by its own forces. Only six members of the Lomonosov Moscow State University Herbarium have taken part in this process, however, many volunteers from the students of our University also have helped a lot".
Judging from the quantity of the scanned samples, the digital herbarium of the Lomonosov Moscow State University is at the moment number one in the world among university collections and in the sixth place "in the overall standing", being behind only the collections from the largest scientific centers of the world, namely Paris, Leiden, Beijing, New-York and Washington.
The Lomonosov Moscow State University Herbarium (MW) is a collection of universal importance, mentioned for the first time in 1780. Moreover, it's one of the leading centers of studying and registration of plant diversity. The funds size is above 1 011 000 samples. One could find here the most valuable historical antiquities, connected with names like Carl Linnaeus and James Cook, as well as comprehensive materials left by subsequent flora investigators.
The herbarium is constantly added by new digitized samples. Members of the Lomonosov Moscow State University have discovered 60 species of flowering plants for the past five years, and only eight of them have been found in Russia. 16 new plant species were found only in 2016. The sample of each plant is herbarized and added into the collection of that institution, with which the scientist cooperates. After that the images of every discovered plant is also put into the digital herbarium. It's also possible to get study materials from foreign herbaria – scientific organization get learnt which plants or geographical regions are interesting for each side and afterwards a bunch of samples is exchanged on the principle of "one sample to another one".
In the process of study and replenishment of the Herbarium funds, scientists have published articles in the following journals: PeerJ, Plant Ecology and Evolution, the most recent article appeared in Phytotaxa.
The digital herbarium creation at the Lomonosov Moscow State University takes place within the framework of the grant, provided by the Russian Science Foundation, called "Scientific basis for the creation of the National depositary bank of living systems (the scientific part of the "Noah's ark" project).