Herbaria

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Herbaria - especially large ones - provide a variety of job opportunities for plant biologists.  Most research university and museum herbaria are led by one or more Ph.D. level scientists who have the title of curator or director.  Some of the larger herbaria, especially those associated with major museums, have numerous Ph.D.s employed primarily as researchers and usually holding the title of curator.  These curators also share in the overall administrative tasks associated with the herbarium and institution of which it is a part.  Research herbaria often have a collection manager:  a highly skilled person who is responsible for the day-to-day administration of the herbarium and to whom the other curatorial staff usually report.  Collection managers (the title may vary but the position is usually recognizable) often have a higher degree (master's or Ph.D.) but sometimes have instead had a lot of experience that prepares them well for their role.  Curatorial assistants do a great deal of the hands-on work with the collection.  These positions usually require a bachelor's degree in botany or biology, and these individuals report to the collection manager.  University herbaria often fill curatorial assistant positions with students working part-time.  Students who get involved in herbarium work early in their undergraduate careers often hold these positions for multiple years and become integral parts of the herbarium's work and community.  In many herbaria, volunteers also play important roles in processing specimens for accessioning and curatorial assistants may be involved in supervising volunteers.  In addition to experience from course work and in the field and herbarium studying and working with plants, knowledge of computers is increasingly important in managing plant collections.  Many if not most herbaria make heavy use of computers in routine activities such as tracking loans.  In addition, many are actively engaged in projects to database specimen information and serve those data over the internet.  Thus, knowledge and experience in these areas is an added plus if you intend to pursue a career in herbarium management.

Lucinda McDade, Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden

Tags: Herbaria
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