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Research

The primary function of the MSU Herbarium is to support research. Please visit our Research Spotlight page for examples of how we have supported recent research projects and our Publications page to see examples of published research that have used herbarium specimens or equipment, or relied on the expertise of our herbarium staff. Get in touch with us if you want to include specimens or specimen data in your research!

MSU Herbarium logo, microscope, specimen, man

Research Support

The facilities, specimens, and biodiversity experts working at the MSU Herbarium can provide a wide variety of support for those pursuing botanical and mycological research. 

Specimen access

Researchers can access our specimens by contacting herbarium staff, visiting the MSU Herbarium, or receiving specimens from our herbarium on loan via the herbarium at their home institution. 

Researchers use herbarium specimens in a multitude of ways. 

  • Specimens provide information about attributes of plants across space and time, such as geographic variation in morphological traits, phenological differences across decades, and allelic frequencies across populations. 

  • Specimen data can provide information on location, habitat, flowering time, morphology, and many other aspects of biodiversity. 

  • Specimens can provide physical material for DNA extraction and genomic analysis, chemical analysis, pollen sampling, and even material for microbiome studies.

The collections at the MSU Herbarium are available to everyone with research needs and our staff can assist you in accessing our specimens. Our primary focus is research support and we endeavor to facilitate any reasonable request. Feel free to discuss with our staff the suitability of our collections for use in your research. Request a copy of our destructive sampling policy if your research requires removing material from a specimen.

If you need to study additional material from another herbarium, we can arrange to receive a loan of that material on your behalf. The standard practice among herbaria is to loan material from one institution to another, and the receiving institution accepts responsibility for the loan, so material received on loan to the MSU Herbarium must remain on premises. The MSU Herbarium will provide you with the space and equipment to study loaned specimens on campus. Contact the Director for more information.

Data access 

Much of our specimen data is available online and can be searched via specimen portals. These data include location (often with GPS coordinates), habitat, collection date, images, etc., and can be used for a variety of research needs. See our Research Spotlight page for examples. 

Complete data are often not available online for a variety of reasons. Feel free to contact our staff for a custom search that will be fully inclusive and can be sent in a format that is more easily analyzed or manipulated. Locality information for rare species are not available online, but for researchers with demonstrated research needs, sensitive data can be provided.

Not all of our specimens are digitized, but feel free to make a request to prioritize specimens that are important for your research. 

Voucher specimen deposition

The MSU Herbarium provides a service for accessioning research vouchers into our collection. Vouchers document actual plants or images of plants that are associated with research projects. Vouchers are often required by funding agencies, permitting agencies, or journals, and deposition of vouchers is always considered best practice. By depositing vouchers, you provide specimens that future researchers can use to verify identifications, extract DNA, perform chemical analyses, and more. This will make your research more transparent and replicable, and provides the potential for others to build upon your research in a way not otherwise possible. 

We accept typical dried plants and fungi, and can also accommodate a number of other types of material such as wood samples, tree cores, pollen samples, seeds, images, fluid preserved samples, and more. At this time we are not equipped to properly accommodate cryogenic samples. 

Our goal is to provide an easy, seamless process for researchers to deposit vouchers. We do not require specimens to be mounted, nor do you need to provide archival labels. Typically, all we need are the samples and a spreadsheet of the data. Data templates and guidance on any aspect of this process are happily provided. Presses can be loaned on request and we can dry specimens for you. Please contact us to discuss how we can assist you in this process. microscope, book, plant press

The MSU Herbarium provides researchers access to our equipment upon request. Equipment available to your research team includes: 

  • Plant presses

  • A specimen drying oven (can be used for bulk material as well)

  • Dissecting and compound microscopes equipped with digital cameras

  • Collecting equipment

  • A library of floras and other plant-related books and journals

  • Imaging equipment and cameras

Please contact us if you have any questions or to make a request to use our equipment. 

Expertise

The staff at the MSU Herbarium can provide guidance about how to use the collections, can accommodate reasonable requests for plant identification, can discuss the suitability of herbarium specimens or data for your research project, and will help you identify  taxonomic experts in plant groups that are beyond our expertise.