The Utah State University runs two taxonomy courses. For further information click on each course: 

The following notes are for the Biology 4420 Course

Biology 4420 Course

voucher specimens | labels | grading | supplies

Voucher specimens

A voucher specimen is one that documents what you found or worked with in a study. Voucher specimens can be examined long after a study has been completed. They enable others to check your identifications and, if there are taxonomic changes affecting the species that you worked with, make it possible for subsequent workers to determine what your plants would be called according to the more recent taxonomic treatment. An ecological or environmental study that is not documented by specimens is of questionable validity. No one can prove that it is flawed because of misidentifications, but nor can it be proved that your identifications were correct. 

For more information about voucher specimens visit the University of Florida Herbarium

Preparing the label

Preparing the label using the Intermountain Herbarium computer labeling program

There will be a computer program for you to use in the herbarium. Unless stated otherwise, use of the program is mandatory. This means that you should not leave doing your labels until the last minute because that is what other students will do.

At first, using the computer program will be frustrating. There are several reasons why I require its use:

1.      It will check your spelling of scientific names, add the authorities for the species, check that you put it in the right family, check that you spell county names correctly and do not place plants in counties that do not exist (e.g., Franklin County, Utah).

2.      Knowing the fields into which you have to enter data encourages better record keeping when collecting.

3.      If you collect several specimens from the same location enables you to use the "copy record" command, making label preparation much faster.

4.      The program will prepare a well-designed label for you, with all the bits of information in a very standard format.

5.      It is much easier to grade specimens if they all come in with the data placed in exactly the same format.

Two warnings:

Collection grading 

Making a good collection is time consuming. That is why it contributes so much to your final grade, and why it is graded as carefully as it is. Each specimen and its label will be examined. The maximum possible number of points per specimen is 5. You start with 5, but lose points as indicated in the following guidelines. You may not resubmit any specimens for regrading, but you may submit up to 60 specimens. If you submit more than 50, your score will be based on your top 50.

1.      Identification. Is it correct? If it is not correct, how bad is the error? All points are lost if a quick check in the herbarium would have been enough to show you the error of your ways. If it is close, perhaps a very similar species, the point loss may be as low as 0.5 points. If it involved a mistake in a character you should not misinterpret (e.g., position of ovary), the loss might be 3 points. This is a judgment call.

2.      You are supposed to have identified the plants in your collection by keying them out so, if your specimen does not have the parts required for keying, you will get no credit, even if the identification is correct. This is different from the policy in Range Plants Identification because the goals of the two courses differ. For instance, you cannot include Artemisia tridentata in your Botany 3400 collection because it does not flower until the fall.

3.      Your specimen should be complete. Herbaceous plants should show enough of the base and underground parts to indicate its longevity (annual or perennial), root type, etc. For large plants and woody plants, this information may be included on the label. For woody plants, the label should state whether it is a tree or a shrub. The deduction is 1 point.

4.      Field notes. Include a copy with your specimens. If it is too perfect (in other words, rewritten or written after the event), the loss will be 2 points.

5.      Spelling and typographical errors that have not been corrected (use pen or pencil). Varies from 0.5-2 points, depending on how many and how severe the problems are. NOTE: these errors mount up if you forget that you may have the same error on many labels because of the ease with which information can be copied from one label to the next.

Herbarium supplies

Although you can use your own supplies and sources some sources of equipment and papers specifically for herbarium work are:

Herbarium Supply Company

Pacific Papers

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