This Herbarium Located At Duke University Is Home To Over 825,000 Plant Species, And It’s Closing Down

Angelina - - illustrative purposes only

Duke University is home to a herbarium that contains more than 825,000 plant species. It’s one of the largest collections of plant specimens in the country and has served scientists well in their studies throughout the years. However, the herbarium is running out of space and resources to keep it funded.

Due to budget cuts and staff shortages, Duke University has decided to close its herbarium. Over the next two to three years, the plant specimens will be relocated to new homes.

The dean of Duke’s natural sciences departments, Susan Alberts, explained the reason behind the closure in an email sent out to the herbarium’s staff.

“Academic leaders in Trinity College have made the difficult decision to discontinue investment in the Duke Herbarium due to outdated facilities that would require significant funding and years of displacement to upgrade. Discussions have already begun with respected and established potential recipients for the specimens,” wrote Alberts.

While she acknowledged that the herbarium’s shutdown would be a “loss” for those who ran it and the university as a whole, she also stated that it was in Duke’s and the herbarium’s “best interests.”

According to Kathryn Kennedy, the associate dean for communications and marketing at the Trinity College of Arts and Sciences, the estimated costs of investing in the herbarium, which would involve expanding the facility and funding staff positions, would come to a minimum of $25 million.

The news triggered an uproar from the scientific community at Duke and beyond. Professors everywhere have expressed their disappointment with the closure and are calling for the herbarium to stay open.

“When collections like this close, it endangers others, especially at smaller institutions. This could be very bad if other universities follow suit,” Jacqueline Gill, an associate professor of paleoecology and plant ecology at the University of Maine, wrote in a post on X.

Jillian Goodwin, conference manager for the Integrated Digitized Biocollections, created a petition urging the university to reconsider closing the herbarium. Within 24 hours, it received over 1,700 signatures.

Angelina – – illustrative purposes only

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