TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- Here in the East Gulf Coastal Plain, one of North Americas premier and most imperiled regions for botanical biodiversity, Florida State University is leading an ambitious project that will create high-resolution digital images of 100,000 plant specimens, then make them available to scientists and students everywhere via the World Wide Web.
The Deep South Plant Specimen Imaging Project (DSPSIP) officially kicked off in April with a two-year, $200,000 grant from the National Science Foundation. FSU and its current project partners -- Troy University, Auburn University, the University of South Alabama-Mobile and the University of Southern Mississippi -- will share the NSF funding in a collaborative mission to bring online a vast quantity of botanical information for 21st century-style researchers.
Ultimately, DSPSIP will produce a more complete, user-friendly picture of plant distribution and variation across the East Gulf Coastal Plain. Stretching from just west of Gainesville in the Florida Panhandle to New Orleans and about 175 miles inland, the region is home to no fewer than 2,864 native plant species -- 125 of which are found nowhere else on Earth.
The imaging project carries a special urgency for the imperiled ecoregion, considered one of the nations top six hotspots both for biodiversity and species endangerment -- yet to-date, also one of the least documented.
Many of the counties in this region fall within the top 95th percentile of all U.S. counties when ranked by the number of threatened and endangered species in each, said Austin Mast, the DSPSIP lead principal investigator and an assistant professor of biological science at FSU.
Mast also directs the Robert K. Godfrey Herbarium at FSU, which holds a museum-quality collection of North Florida plant specimens and plays a leading role in the Deep South project. In fact, 10 percent of the herbariums 200,000 specimens already a
Contact: Austin Mast
Florida State University