ASC-WA Event Review: Behind the Scenes at the WA Herbarium

Date: 21 October 2013

Venue: WA Herbarium, Department of Parks and Wildlife, Kensington

Format: Tour and Social Event

Audience size: 15 attendees

Brief Description:

The ASC-WA branch enjoyed a behind the scenes tour of the Western Australian Herbarium with Collections Manager Karina Knight. Karina is responsible for the curation of the state collection of fungi, lower plant groups and the vascular flora holdings. This involves managing the specimen mounting and incorporation programs (including volunteers), managing the liaison between database entry staff and curators to ensure that the names on herbarium specimens and species folders are in agreement with the census of WA flora and fungi. She is also responsible for the incoming and external loan program including duplicate distribution and for the management and maintenance of the storage facility to ensure the permanent preservation of the specimens.

The tour started with drinks and nibblies and a chance to network. Karina then took us to the ‘receiving area’ where plants are unpacked and frozen for three days to ensure that no contamination occurs. Herbarium specimens are vulnerable to damage from a range of insect pests. For this reason, un-sterilised specimens and fresh material must not be taken into the herbarium under any circumstances.

We then went to the area where staff and volunteers mount specimens for storage and had a look at various specimens, including a sample of Fuirena ciliaris collected during Captain Cook’s First Voyage (1768-1772) by Joseph Banks.

We then went to the Research Collection ‘vault’ where specimens are kept at a constant cool temperature of 16oC and 50 per cent humidity. All samples are stored in sealed custom-made boxes that line the shelves of two rooms.

A sample of Fuirena ciliaris collected during Captain Cook’s First Voyage (1768-1772) by Joseph Banks

A sample of Fuirena ciliaris collected during Captain Cook’s First Voyage (1768-1772) by Joseph Banks

Attendees at the WA Herbarium look at various samples.

Attendees at the WA Herbarium look at various samples.

ASC-WA member Nancy Longnecker looks at the collection vault

ASC-WA member Nancy Longnecker looks at the collection vault