GMC homepage | Background about Gleason
Dr. Stanley Grove
Goshen, IN 46526
September 12, 1997
In the early 1990's, Dr. Henry Gleason Jr. donated his moss herbarium to Goshen College. The moss specimens come from countries around the globe and represent decades of collecting and trading. At the present time, the estimated number of species is 10000. In the years before 1994, half of the specimens in the collection were inventoried into a computer database and placed in wooden cases. More recently two biology undergraduate students have embarked on a mission to take pictures of representative samples in each family of the collection to display for scientists and interested public alike. In order to make the collection an educational tool available to others, the students are creating World Wide Web pages that feature the pictures of the representative samples. However, as is mentioned above, the Gleason Moss Collection is extensive and needs attention so that it may be available to others.
The objectives of the Gleason Moss Project is two-fold. The primary objective is to make the information in the Gleason Collection available to the general public and other scientists by putting in onto the World Wide Web. The indirect objective is to understand the complexity, taxonomy and techniques regarding moss preservation and study. Goshen College does not have a moss expert on staff. Therefore, two students, under the supervision of a Goshen College biology professor, have endeavored to learn the glossary, taxonomy and histology of those moss families found in the Gleason Collection.
Approximately 5000 of the mosses given by Gleason are stored in cardboard boxes. These specimens have no been sorted and Goshen College lacks the storage cabinets to facilitate the sorting process. The purchase of cabinets with small drawers resembling those of library card catalogs is necessary. One of Henry Gleason's and Goshen College's primary objectives is to make the moss collection accessible to undergraduate research. Because of the lack of cabinets, or any other appropriate filing apparatus, the moss collection is not available for public use or research use outside of this project.
At the close of the 1996-1997 school year, the student researchers were in the process of creating Web pages that contain photos of representative moss as well as information about these mosses. The organization process that the researchers have used comes from a database made by another Goshen College student. The database is organized according to a systematic numbering and naming system that Dr. Gleason used for organizing his collection. Creating pages for the web and preparing the pictures for presentation on the web is another part of the organization process but is extremely important in achieving practically world-wide availability of the collection.
As mentioned above, Dr. Gleason wants this collection to be available to everyone, but specifically to undergraduates. The researchers in this project are also undergraduates, following along with Dr. Gleason's dream. Cheri Krause and Joann Hunsberger are both senior biology students at Goshen College. Ms. Krause is a Biology major with an emphasis in education and environmental studies. Ms. Hunsberger is a Molecular biology major with an emphasis in environmental studies. Both of the researchers have had classes that specifically deal with botany: The Plant Kingdom, General Ecology, Botany of Seed Plants, Medicinal Plants, and others.
Finally, working with such a large collection takes a great deal of time and energy. The two investigators have been working a limited 5 hours a week at minimum wage using funding from the Witmer Endowment. The project is a lengthy one that could take several years to complete. In order to facilitate research, the proper supplies are absolutely necessary. Funding is necessary for Goshen College to maintain, organize, and display the Gleason Moss Collection. The process of organizing, cataloging, photographing and displaying these moss samples is labor-intensive and time-consuming. At the moment, the Goshen College Biology Department is providing the supplies for this project However, Goshen College lacks the needed supplies to properly maintain such an extensive collection.
The search for literature of moss taxonomy and preservation has convinced the student researchers of the need for continued moss research. The variety of literature on mosses includes great bryologists such as A.J. Grout (1903), Henry S. Conrad (1944), Howard Crum (1981), Winona H. Welch (1957) and Elizabeth M. Dunham (1916). The majority of the literature available is from the early 1900's and does not reflect the dynamic system of taxonomic naming systems.
The student researchers continue their search for new bryological insight on the the World Wide Web. They are trying to create web pages that match the expectations of the scientific community but are also understandable to the aspiring bryologist. Some World Wide Web sights have extensive moss databases such as the Missouri Botanical Garden. However, none of them have photographic representations from all the major families.
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