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Biology department receives scientific grant 

The biology department received a grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) totaling $307,000. 

The National Science Foundation is a United States governmental agency whose mission is to advance the progress of science.  Their mission is to grant considerable amounts of money to proposals for research and education that scientists, engineers, and educators can use across the country. 

Neil Snow, associate professor of biology and curator of the Sperry Herbarium, applied for the grant, and submitted the proposal. The NSF accepted the proposal and granted the department the money. The money will be used to expand the Sperry Herbarium of PSU, and to upload scientific data and digital images of plant specimens online. Snow has discovered more than 100 new plant species and said the collection is to “emphasize the diverse flora of southeast Kansas and the greater Four-State area.” 

“… So I was particularly happy because this one was funded the first time I applied for it,” Snow said. 

Former biology professor and ecologist Theodore Sperry established the herbarium in 1946. At its founding, it held less than 100 specimens in a single cabinet. Sperry expanded the herbarium over 28 years to a capacity of almost 40,000 specimens. 

“The competition for the grants is very competitive. In fact, even the best I knew, I am confident saying that even the best people who right grants from the NSF, they only successful obtain may be one out of three of four tries. They are really competitive,” Snow said. 

The department wants to gather all the data of the plant specimens they have online and make it accessible to the public. It will allow researchers not to have to travel miles to have information about the plants. 

“I applied for the funding because we are trying to do what is called ‘mobilizing the data of plant specimen labels,’ which in this case, will collect the name of the plants. What is the name of the plant? Where did it occur? Those sort of things. Trying to get this data online in a digital format. There are several reasons why it is important. It takes a lot of time to do that, so we need funding to pay people to help with that. When that data is made online in a digital format, that means researchers or anyone in the world can access the data of the specimens of our collection. I know we have at least 65,000 plants specimen, but we probably have closer to 70,000.” 

They also want to expand, renovate, and improve the herbarium to give an opportunity for students to work there and to understand the importance of keeping the specimens. In addition, students will be able to access this information do to research or science projects.  

“This is important because it provides opportunities for students to database and work in the herbarium to learn about why specimens are important, why we carry them, and why we put the data online.” Said Snow. 




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