Thanks to $272,162 in grant money from the National Science Foundation and another $110,000 from Bill Cheadle – son of former UCSB chancellor Vernon Cheadle – an extensive plant collection currently housed beneath UCSB’s Harder Stadium is getting a long-overdue upgrade and makeover.
The Cheadle Center for Biodiversity and Ecological Restoration (CCBER) currently uses World War II-era cabinets to house its 100,000 plant specimens, which include oaks, conifers, and what UCSB officials claim is one of the most significant collections of algae from California’s Central Coast. The collection also includes more than 5,000 plants and 60,000 light microscope slides produced by Vernon Cheadle, who studied botany in addition to his overseeing affairs at UCSB from 1962 to 1977.
The overhaul will begin with a team of UCSB professors and students examining each specimen for damage, proper notation, and outdated scientific nomenclature. Once new storage facilities are installed, the reorganized collection will be stored away once again – this time in a way that will better ensure access for future students and academics. The collection will also incorporate work by two UCSB alums: the late UCSB professor Cornelius Muller, who amassed an extensive collection of oak specimens, and former UCSB staffer Robert Haller, who created a collection of pine specimens. Beyond this estimated two-year process, CCBER director Jennifer Thorsch said she’d like the collection to be uploaded to Specify, a biological database, though that will require additional funding.
Thorsch said the benefits of such a body of information are many. “[These specimens] aid our ability to conduct genetic research, examine species diversity trends, and study species responses to global warming using data available in the collection records,” she said.