The University of Wyoming’s Rocky Mountain Herbarium ranks in the top 2 percent of herbaria in the U.S. and in the world, according to a recent report.

Index Herbariorum’s annual report ranks the RM as number 15 among 641 herbaria in the U.S. and 75th among 2,962 herbaria in the world. The report’s rankings are based on the number of plant specimens contained in the herbaria, according to a UW news release.

Founded in 1893, the RM, housed within the Department of Botany, contains 1.3 million specimens from around the world. Approximately 25,000 new specimens are added each year. The herbarium contains the largest collection of Rocky Mountain plants and fungi in existence, with additional representation of the floras of other parts of the Northern Hemisphere.

“These herbarium specimens are used to document natural resources; elucidate evolutionary relationships and processes; describe the effects of climate change; and identify organisms and landscapes of conservation concern,” says Greg Brown, a UW botany professor and acting director of the RM.

Since 1997, the RM has received nearly $1.7 million in federal grant funding. Grant awards have helped support and fund the RM graduate program, in which students conduct floristic inventories. In collaboration with UW Libraries, the funding also supports undergraduate students involved in entering data and imaging specimens.

Nearly 850,000 specimens and 140,000 specimen images can be accessed through the RM’s online database. The database is used extensively by the scientific community, state and federal agencies, and the public, and it contributes to regional, national and global consortia, Brown says.

“Wyoming residents should be truly proud of the RM -- an institution worthy of its international reputation,” Brown adds.

Friends of the RM was formed in October 2015 to raise awareness of the RM through public events and activities, and to establish a volunteer program to increase the rate of specimen processing.

Since the volunteer program’s start in January 2016, volunteers have logged more than 5,000 hours to help process a backlog of more than 300,000 specimens, says Charmaine Delmatier, volunteer program director.

Delmatier says more help would be welcomed.

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