JSTOR Plant Science Database Review

JSTOR recently released a new database called JSTOR Plant Science, which is freely available to current JSTOR subscribers.  It includes content from Global Plants Initiative partners, bringing the amount of materials to 800,000 type specimens, paintings, drawings, correspondence, and supporting materials from over 160 partners in 47 countries on 5 continents.

While JSTOR states that “Plant Science strives to be a comprehensive online research tool for aggregating and exploring the world’s botanical resources,” it still has a considerable way to go before being truly comprehensive.  800,000 plant species is still a considerable collection of information, and will undoubtedly be useful for those researching, teaching or studying botany, biology, ecology, environmental and conservation studies.

One can browse by scientific plant name, geographic location, herbarium (collections of dried plants), and media type.  It provides a standard search box for quick searches, as well as a search box for plant family which is located within the scientific plant name browsing list.

Sample of browsing results

To the left is a screen shot of Browsing by Plant Name. The initial information that is displayed includes the name of the species of how it was originally file, the name of the collector, when it was collected, the locality (specific town or location), country it was collected in, where the sample is being kept (which herbarium) and the collection identification number, and any social tags that are associated with this record.

Sample of Individual Plant Species Record.

Source: Herbarium Illustration and Slide Collection, JSTOR Plant Database

The second screen shot is of an individual plant species herbarium record, along with a link to a scanned PDF of the original document.  The individual record naturally has additional information and metadata associated with it, and the quality and quantitity of the information varies from species to species.  Two of the nice resources are the notes field which contains additional useful information about individual species, as well as the color scanned PDFs.

JSTOR Plant Science Database also includes recent color photos as they are available.  Hopefully, more photos will be included as this resources grows.  This link goes to a slide show of photos.  The last photo is an example of a high quality photograph courtesy of the Herbarium Illustration and Slide Collection.

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About repplinger

John has served as a Reference Librarian at Willamette University since 2002. He is the liaison to the Science Departments, and is responsible for maintaining the collections related to the life & physical sciences. His research interests range over the entire spectrum of libraries and information sciences, but includes: - Google and its influence on information & society - The Internet's influence on information seeking & sharing behaviors - Trends of scholarly communication - Electronic learning environments - Traditional pedagogy - GIS use in academic libraries

Posted on June 3, 2010, in Database Reviews, Libraries and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

  1. Hello there John,

    Excellent post. I work extensively with the JSTOR Plant Science project to make it more valuable to the scientific community. We believe the real power of the resource will be unlocked with some robust integration with existing JSTOR botanical, biological, and related science journals. We are working fairly hard towards this, but we are certainly open to suggestions! Ingesting quite a lot of material daily so stay tuned as this resource is only going to get bigger (2.2 million specimens by 2012, related materials, terabytes and terabytes of data). Now the trick is to make it discoverable, useful, interactive! Love to hear from you at plants@jstor.org.

    Take care, John!

    • Thanks Michael. The science faculty at my institution are very excited about this new resource, and are really looking forward to the expansion (2.2 million specimens by 2012! Wow!)

  2. That is great to hear, John! Please feel free to let them know I can work with whomever might need some instruction or some ideas on how to use the tool. The 2.2 million specimens goal is alive and well thanks in large part to the Mellon Foundation. I think more importantly for teachers and students will be the tools we are developing and the linkage to other sites, like the Biodiversity Heritage Library (http://www.biodiversitylibrary.org/) and others.

    More to come, most certainly! Either way, I am here if anyone might need me!

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