The University of Michigan Fungus Collection contains an estimated 280,000 specimens of dried mushrooms, cup fungi, morels, truffles, earth stars, stink horns, puff balls, coral fungi, bracket fungi, rusts, smuts, mildews, and leaf spots. Fungus Collection scientists collected these irreplaceable specimens over the last 150 years for their research on fungal systematics. Most of the specimens are from North America, but specimens from many other countries are also contained in the collection.
The Fungus Collection also has 13,000 photographs, several hundred watercolors and thousands of cards containing notes, drawings and spore prints associated with specific specimens.
A computer database was created to catalog all of the specimens, link specimens to photographs, and keep track of specimens on loan to scientists. Common names of fungi and general, "field guide", information on distribution, habitats, toxicity, etc. were soon added to allow non-specialists to retrieve ("mine") information from the database. Bioinformatics is a new field. It extends simple searches of computer databases into new ways to combine data and reveal answers to complex questions in environmental studies, molecular biology, and climate change. Bioinformatics will transform biodiversity studies, as cataloguing of collections is completed and methods are developed to explore relationships among different datasets.
A geographic information system (GIS) is one bioinformatics method Michigan is exploring to examine spatial relationships between specimen data and other data. Our GIS makes it possible to create maps showing the relationship between the location of specimens and political units (states and counties of USA), major highways, major lakes and rivers, and federal land ownership. You will be able to use the GIS to examine location of specimens and land cover, or soil types, in the future.
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Last update: 3 Jan 00. © 2000, Robert Fogel, Ivins, UT. Text edited by Patricia Rogers