Summer curation internship: getting behind-the-scenes with plant records

August 25th, 2014 by UWBG Communication Staff

By Nichole Sheehan

flower photo

Photo by Nichole Sheehan

Field-testing my classwork and expanding my plant palette as a curation intern

I am wrapping up a fantastic internship experience at the University of Washington Botanic Gardens this week and I’m already scheduling myself to continue as a volunteer. My internship was a wildly fortunate opportunity since I’m not a current student of the University of Washington. Tracy Mehlin of the Elisabeth Miller Library arranged the perfect internship to combine my attention to detail from my Navy service, my research and organizational skills from my MLIS, and my recent horticultural studies at Edmonds Community College.

I had two tasks; assist in the on-going plant inventory in the Arboretum, and help clean-up data for the interactive map (see the post, “Where in the Arboretum . . .”). Keith Ferguson provided me with excellent training for both BG Base and field inventory and Ryan Garrison helped me with the basics of the Arc GIS program. I amended scientific names, solved discrepancies with accession numbers, and linked mapped plants to the BG Base plant database for the arboretum. While I couldn’t solve all the problems, I did evaluate each of the more than 16,500 mapped plants and came up with a short-list of plants that need field checks. In the last program update, my work linked 1,436 mapped plants to the database so proper information can be displayed.

I really enjoyed the behind-the-scenes aspects such as reading historical plant condition notes and evaluating plants for health and maintenance using my pests and diseases classwork. The five plant identification courses I had proved extremely helpful for inventorying, and my database work introduced me to hundreds of fantastic cultivars to consider using in the future. My experience here has really helped reinforce my coursework for ornamental landscaping and nursery and greenhouse production.

All of the staff and volunteers I met and worked with helped to make me feel comfortable and part of the team. They are truly the reason I want to stay on and continue helping with the field inventory. I’m grateful for everyone’s help and proud of my work. I strongly recommend others take advantage of this great opportunity to learn in the field and make a difference at the UW Botanic Gardens.

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