Work from Home Work-Study Students

When Carolina shifted to all on-line classes at the end of Spring Break due to Covid-2019, we faced the challenge of how to keep our loyal and  hard-working Work-Study Students employed on Botanical Garden projects, but not physically on the grounds of the Garden.  Once we gained approval from the Carolina Work-Study Office for students to do remote, on-line projects, the Herbarium staff directed students to the citizen science site “Notes From Nature”.  Meanwhile Shanna Oberreiter, the Herbarium’s Loans Manager, quickly launched a project within Notes From Nature to transcribe the labels of our specimens of Mountain Laurel (Kalmia latifolia), Pipsissewa (Chimaphila maculata and C. umbellata) and Staggerbush (Lyonia spp.).

What started out as a few students has grown to a group of nearly 30, including students from Education, Administration, Horticulture Departments at the Garden.  Biology faculty and Garden member Dr. Mark Peifer heard about the Herbarium’s expanded use of students, and referred two of his undergraduates who cannot attend to their usual lab tasks of making chemical solutions and caring for fruit fly stocks.  The Curator of the West Virginia University Herbarium asked us to train one of their work-study students in entering data.  Most recently I am assisting a work-study student in the University of North Carolina at Pembroke Herbarium on projects using online specimen data since her usual duties of filing specimens is on hold until UNC-P campus re-opens.

Opening herbarium label transcription to a wider set of students has been a learning opportunity for them and for me — I had to learn to use Zoom, the remote conferencing service.  While it has been strange to be at work while in my dining room, I am beginning to enjoy the advantages of being home to watch spring unfold in my woods and to attend meetings in my pajama pants.

In the coming weeks our expanded group of Work-Study Students will have the opportunity to transcribe herbarium labels of our extensive collection of Maples (Acer spp.).  While I hope that we can return to campus soon, I am happy to know that the Herbarium has provided an employment Refuge for our Garden students.

by Carol Ann McCormick, Herbarium Curator