Data Days (or, Adventures in Curation)

I type this post surrounded by stacks of archival paper, towers of herbarium boxes, and dozens of dried out bryophyte and lichen specimens. Dust and spores swirl around my monitor and I squint at the lines of data filling the boxes on my screen. I’m sitting within a wealth of Pacific Northwest forest fragments. Each specimen tells a story about a different forest or grassland, adding to a continuously growing body of knowledge about what exists on federal lands in Oregon and Washington.

This is mostly what I do as an interagency team member in the Portland state office: sort through bits of natural history, sleuth through slightly legible data sheets, and transfer information to our herbarium database. We use this information to inform management decisions and create protocols for our field teams.

When I’m not admiring bits of dried plant matter I also help my team manage the state lists of sensitive species, another tool we use for directing field teams and other offices. These lists are constantly being reevaluated and updated, which can be a lengthy and tedious process. Right now my internship is pretty much all about data. It’s amazing how much there is to keep track of!

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