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ARS Home » Northeast Area » Beltsville, Maryland (BARC) » Beltsville Agricultural Research Center » Mycology and Nematology Genetic Diversity and Biology Laboratory » Research » Research Project #434097

Research Project: Management of Specimens and Associated Information in the U.S. National Fungus Collections, with Emphasis on Critically Important Plant Pathogenic Fungi

Location: Mycology and Nematology Genetic Diversity and Biology Laboratory

Project Number: 8042-22000-308-000-D
Project Type: In-House Appropriated

Start Date: Jan 18, 2018
End Date: Jan 17, 2023

Objective 1: Efficiently and effectively acquire, distribute, and preserve the fungal specimens and associated information in the U.S. National Fungus Collections. Objective 2: Expand and enhance web-accessible databases that deliver information associated with the specimens in the U.S. National Fungus Collections, emphasizing accurate names, and information about plant-associated fungi, their host associations, and ecogeographical distributions. The long-term goal of this project is to maintain and make available the specimens and information in the U.S. National Fungus Collections (USNFC) to enhance our ability to solve problems caused by fungi in agricultural systems and in our natural resources. Through curation and digitization, the staff of the U.S. National Fungus Collections carry out the USDA’s responsibility to maintain this unique scientific, mission-critical resource for use in perpetuity. Objective 1 will focus on the acquisition and cataloging of specimens, while Objective 2 will focus on making plant pathogen information available through a publicly accessible website.

Approximately one-million dried fungal specimens are contained in the U.S. National Fungus Collections. Specimens are housed in metal herbarium cabinets on moveable compactors in a relatively climate-controlled space. About 2,000 specimens are accessioned each year. Many of these are type specimens documenting previously undescribed fungi. Non-type voucher specimens that document research, especially on plant pathogenic fungi, are also accepted. Specimens are accessioned using standard procedures including archival quality supplies, and specimen information is databased as part of the accessioning process. Specimens in the U.S. National Fungus Collections are available on loan for examination by qualified scientists. The loan policy of the U.S. National Fungus Collections is posted on the management unit’s official ARS website. Typically 50 loans for a total of approximately 2,000 specimens are sent each year. Loans are tracked through a loan database, which generates overdue notices that are sent twice a year when necessary. All specimens are frozen at -20 C for three to five days before intial filing, after being returned from a loan, or after use by scientists on location to prevent the introduction of insect pests. Requests to use material for DNA analysis are considered if sufficient material exists to support such work without jeopardizing the integrity of the specimen. Excess DNA must be returned to the U.S. National Fungus Collections or be made available to other researchers upon request. Database resources about plant-associated fungi will continue to be updated with newly published literature and as new specimens are accessioned into the U.S. National Fungus Collections. The nomenclature database will be updated when such expertise is available. This database provides the accurate scientific name for plant-associated fungal species as well as all synonyms and a synopsis of the host range, plant part affected, and geographic distribution. The accepted scientific name and the synonyms are linked so that one search on a fungal name returns the worldwide distribution, host range, literature, and specimens in the U.S. National Fungus Collections. Herbarium specimens will be digitized as funds become available for discrete taxonomic groups and as specimens are accessioned or returned from loan. Data entry applications, online database queries, and website code are updated as needed and in accordance with ARS security requirements. The public website and internal data entry applications are currently maintained on a Dell PowerEdge 710 server. This hardware was purchased in 2010. It is anticipated that a new server will be purchased during or that a transition to cloud computing will be made under Departmental guidance during the lifespan of this project.