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The Changing Role of Herbaria in the Twenty-first Century and a Case Study of the University of California Los Angeles Herbarium


Once considered a central component of research in the plant sciences, herbaria are subject to changes in how biological research is conducted and the shifting priorities of the larger institutions they belong to. Especially in the context of higher education, herbaria have become increasingly vulnerable as public universities adopt a market-based approach to funding. Consequently, herbarium staff have had to look elsewhere for support. Through observations, interviews, and a review of archival materials, this thesis explores how the staff at five of the herbaria in the University of California system have adapted to these conditions and redefined their missions, with a closer look at the UCLA Herbarium. Despite the challenges, herbarium staff have remained resilient and strongly invested in their collections. Finally, I offer an assessment of the strengths and weaknesses of the UCLA Herbarium as it enters a major transition period, and provide recommendations to staff.

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