On Thursday, Feb. 23, workstations equipped with microscopes will be set up at the University of New Mexico Herbarium, one of eight divisions within the Museum of Southwestern Biology (MSB), as organizers host the first Plant Identification Night of the spring semester.

Plant ID Students
Participants in UNM's Plant Identification Night work collaboratively to identify a backlog of plants at the Museum of Southwestern Biology.

Through this unique event, novices and experts alike are invited to get a firsthand experience in using keys to identify pressed plant specimens. 

“This is one of the most fun outreach nights for us as herbarium employees. We get to see people have a lot of a-ha moments and remind ourselves why we care so much about these collections,” said Harpo Faust, Herbarium Senior Collections manager. 

By bringing the public and MSB’s Herbarium together, the group will work on identifying pressed plant specimens from the divisions' backlog. The first night of the semester is open to beginners who will be put into small groups to learn more about identification. At a future event scheduled for Thursday, April 13, attendees will get to use these skills to go further into the identification process. 

“It's a pretty fun experience… the people who return have been improving and we’re slowly making a dent in the backlog,” Faust said. 

The Herbarium first started Plant ID nights in the Spring of 2022 and it was such a hit that they brought it back again this year. The event was created by Assistant Professor Hannah Marx and Faust, who both had been a part of Plant ID nights at another herbaria. 

The MSB has been conducting nationally and internationally significant research for the past 50 years. Their research includes systematics, ecology, and life history of plants, invertebrates, and vertebrates. It is seen as an international resource for biodiversity.  

An RSVP is required to attend Plant ID Night. Email Harpo Faust for more details.