What’s Growing: The Art of Herbarium Specimens

By Sarah Hines

Acadia has a long history of preserving plant specimens in a way that is both artistic and scientific. The herbarium on campus has been in existence since 1910 and is alive and well today thanks to a multitude of students, staff, faculty, and volunteers over the years. The E.C. Smith Herbarium and Irving Biodiversity Collection add hundreds of new specimens to their collection each year. The specimens are gathered in the field, identified, preserved for long-term storage, and entered into an online database.

Preserving plant specimens is an art that requires a lot of patience. Jean Timpa has been volunteering to help preserve plants in the E.C Smith Herbarium for over 21 years. She has prepared thousands of plant specimens and trained dozens of students in the herbarium during her time as a volunteer. For the 21+ years before the COVID-19 pandemic, it was typical to find Jean working in the Irving Centre at least once a week. This likely represents over 5000 hours of volunteer time!

Jean has a wealth of knowledge with an incredible memory for the Latin names of species of plants, insects, birds, and mammals. Jean developed a love of nature at a young age and she continues to nurture her passions as a citizen scientist. Jean worked for many years as a school teacher and undoubtedly passed on her appreciation of the natural world to her students.

This July, a group of Irving Centre biologists celebrated Jean by giving her a plaque to thank her for the time she has dedicated over the years. When asked, Jean said she would be thrilled to return to the Irving Centre to pass on some of her plant preservation skills once campus opens to the public again. We will certainly take her up on that and look forward to staff, faculty, students, and volunteers returning to campus soon.

For more information on the E.C. Smith Herbarium visit herbarium.acadiau.ca.

Photo courtesy of Sarah Hines.