The Morris Arboretum of University of Pennsylvania was recently awarded a grant from the Advancing Digitization of Biological Collections program of the National Science Foundation. Dr. Cynthia Skema of Morris Arboretum led the "Mid-Atlantic Megalopolis" (MAM) proposal.

As the largest, oldest, and most populated urban corridor in the U.S., the Mid-Atlantic Megalopolis presents a unique opportunity for the study of the effects of urbanization on a flora. The $1.5 million award for the MAM Project supports the Arboretum and 10 other collaborating institutions in a three-year effort to image, transcribe label data from, and georeference about 700,000 herbarium specimens collected in the Mid-Atlantic region.  Morris Arboretum's digitizing partners on this grant include: The Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University, Delaware State University, Howard University, New York Botanical Garden, Rutgers University, Towson University, and the University of Maryland. Additionally, Mid-Atlantic specimens at the following institutions will be digitized by one of the partners: Maryland Department of Natural Resources, Muhlenberg College, and Staten Island Museum.

Digitization of each specimen in the MAM Project will result in a high resolution image, a databased record of collection metadata (for example, where and when it was collected and who collected it), and a georeferenced point, all of which will be made publicly available online. The increased accessibility of these data will help to achieve a better scientific understanding of living urban systems, a critical need for urban planners, restoration ecologists, environmental engineers, (landscape) architects, and conservationists engaged in creating more sustainable and better designed cities, including the constructed and restored natural environments of our urban areas. The data collected in this project will be freely available online to scientists, researchers, and teachers, as well as the general public. For more information on the MAM Project, and a link to the data portal, visit