Welcome to Mapping Change!

We are thrilled to announce the launch of Mapping Change! Change is a natural part of life on Earth but change caused by our human population is currently happening at an unprecedented rate. Mapping Change seeks to document the impact of our activities on biological diversity. The idea is simple: map the current distributions of species and follow them into the future.

minnesota_terrestrial_biomes_labelThe data gathered through this project will help us understand and respond to the changes that plants and animals are experiencing. We invite you to join us in capturing nature’s what, when, and where from museum specimens.

At the Bell Museum, specimens are central to everything we do. Specimens tell us where species occur, when they reproduce, how they differ, and they even provide new genomes. We care for millions of specimens collected over the past 150 years that range from slides of microscopic algae to whole bison skeletons. But the information about them isn’t yet online. That’s where you come in! Mapping Change is your opportunity to capture and make available critical data from digital images of museum specimens.

We’ll use these data to map where specimens were collected, the information that scientists need to determine current distributions, predict future distributions, and understand how communities respond to changing climate, land use, and the spread of invasive species.

Minnesota and the Great Lakes region is a great place to observe change considering the extremes of the seasons and the intersection of three major life zones: grasslands, deciduous forests, and coniferous forests. Recent data show clear warming trends here as well as increased precipitation and more extreme rain events. How these trends will affect native species is unclear but researchers are using the data we collect to test predictions and forecast our future. Thank you for your help!


The first photo of Sidebells Wintergreen

Thanks to Mapping Change and the Minnesota Biodiversity Atlas, we’ve discovered specimens that are associated with the earliest known photographs of plants in the wild! In the early 20th Century, Professor of Botany, Carl Otto Rosendahl, photographed Minnesota plants as he collected in the field. His glass negatives were recently digitized and published online by the University of Minnesota Libraries. Comparing data between the library and the Bell Museum, we found a perfect match between the location and date of collection. So it appears that Rosendahl photographed Sidebells Wintergreen (Orthilia secunda) on 16 June 1902 at Cold Spring, Minnesota and at the same time collected the plants for the herbarium under his personal catalog number 518. This delicate perennial herb with greenish white flowers prefers the shade of wet woods and mossy bogs.

rosendahl_imageWe wonder whether Sidebells Wintergreen can still be found in this Minnesota town. If so, we’d like to know if nowadays it flowers at the same time in spring or perhaps even earlier, knowing that average winter temperatures in Minnesota are several degrees warmer than a century ago. Your participation in Mapping Change, adding more records, will help to answer questions like this.