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C. A. Taylor Herbarium - Strategic Plan

Department of Natural Resource Management

Executive Summary

The C. A. Taylor Herbarium at SDSU holds more than 60,000 vouchered plant specimens of around 2,500 species. The Herbarium dates back to 1881 with the foundation of South Dakota College and was designated as the C. A. Taylor Herbarium in 1994 to honor Charles Arthur Taylor, Jr., who dedicated 40 years of his life to its maintenance and growth. A significant part of the herbarium is the many collections "Charlie" Taylor brought with him from the Ithaca, NY area and elsewhere, but the majority of specimens document the flora of the Northern Great Plains region. Our collection has grown in recent years largely due to recent floristic studies of the Black Hills National Forest, the Fort Pierre and Grand River National Grasslands and wetlands of the Prairie Pothole Region. We are in the early stages of specimen digitization, with more than 14,500 databased (none imaged) thus far.

Our holdings from the Northern Great Plains region, including ethnobotanical collections from several Native American reservations within South Dakota, are significant assets that set us apart from other herbaria. The Herbarium has actively supported the research, teaching and extension missions of South Dakota State University. Our collections also support 5 botanical courses on campus, and we maintain an active Student Herbarium for teaching purposes. In addition, we provide consultation on plant identification for stakeholders through SDSU Extension.

This document presents the first Strategic Plan for our Herbarium The Plan outlines the Herbarium’s organizational context and current challenges, shares the breadth of the Herbarium’s role and activities, and hopefully establishes a strategy for future success. The Herbarium’s Strategic Plan directly supports the goals outlined in Imagine 2023, the newest Strategic Vision for South Dakota State University promoting academic excellence and innovative teaching, generating new knowledge through innovative research approaches, stimulating public engagement and fostering a diverse environment of civility, integrity and transparency.

Organizational Context

Herbarium Staff

Our herbarium has no designated staff apart from the Director (Dr. Maribeth Latvis). Previously, the herbarium had supported around 1-2 work study student employees per year to focus on specimen mounting and repair, organization and digitization. We did not hire students during 2017-2018 as Dr. Latvis began her position as Director and assessed the financial situation of the herbarium. Progress on digitization has largely been the contribution of Dr. Gary Larson, Professor Emeritus, who volunteers his time.

Strategic Planning Partners

  • Maribeth Latvis, Ph.D. (Director)
  • Jordan Purintun, M.S. (State Botanist, South Dakota Natural Heritage Program Coordinator)
  • Gary Larson, Ph.D. (Director Emeritus)
  • Michele Dudash, Ph.D. (Department Chair, Natural Resource Management)
  • John Killefer, Ph.D. (College of Agriculture, Food and Environmental Sciences)

Key Stakeholders

  1. Collectors whose specimens SDSU curates.
  2. SDSU instructors and their students that use the specimens in their courses (e.g., Plant Systematics, Grasses and Grasslike Plants, Range Plant Identification, Aquatic Plants and Introductory Botany, among others).
  3. SDSU researchers (e.g., study of phenological change through time, documenting plant invasions).
  4. SDSU Extension Experts (particularly those involved with plant identification and documentation). SDSU’s Agricultural Research Stations as part of this (some have their own small reference herbaria on site for researchers).
  5. Colleagues in other departments at SDSU (beyond NRM) with an interest in plant collections (e.g., Plant Science, Biology and Microbiology, Agricultural and Biosystems Engineering, Geospatial Sciences, Geography, etc.).
  6. Colleagues at other herbaria in the Northern Great Plains Region and beyond.
  7. State and federal agencies in South Dakota: USDA NRCS (Natural Resources Conservation Service), USDA Forest Service, South Dakota Game Fish and Parks, USGS Co-op Unit, National Park Service.
  8. Nonprofit organizations with a strong presence in South Dakota: The Nature Conservancy, Ducks Unlimited, Pheasants Forever, etc.
  9. Specimen data aggregators, including iDigBio (NSF’s National Resource for Advancing Digitization of Biodiversity Collections), the Global Biodiversity Information Facility, SEINET Northern Great Plains Regional Herbarium Network.
  10. Researchers from outside the local area who use the SDSU Herbarium digital data or physical specimens (as a visitor or through loans to other herbaria).
  11. The local community of amateur naturalists, especially from the Great Plains Native Plant Society and McCrory Botanical Garden, and other outreach and education partners.
  12. Supporters, including the family of Stephen Langer, a contributor to the herbarium.
  13. Funders, especially SDSU Natural Resource Management, SDSU College of Agriculture, Food and Environmental Sciences and the National Science Foundation.
  14. Volunteers and work study students.

Goals and Objectives

  1. Become a leader in biodiversity research at SDSU and the Northern Great Plains region.
    1. Create and expand herbarium website, with links to databased collections. (started in 2018 and continuing)
    2. Write Strategic Plan for Herbarium. (2018)
    3. Hire work study students to help with mounting, data basing, and other herbarium tasks. (2018 and continuing)
    4. Apply for external federal funding from the National Science Foundation for improved infrastructure and specimen imaging capabilities. (2018)
    5. Move the herbarium to a new location on campus to facilitate expansion. Space has been identified in 2018 but additional resources are needed. (2019-2020)
    6. Incorporate newly acquired ethnobotanical collections from across South Dakota (2019-) and potentially acquire an orphaned collection. (2019)
    7. Begin offering herbarium tours to introduce our resources to other researchers at SDSU, facilitating potential interdisciplinary partnerships and creative uses of herbarium data. (2020 and continuing)
    8. Begin curating a collection of silica-dried tissue and/or DNA bank of specimens housed within the herbarium. (2018 and continuing)
    9. Maintain our provision of data to data aggregators for discoverability of our resources. Continuous.
    10. Actively promote all ongoing activities through an increased web presence. (2019and continuing)
  2. Support and advance botanical education at SDSU and inspire students and the general public to care about plant biodiversity and conservation.
    1. Offer collections to enhance botanical courses at SDSU and offer instruction on handling and best collecting and curatorial practices (e.g., Plant Systematics, Grasses and Grasslike Plants, Range Plant Identification, Aquatic Plants, and Introductory Botany, among others). Continuous.
    2. Repair and replace the specimens in the student herbarium (2018and continuing)
    3. Offer Prairie Plant Diversity workshops through our annual SDSU Natural Resource Management summer camp (starting in 2018 and continuing).
    4. Offer an independent study course or graduate seminar course for graduate students with an interest in plant identification. (started in2018and continuing as needed)
    5. Explore a partnership with the SDSU Wokini Initiative, which will offer training and support at SDSU to enrolled members of the nine tribal nations in South Dakota. The initiative aims to enhance research and outreach collaborations and programs with tribes within the state. (2019)
    6. Offer tours to other instructors at SDSU whose courses would benefit by accessing herbarium resources. (2020 and continuing)
  3. The SDSU Herbarium will become a valuable resource for stakeholders in South Dakota through partnerships with SDSU Extension.
    1. Promote plant identification services among stakeholders, especially through the Plant Diagnostic Lab. (2018 and continuing).
    2. Continue contributing plant-related content to local publications geared towards our stakeholders and elevate the platform of the herbarium among these audiences (e.g. Working Ranch Magazine, among others). (started in 2018 and continuing).
    3. Conduct informal plant identification demonstrations/workshops for interested landowners/managers. (2020)
    4. Expand plant information on SDSU Extension following example of UF-IFAS. (2021)
    5. Evaluate the potential to offer a DNA barcoding service for problem plants (weeds) in collaboration with SDSU extension. (2022).
  4. Foster a deep appreciation among the general public about native plant diversity and conservation, through outreach events.
    1. Collaborate with the SDSU Wokini Initiative, a program to support the 9 tribal nations within South Dakota and other departments. (2020)
    2. Develop “Citizen Science” projects in collaboration with local schools (and beyond) using (2021)
    3. Develop a partnership with the McCrory Botanical Garden in Brookings and offer fun and engaging botanical workshops to increase knowledge and inspire interest in native prairie plants (edible plant ID, paper making, etc.) (2022).

Strategy Statement

Through the collection, curation and digitization of botanical specimens, we will support plant biodiversity research at all levels, the mission of SDSU Extension and inspire appreciation and understanding of our natural resources through enhanced education and outreach.

SWOT Analysis


  1. Providing access to valuable specimens and data from the Northern Great Plains region, including excellent coverage from the Black Hills and the Prairie Pothole Region.
  2. Providing access to ethnobotanical collections within South Dakota.
  3. Maintaining a student herbarium, which houses resources for students and duplicate collections for teaching plant identification classes.
  4. Making progress with digitization.
  5. Continuing a strong relationship with SDSU Extension, including plant identification services.
  6. Continuing a strong tradition in plant identification coursework, a requirement for our Natural Resource Management Department.
  7. Ongoing collaboration between herbaria in South Dakota, especially regarding an updated Vascular Plants of South Dakota (Van Bruggen, 1985).


  1. Lack of personnel and volunteers.
  2. Website is sparse (just created in 2018).
  3. No social media presence.
  4. Lack of visibility on campus outside of the Natural Resource Management, Plant Sciences and Biology and Microbiology departments.
  5. Current lack of cabinet and floor space will restrict the growth of the collection.
  6. Need better organization for data, forms, and incoming specimens.
  7. No open hours for the collection. Visitors and questions must go through the Herbarium Director.
  8. Lack of continuity in leadership- new Herbarium Director did not overlap with previous Herbarium Director. New Department Head in NRM. New Dean.
  9. No outreach activities within the community.
  10. Lack of formal training opportunities for students (internships, apprenticeships).
  11. Several cabinets need to be replaced.
  12. Lack of comfortable work spaces that could accommodate more than 2-3 people.
  13. Pace of digitization has been slow.


  1. Strong culture of land stewardship in the Northern Great Plains region, with several non-profits (e.g. TNC, Ducks Unlimited, Pheasants Forever) and federal agencies nearby with a vested interest in plant conservation.
  2. Student body is heavily invested in outdoor recreation and many have an appreciation for natural history.
  3. Support from the Department Head and higher administration.
  4. NSF continues to recognize natural history collections as a funding priority.
  5. National scientific societies (SHC, BSA, ASPT, SPNHC) continue to provide support for herbaria.
  6. Brookings, SD, has a popular botanical garden (McCrory Gardens) nearby campus, and they host activities for the public.
  7. Interest in collaboration from other nearby botanical institutions (Mary Jo Wegner Arboretum in Sioux Falls).


  1. No sustainable source of money coming into the herbarium.
  2. Climate of uncertainty regarding federal funding.
  3. Lack of adequate climate control in current space and proposed new space.
  4. Natural disasters, including tornados and strong windstorms.
  5. Lack of appreciation towards other natural history collections on campus.
  6. Lack of active research use of the herbarium.


Maintaining Strengths

Strengths of our herbarium include the curation of important collections from the Northern Great Plains region – particularly those from the Prairie Pothole Region and the Black Hills, and a strong contribution to botanical courses on campus. We also have a strong relationship with SDSU Extension. Maintaining our strengths will involve best-practice curation of specimens, continuing progress on digitization and continuing to use these data for creative classroom applications. The relationship with SDSU Extension will continue through plant identification and consulting services and will grow through a greater public presence. We need to be more vocal about our strengths to gain visibility, for increased support from upper level administration and to create a network of collaborators at SDSU and beyond.

Addressing Weaknesses

The herbarium’s most significant bottleneck is the lack of personnel and volunteers to assist with day-to-day tasks, severely limiting the pace of specimen processing, digitization and expansion. We will hire a work-study student over the summer with support from the NRM department with the goal of continuing student employment through the 2018-2019 school year. We aim to create a herbarium internship program, or other similar opportunity, to increase awareness among students and provide a valuable training service.

We currently lack adequate space for our collection, and several cabinets need to be replaced to allow for expansion. With support from the NRM department head and upper level administration, a new space has been identified, and we plan to move the collection in the next year or two. We will apply for external funding in 2018 to try to obtain funding for cabinets (and also for student training opportunities). This move will also greatly improve the available workspace for herbarium visitors.

Our herbarium currently has a low profile among other departments on campus and the community as a whole. We will increase visibility by creating (2018) and improving (onward) the herbarium website, posting our strategic plan, creating a social media presence and networking with colleagues on campus and in the community. We’ve already begun networking with the McCrory Botanical Garden in Brookings, SD, and the Mary Jo Wegner Arboretum in Sioux Falls, and have ideas for outreach activities for the public.

Capitalizing on Opportunities

Our herbarium exists in a region that has a culture of land stewardship and appreciation for natural resources. Thus, we have several non-profit organizations (The Nature Conservancy, Ducks Unlimited, Pheasants Forever) with a strong presence in the area. We are in a position to easily network with these organizations and capitalize on shared values of native plant conservation and raise public awareness. Our region also has many students that are somewhat familiar with the local flora, making educational and training opportunities relevant and important. The National Science Foundation continues to value natural history collections and the data they provide researchers and the public. We will seek NSF funding within the next year.

Mitigating Threats

The largest threat to our herbarium is the current lack of sustainable funding. This limits everything we are capable of doing, from hiring students to purchasing supplies. As noted, we will apply for federal funding, but we will also explore ways to conduct regular fundraising activities, perhaps creating a “Friends of the Taylor Herbarium” organization. In order to do this, we need improved visibility with the community and region, which we are working on. Our herbarium has also become underutilized for research over the past several years, due to a gap in leadership after the previous director retired. This puts us at risk of being undervalued by upper level administration. Research use is expected to pick up over the next few years with a new Director, and we will publicize our ongoing accomplishments.


Based on the first two goals of the Goals and Objectives section, we developed a logic model that outlines activities, which produce outputs, leading to outcomes. We describe metrics, benchmarks and milestones for both outputs and outcomes. Please contact Herbarium Director, Dr. Maribeth Latvis, if you are interested in seeing our logic model.


The strategic plan was produced as part of the activities of a course sponsored by the Society of Herbarium Curators and iDigBio and co-taught by Austin Mast, David Jennings, and guest-instructor Shari Ellis. Ideas presented benefited from conversations with the 2017 strategic planning course participants (Nancy Cowden, Jennifer Doubt, Emily Gillespie, Jonathan Kennedy, Scott LaGreca, Jordan Metzger, Jamie Minnaert-Grote, Brad Ruhfel, Michaela Schmull, Thomas Stoughton, David Tank, Brie Van Dam, Genevieve Walden, Andrea Weeks, Mark Wetter, Erica Wheeler, Mary Whitson) and 2018 course participants (Jennifer Ackerfield, Sarah Chamberlain, Sara Fuentes-Soriano, Amanda Grusz, Maribeth Latvis, Melanie Link-Perez, Amy Litt, Alicia Lopez, Adriana López-Villalobos, Nina Lundholm, Kirstin Phillips, Alan Prather, Nina Rønsted, Tristram Seidler, Karly Tumminello, Rick Williams, Paul Wolf, Ya Yang).