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Students Design Herbaria For Sandy Hook Unit

Gateway National Recreation Area

National Park News

Students at the Marine Academy of Science and Technology (MAST), located at Fort Hancock in Gateway National Recreation Area, are working on an interactive herbarium project for their directed field research class.

The park is immersed in a first-of-its-kind project, combining old-school plant preservation methods and adding a digital twist through the use of QR codes, Wikis, and geographic information systems. When completed, the project will yield both a physical interactive and virtual herbarium. By having both a physical and virtual herbarium, people everywhere will be able to enjoy the vast diversity of vegetation located in the unique confines of Sandy Hook.

The result of the project, the Sandy Hook herbarium, will be a multi-faceted venture going beyond the limits of normal herbaria. QR tags will be placed around Sandy Hook so visitors with smart phones can scan the tags to identify both plants that are in the herbarium, as well as larger plant species that cannot be pressed. MAST students will be mapping and creating suggested trails for visitors to explore and identify plants along the way. Students have also created a fully functional website ( that contains information on specimens collected, which will continue to grow.

The Sandy Hook Herbarium distinguishes itself from other herbaria in that it is entirely student-created and student-run. Nine high school seniors at MAST, under the guidance of instructors David Alfonse and Cheryl McDonald, are creating the bulk of the project in their Directed Field Research class.

Students also seek out mentors to aid in the process of creating a herbarium. These mentors come from a wide range of professions: botanists, electronic specialists, college professors, artists and NPS employees. The students learn skills related to herbaria, and more importantly, processes which can be used in any application. They are learning about much more than plants and QR codes -- they are also learning about life.


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