School of Life Sciences

Wesley E. Niles Herbarium

The Wesley E. Niles Herbarium is a collection of dried, pressed plant specimens mounted on archival quality sheets of paper, placed in folders, and stored in cabinets. Each sheet has a label affixed to it, providing the proper scientific name of the plant, the location and habitat where it was collected, the date of the collection, the collector’s name, and the collection number. The label information is also electronically recorded, so it is readily retrievable through a database. These specimens provide tangible documentation for the occurrence, distribution, and diversity of flowering plants, conifers, and mosses in the Southwestern desert regions of the United States, especially the Mojave Desert. The herbarium also serves as a center for research, teaching, and public service, and as a repository of potentially valuable genetic information.

History

The herbarium was founded in 1970 to assist the biologists in their studies of the vegetation and floras of both Nevada and the Southwestern deserts. The collection represents a relatively recent acquisition of plant specimens. With UNLV being the only four-year university located within the Mojave Desert, collectors have centered their activities largely within that geographical area, resulting in a collection that today is the best single representation available of the Mojave Desert flora.

Collection

The herbarium collection consists of approximately 65,000 specimens of vascular plants, and a small but rapidly expanding number of mosses and liverworts. It is one of few herbaria in the country that currently has its entire vascular plant collection accessible through a computerized database (Paradox). Allowing for more effective management and retrieval of collection information, the database is especially useful in addressing the geographical and ecological distribution of plant taxa, evaluating the status and conservation of rare species, and developing local and regional plant checklists and floras.

National Resource Collection

In 1974, the Advisory Committee for the Systematic Resources in Botany (Systematic Botany Resources in America, Part I) surveyed 1,200 herbaria in the United States. Of these, 105 were designated as “National Resource Collections.” These collections were described as being, “of such importance for systematic study that their loss or inaccessibility would seriously impair our ability to carry on taxonomic research in the United States and the world.” The herbarium at UNLV was the only herbarium within the state of Nevada and in the Mojave Desert to be so designated.

Notable Collectors

Included in the herbarium holdings are materials that are unique in historical and scientific interest to Nevada, the Mojave Desert, and the adjacent regions. These include the collections of:

  • T. Ackerman (Desert National Wildlife Refuge)
  • J.C. Beatley (Nevada Test Site)
  • V. Bostick (Central and Southern Nevada)
  • D. Charlet (gymnosperms of the Great Basin)
  • I.W. Clokey (Spring Mountains)
  • M. Kurzius, D. Schramm, P. Peterson, and C. Annabel (Death Valley, California & Nevada)
  • S. Meyer (Southern Utah)
  • A. Pinzl, A. Tiehm, and H. Mozingo (Central and Northern Nevada)
  • W. Niles, P. Leary, J. Holland, J. Alexander, and F. Landau (Nevada, California, Arizona)
  • L. Stark (mosses of the Southwestern deserts)

Loans

Loans of specimens are made to botanists at recognized scientific institutions for use in taxonomic/systematic studies. Requests for materials should be directed to the herbarium curators or collection manager. Loans are normally granted for a period of one year, but may be extended when circumstances warrant.

Destructive Sampling

As a rule, the removal of plant parts from the herbarium collections is not permitted without prior written consent from a curator. The use of herbarium specimens for extraction of DNA or other molecular compounds should be considered only when other sources of plant material, including live collections, are not available for study. The decision to allow for the destructive sampling of herbarium collections for scientific research rests with a curator who will consider written requests on a case-by-case basis. If permission is granted, adherence to the Herbarium Destructive Sampling Policy is required.

Exchanges

The herbarium participates in specimen exchange agreements with several institutions. Duplicate specimens, typically representative of the desert Southwest, may be available on a one-to-one basis to interested herbaria or research institutions.

Visitors

The herbarium is normally open from 9 a.m. to mid-afternoon, Monday-Thursday. Visitors are urged to contact the herbarium (702-895-3098 or 702-895-3251) to confirm that a staff member will be present to facilitate their visit. Email and requests for collection data retrieval can be addressed to kathryn.birgy@unlv.edu or wes.niles@unlv.edu.

Location

The herbarium is located in room 305 of Juanita Greer White Hall (WHI), School of Life Sciences, on the north edge of the UNLV campus. Automobile access is by way of Cottage Grove Ave. (from Maryland Parkway) or by Claymont Street (from Flamingo Road). Metered parking is available in the parking lot behind White Hall.

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