All of the records in the Australian Plant Pest Database, almost 1.3M, are backed up by the physical specimen. This is to verify that the data served up by these collections are correct; it can be questioned, and most questions can be answered by returning to the original specimen for examination. A multitude of biosecurity related activities and research studies make use of specimens in scientific collections. And any work that has ever used these specimens was made possible by the actions of the person that submitted that specimen for accessioning.
Submitting specimens to collections used to be common practice but this effort has dwindled, despite a steep increase in collections based research. This isn’t just affecting biosecurity collections, it is a trend in natural history collections the world over (Prather, 2004). Although curators and taxonomist have worked to shine light on their current collections, through digitisation and online-access, the fact still remains that scientific collections in recent decades have suffered from mass decline in specimen submission (Taylor, 2014), meaning that our current reference base is set to become outdated (Prather, 2004).
The biosecurity community is in a very unique position to make a difference to their collections. Unlike scientists working on obscure fungi only found in the depths of the Amazon jungle, we are working with a range of plant pests and diseases every day. They are delivered right to our door. All that is needed is a little bit of effort to preserve that specimen and contribute it to a biosecurity collection… for the cost of a stamp.
Visit this poster to learn more about Biosecurity Collections, how you can contribute, what we can do for you, and how the collections community is modernising this centuries old science.