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Presidential Profile

Presidential Profile

Barbara M. Thiers

I literally grew up in an herbarium. My father, Harry D. Thiers, was the founder and curator of the herbarium at San Francisco State University. Weekends during the rainy season meant field trips with my parents and often a host of graduate students throughout California to document the mushrooms and related fungi. From an early age, I earned my spending money helping to add the collections made on these trips into the herbarium. As a teenager, I rebelled and gained the freedom to pursue other interests, but about midway through my bachelor’s degree at San Francisco State, I realized that natural history actually was my passion and I re-embraced my early upbringing. After receiving my Ph.D. at the University of Massachusetts in Botany in the early 1980s, I joined the staff of the New York Botanical Garden and have stayed there ever since. I love all aspects of work in a large collection institution, but the volume of specimens to be managed led me to become interested in the application of computer technology both for more efficient collections management and to maximize the research impact of herbarium collections. It is extremely gratifying to me to have seen our digitization program at NYBG grow to the robust program it is today with approximately half of our nearly eight million specimens digitized. 

Another great joy in my career has been interactions with colleagues across the natural history collection spectrum. A veteran of many a collections-oriented workshops over the years, I am especially proud to have been a part of the team that developed the strategic and implementation plans for digitization of collections in the U.S. I continue my involvement in this great initiative as a member of the Biodiversity Collections Network (BCoN) Advisory Council, and the iDigBio External Advisory Board. I am also the editor of Index Herbariorum, an index to the approximately 3000 herbaria worldwide. 

I didn’t attend my first SPNHC conference until San Francisco in 2011, but it was love at first meeting! SPNHC instantly became my favorite professional society. This is not only because I am a collections manager at heart, but also because of the thoughtfulness and thoroughness with which the Society approaches its annual meetings, workshops, publications and the mentoring of new collections professionals. I am honored to be leading this organization for the next two years, and hope to help the Society continue all of its fine programs. I’ll help continue to broaden our international reach to build membership and provide a venue for the discussion of collections issues in the developing world where collection growth is strong, but no similar organizations exist. I would also like to increase the leadership of SPNHC in the area of collections and data security, especially in relation to disaster preparedness. If members have other ideas about what we should do in the next two years, please contact me at president@spnhc.org!

Barbara M. Thiers is the Patricia K. Holmgren Director, and Curator of Bryophytes, at the William and Lynda Steere Herbarium, New York Botanical Garden.