Kencho Dorji and Kezang Tobgay outside the Kew Herbarium
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Scientists from Bhutan visit Kew

Two Biodiversity Officers from the National Biodiversity Centre in Thimphu, Bhutan have just completed a three-week visit to Kew's Herbarium where they selected a range of Bhutanese specimens to digitise.

Over the course of their visit, Mr Kencho Dorji and Mr Kezang Tobgay located around 800 specimens from 23 families, including Papaveraceae and Lamiaceae. They did this with the help of a list of plant names from the Flora of Bhutan, with by far the highest number of Bhutanese specimens found so far in grasses.  

The visitors barcoded the specimens, recorded their location in the herbarium (plant name and country) in a database and learned to use the HerbScan as well as the camera setups. We hope this experience imaging herbarium specimens will enable them to continue this work when they visit other institutions holding Bhutanese collections, such as Tokyo and Edinburgh.

Kencho and Kezang have taken a copy of the images they created back with them to Bhutan. They have expressed how useful the images will be, to aid them in identifying their own collections, as well as with up-to-date naming; as many specimens they found have had their names updated since the Flora of Bhutan was first published in the 1983, and most recently in 2003.

As Bhutanese researchers do not often have the opportunity to visit overseas herbaria, this will provide them with a lasting resource to consult. Their work has more than doubled the number of specimens from Bhutan that were digitally available at Kew. This visit builds on the success of the Reflora project which saw a partnership between Brazil and RBG Kew digitise around 200,000 of Kew's Brazilian specimens. The Reflora model has demonstrated that we can work with counterparts from other countries to digitise their collections held at Kew and make the resulting images and data available to them for use in the country of origin; the recent Bhutan visit was proof of this.

We hope the National Biodiversity Centre will benefit from these images, as we will at Kew, and wish Kencho and Kezang success in their endeavours to do similar work in other herbaria.


Contact: Marie-Hélène Weech