July 26, 2012
Biology professor Doug Shedd and Emily Patton Smith were awarded a grant that will allow them continue research on the College's natural history collections
A grant from the Virginia Academy of Science will help a Randolph College biology professor and his former student continue their research expanding and enhancing the College’s natural history collection.
Emily Patton Smith '12, who was a self-designed heritage studies major, and Doug Shedd, The Catherine Ehrman Thoreson ’23 and William E. Thoresen Professor of Biology, were awarded the grant in July from the Academy’s Small Project Research Funds program. The $1,250 grant will provide a digital camera and associated equipment necessary for digitizing the specimens in the collections. Smith is a Lynchburg resident and also serves as a curatorial intern-technician for the biology department.
They began their research in 2011 and have spent the past year leading a group of Randolph students in the examination of the more than 600 bird and mammal skins and skeletons in the College’s natural history collection. They created a database that will make the collection more accessible. The research was also the basis for Smith’s senior paper, Tales Dead Birds Tell: The Historical and Cultural Context of Early Avian Specimens in the Biology Collections of Randolph College.
The online catalog created by Shedd and Smith is searchable by family, genus, and species, and thanks to the equipment provided by the new grant, will include images of each specimen and links to information on similar specimens in other regional collections.
Smith and Shedd plan for the online digitized collection to be available in the fall. The project will serve as a resource, expanding the potential for the study of local biodiversity. Once the project is complete, scientists, students, and researchers will be able to access written and visual information about specimens in the collection, which will eventually link them to similar specimens in other collections in the region.