Introduction to the manual Preparing a Press for a Plant Collection Assignment in a Remote Field Botany Course by Tobias Policha:

Many of us include a collections assignment as a part of a variety of botany or environmental monitoring courses. This is a very practical activity that engages the student’s creativity while allowing practice in an important professional skill.

As we all moved into an emergency remote-teaching format in response to SARS-CoV-2, I decided to retain the collections assignment as a part of my upper-level Field Botany course at the University of Oregon (BI448/548). In this course format, I thought this was important because it was a way for me to know that the students were looking closely at, and handling, real plants in an otherwise screen-heavy learning environment. I will not get into the details of the assignment here, except to say that I had students all over the country (many had returned home during spring break and never returned to Eugene) in my class, so I received all collections as images submitted via our LMS (Canvas). Because students were in many different places, it was not practical for me to check out our student plant presses the way that I would in an in-person
course.

To get around this constraint, one of the first labs of the course was an activity where I had the students make their own pressing system. After a lecture on plant collecting where I shared concepts and strategies for documenting, collecting, pressing, drying, and mounting botanical specimens, I tasked the
students with constructing a simple press out of material that should be available in most household recycling bins (newspaper and cardboard). Many students went on to use these impromptu presses to produce herbarium quality specimens.

Because of the remote (and thus do-it-yourself) nature of the labs in this course, I was not concerned with them mounting the final
collections on proper herbarium-sized sheets. I therefore allowed some flexibility in the size of the presses, but set a minimum size equal to a sheet of regular printer paper. The goal of the collections assignment was simply to give the students practice and not to actually deposit any of the specimens in herbaria.

This short manual is to share the simple press-making assignment, and some examples of what the students came up with. Everyone that submitted the documentation got full credit for the days lab activity.

Download the manual to see the assignment and to get more details.

Policha 2020 - Preparing a Press for a Plant Collection Assignment in a Remote Field Botany Course (106 downloads)