Remote Research: Mountains of Data from Mountain Research

Throughout the world, closures and lockdowns aimed to stop the spread of COVID-19 have disrupted many people’s lives and work. As a global institution, the Missouri Botanical Garden does research around the world, making travel restrictions a major hindrance. The “stay at home” order means staff has lost access to the Garden’s herbarium and labs, too.

But of course, they’ve adapted. Some are using the time to catch up on data analysis. Others are completing manuscripts, which communicate the findings of their work, and floras, a descriptive list of plants in a particular region. And in more remote locations, like protected sites in Madagascar, conservation efforts go on.

“None of us are running out of stuff we can do,” says Jim Miller , Senior Vice President of Science and Conservation.  “Everybody’s got a laptop, we’re all able to work.”

The part of Robbie Hart’s research that typically gets the most attention is his study on climate change in the Himalayas, and its impact on indigenous people. Fortunately for Hart, he wasn’t planning any trips to the mountain until the fall, but recent travel restrictions did require him to cancel other travel plans for conferences and meetings. That’s left him with more time for writing, editing, reviewing, and analysis.

When Hart returns from his annual fieldwork, he has hundreds of data forms, tens of thousands of plant records, and hundreds of thousands of recordings from temperature loggers, all of which needed to be analyzed.  And that’s just his own data. Hart also collaborates with colleagues on analyzing data on plant phenology, food plants in the Caucasus Mountains, and comparative ethnobotany in northeast India.

Time at home will give Hart time to analyze the mountains of data. And in the fall, he can go back to climbing mountains.

While the COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted every facet of our lives, the Garden’s critical work conserving plant life goes on. These efforts would not be possible without your support. Consider helping us continue our mission in these uncertain times by becoming a member or making a donation.

Catherine Martin
Public Information Officer

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