Nomenclature Database for New England Algae

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Coastal Ecosystem and Public Health


Richard Fralick Plymouth State University Principal Investigator

The first comprehensive textbook of New England marine algal species was published by W.G. Farlow of Harvard University in 1881. The book contained a listing, description and distributional information for each algal species known from the New England algal flora at that time. This amounted to about 130 species, subspecies, varieties and forms. By 1937, a second floristic work for New England was published by W.R. Taylor. Taylor's work increased the list of New England algal species to over 300. With the development of scuba as a collecting tool, a substantial number of floristic works were published by authors including Lamb and Zimmerman, Mathieson, Sears and Wilce. These efforts took place from the 1970s until 2000, but no textbook was published that addressed changes in algal nomenclature over time.

During a sabbatical leave in the spring of 2002, I examined the actual specimens that were used for Farlow's book of 1881. These specimens are preserved at the Farlow Herbarium at Harvard University. It quickly became apparent that a vast number of name changes had occurred for these and more recent specimens since 1881. Although more recent checklists and publications have clarified a small number of taxonomic changes over time, the majority of name changes have not been updated. From a starting point of some 130 species in 1881, the number of species in the New England algal flora now exceeds 600 and when synonyms, species, subspecies and forms are included, the number exceeds 2000 names. Many species now have multiple names because of significant taxonomic revisions that have occurred since Farlow's time.

Presently there exists a need for a dynamic database for marine macroalgae to provide accurate and current genus, species, author and some distributional information including all known synonymy for each taxon that can be readily accessed for ongoing algal studies. During my sabbatical, I compiled an enormous amount of nomenclatural data using the Farlow collections. This work included over 2000 entries for 600 species previously collected in New England from Eastport, Maine, to Bridgeport, Connecticut.

The funding I request would be used to set up a computer program with a template that I can use to input all of this data in a manner that can be cross-referenced. The goal would be to be able to type in any algal name ever used for New England algae and obtain the present, accurate name as well as all synonyms and other names that may have been applied to such species. All of my data is now on large index cards and I need financial support to have a student input that data into a template that I will design with the assistance of a computer programming expert from UNH or MBL. Some funds will be used for travel and miscellaneous expenses associated with verification of species collections at Harvard and UNH.