Cacti are remarkable plants: their leaves have evolved into sharp defensive spines, they grow in arid deserts where water is always in short supply, and they produce large, gorgeous flowers that are pollinated by bees and bats! Cacti are also important members of their ecosystems, providing nectar for pollinators, fruits for tortoises and other animals, and nesting sites for myriad species of birds, from woodpeckers to eagles. From the iconic Saguaro to the diminutive hedgehog cactus, these amazing plants dominate the arid habitats of the North and South America. Yet these spectacular species are also under threat from poachers, mining, and other forms of habitat destruction. Herbarium specimens can provide the baseline data used to describe biodiversity, document where these species grow, understand their conservation needs, and study how their unusual morphologies evolved. As part of a National Science Foundation funded grant, help transcribe information from herbarium specimen labels, so that it can be used by researchers working to conserve these icons of the desert. NSF award 1802034.
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