NNMK18002U CANCELLED: Botanical Museomics

Volume 2019/2020

In this course, we open up the treasure chest, take you behind the scene, and introduce you to all the different aspects and possibilities of 21st century botanical collections.

Collections serve as repositories documenting the distribution of plants across time and space. At the same time, collections, both living and preserved, are an immense source of big data for a wide range of research applications from the core discipline of taxonomy to testing evolutionary relationships in the genomics era, drivers of biodiversity, finding new and better medicines, and the highly topical impact of environmental change.

Botanical gardens and herbaria both represent national and international heritage and are actively used for research, education and communication. In addition to ensuring access to collections and their metadata for international researchers and society, the curators are in charge of the strategic management and development of the collections. 

The herbarium of the Natural History Museum of Denmark is one of the oldest and largest in the World, with almost 3 million specimens representing over 400 years of botanical expeditions and collection history. The Botanical Garden of the Museum includes over 10.000 living plant species from all over the World.

Themes to be covered include:

  • General collection management from field expeditions to the herbarium or garden. From fieldwork planning, international collaboration and the Nagoya protocol to preservation, identification, registration and open access.
  • Strategic development of collections including identification of priority areas for new collecting and exchange with other museum and gardens as well as improving identifications and metadata.
  • Type specimens as the fundamental basis of a species name, species circumscriptions, and formal description of a new species.
  • Differences between living and preserved collections. 
  • Cultural history of collections. 
  • Assessing the value of collections. 
  • Fund raising of collections and research projects. 
  • Challenges and opportunities of using public databases such as GBIF for research and inventories.
  • Collection based research across time, space and species including changes in phenology, distribution, invasive weeds, endangered species. Examples are given of current research projects at the museum. 
  • Using collections to address societal challenges including finding new and better medicines and predicting the impact of environmental changes.
  • Genomic work with historial collections and challenges of ancient DNA.
  • Communicating collections through exhibitions, social media, popular engagement and citizen science.
Learning Outcome

After completion of the course students will have gained:



  • Basic understanding of curatorial tasks related to preserve, develop, and communicate botanical collections.  
  • Basic understanding of the taxonomic hierachy, species concepts, botanical nomenclature, typification and species description. 
  • Understand and describe the cultural and scientific value of collections and their metadata.
  • Identify and communicate the potential of collections for addressing fundamental science questions and societal challenges to diverse audiences.



  • Responsible and sustainable handling of collections and their metadata.
  • Outline strategy, development, and management plans for collections.
  • Describe examples of collection based research and the use of applications to address societal challenges.
  • Design experiments to investigate collection based research questions.
  • Communicate the cultural and scientific value of botanical collections.



  • Assess the strengths and weaknesses of botanical collections and suggest strategic priorities.
  • Describe collection management needs in general terms and prepare guidelines.
  • Extract, present, and critically discuss in detail the objectives, methods and results of scientific articles about collection based research.  
  • Quality assessment of metadata and cleaning of database output for use in reseach or inventories.
  • Outline future research and prepare proposals. 
  • Identify communication potential of collections and prepare communication plans and activities.
  • Present his/her own work (in oral and written form) at a level approaching the scientific standard. 
  • Identify interdisciplinary collaboration potentials.
  • Create synergy between collections, research, education and communication. 

Primary literature and hand-outs. 

Basic knowledge of plant biology corresponding to Evolutionary Biology or similar is recommended.

Academic qualifications equivalent to a BSc degree is recommended.
The course is based on actively working with the museums collections in the herbarium and the garden and consist of a mixture of seminars, research presentations from museum staff, practical exercises and hands on work in the collections, project work, and communication activities.

The project work:

During the course students work together on projects on a part of the collections of their interest. All projects include identifying a strategic priority area, making an action plan for improving the value and use of a part of the collection, writing a communication plan, and actively communicating a story or aspect of the collections to a public audience for example through social media. A labwork component may be included depending on interest of the course participants.
The herbarium is temporarily based in Priorparken in Glostrup during the building of a new Natural History Museum in the garden area. The weekly full course day will regularly be used for behind the scenes expeditions to the herbarium or other collections, transport time included in the course time. Half days will be taught on campus in central Copenhagen. Behind the scenes visits to collections.
  • Category
  • Hours
  • Colloquia
  • 7
  • Exam
  • 4
  • Practical exercises
  • 35
  • Preparation
  • 70
  • Project work
  • 50
  • Seminar
  • 40
  • Total
  • 206
Continuous feedback during the course of the semester
Feedback by final exam (In addition to the grade)
Peer feedback (Students give each other feedback)

Individual written feedback are given on the written assignment. Individual oral fedback of the oral presentation is given immediately after the oral exam by peers and examiners. Continuous collective feedback are given in connection with the practical exercises throughout the course. 

7,5 ECTS
Type of assessment
Written assignment
Oral examination, 20 min
The written assignment consist of a 10 page individual project written in the form of a funding application including a) Description of a specific collection area and its strategic importance, b) objectives and action plan, c) communication plan, d) resource, budget and time estimation.

The oral defence consists of a 10 min presentation of the individual project followed by 10 min questions from peers and examiners.

The final grade is based on the grade of the written assignment (80%) and the oral defence (20%), which must both be passed.
Exam registration requirements

Active particpation in 50% of the classes is a requirement for particpating in the exam. 

All aids allowed
Marking scale
7-point grading scale
Censorship form
No external censorship
Several internal examiners.

Both the written assignment and the oral exam must be passed for the course to be passed.

A passed written assignment from the ordinary exam can be reused in the re-examination - also in different exam-periods.

An individual oral reexamination can be arranged with the course responsible. 

If a student does not fulfil the requirement to actively participate in 50% of the classes, the student must pass an extra written assignment (3 pages) defined by the course responsible to ensure the basic understanding of working with collections is obtained. 

Criteria for exam assesment

See learning outcomes.