Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History

Ecosystem Change – Plotting with Plant Collections


  • Title: Ecosystem Change – Plotting with Plant Collections
  • Air Date: January 15, 2015
  • Series: Smithsonian Science How webcasts, which are designed to connect natural history science and research to upper-elementary and middle-school students.

This video features Rusty Russell, former Botany Collections Manager at the National Museum of Natural History. Rusty managed collections activities in the U.S. National Herbarium, a research collection that contains more than 5 million pressed, dried plant specimens. What is the point of keeping so many plant specimens? Take a journey with Rusty to see how plant collections can be used to map ecosystem changes over time. Visit a part of Southern California that experienced a dramatic shift in plant species composition during the 20th century. See how students and other volunteers can be instrumental in collecting data to tell the story of ecosystem change.

Teaching Resources

Plant Collections and Citizen Science

National Middle School Standards

Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS)

Life Science

MS-LS2 Ecosystems: Interactions, Energy, and Dynamics

  • MS-LS2-1: Analyze and interpret data to provide evidence for the effects of resource availability on organisms and populations of organisms in an ecosystem.
  • MS-LS2-2: Construct an explanation that predicts patterns of interactions among organisms across multiple ecosystems.
  • MS-LS2-4: Construct an argument supported by empirical evidence that changes to physical or biological components of an ecosystem affect populations.

Earth Science

MS-ESS3 Earth and Human Activity

  • MS-ESS3-3: Apply scientific principles to design a method for monitoring and minimizing a human impact on the environment.
Resource Type
Videos and Webcasts
Grade Level
Life Science