Working Remotely at The New York Botanical Garden

Here’s how The New York Botanical Garden is adapting to life under lockdown and how they are successfully set up to work with EMu from home

Thanks to Dr. Barbara M. Thiers, Vice President and Patricia K. Holmgren Director of the William and Lynda Steere Herbarium, for taking the time to answer our questions.

What is the current situation at The New York Botanical Garden?

The New York Botanical Garden is closed to the public, and only a small cadre of essential workers goes into the Garden to work. All other staff are working remotely. All of the staff who use EMu are in the work from home category. We expect that we will continue to work from home until at least 1 July 2020.

Tell us what a normal day now looks like to you

Herbarium staff are focussed on these main types of activities in lockdown:

  1. Transcription of data from specimens from images, either in EMu or in one of the crowdsourcing platforms we participate in
  2. Data editing, e.g. bulk updates of taxonomic names, entry of geocoordinates generated through Geolocate, editing of images, generation of OCR from specimen images
  3. Maintenance of the database and our website
  4. Creation of outreach content through The Handlens – stories about specimens that we share online
  5. Research
  6. Activities focused on service to the larger herbarium/natural history collections community
  7. Administration – HR matters, grant reports, etc.

How does this differ to an average day, pre-lockdown?

What is missing from our current routine is any work with physical specimens, e.g., preparing new specimens, filing them, sending on loan, repairs, curation, identification, processing of new staff collections

How do you have EMu set up so that you can continue your work from home?

Staff can either use Sapphire, or can use VPN to log in to their work computer so they can use EMu

What challenges are you facing?

Although we have a very responsive staff and we submit weekly reports, there is a sense that things are escaping us—it is hard to prioritize in this work setting and hard not to get distracted. We also are worried about the future of our institution – we have already taken 30% pay cuts (temporary), but we are looking at very difficult institutional budget times ahead.

How are you staying connected to colleagues?

Weekly Zoom meetings; sharing information, both work related and just for fun, via Slack

What are your tips for staying focused and staying sane?

Staff have been sharing music, shows to stream; sharing photos of their pets; some staff are participating in online volunteer projects that are unrelated to our work.


For more help and tips on working with your system remotely, you can visit our Working From Home Resources page here:

Work From Home Resources

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