We are honored to have received "fast track" grant from the University of Michigan’s Graham Sustainability Institute, in support of ongoing research on spontaneous urban vegetation.  Working in collaboration with other experts within the university and locally, the research project will focus on collecting, chronicling and comparing common “weedy” species from neglected portions of four formerly industrial cities in Michigan: Detroit, Pontiac, Flint, and Saginaw.  

The tradition of collecting and pressing plants in “Herbaria” is long established within botanical and scientific disciplines.  The “Rustbelt Urbarium” will bring this practice into the 21st century by creating a physical and digital repository of common, easily overlooked plants that grow all around us in the cracks and shadows of legacy cities.  Some of the plants we’ll chronical will be hearty natives, others ornamental escapees or maligned invasives. The project will try not to cast judgment, but to simply observe, collect and share. We will collect physical samples to be preserved and digitize them through high resolution scanning for future use in 3D models.

We envision the Rustbelt Urbarium as the first of its kind, and a model for other institutions to replicate.  This points to possibilities for new forms of long-term, cross-city, or cross-cultural ecological research. Maintaining both a digital and physical repository of these specimens will enable multiple entry-points across many disciplines including urban studies, psychology, arts and architecture, and ecology.