Museum collections can be a lens through which to understand the effects of global change on species and ecological processes, perhaps most importantly, those that live in our immediate environments, e.g., cities, or affect important industries, such as agriculture and forestry. Though museum specimens are the only repositories available for asking many questions about the past effects of global change, they are rarely used for this purpose. We used herbaria to determine how frequencies of plant damage by insect pests have changed over unprecedented scales of space and time.
We found that damage frequencies have increased 10% to 200% over the past hundred years, depending on insect guild. With the help of citizen scientists, we are expanding this effort, which we present as one example of turning traditional research into public science using digitized collections.