I found a collection of specimens gathered in the 1860s by W, Brewer of the California State Geological Survey. Are historic references helpful in establishing changes in populations and ranges?
They certainly are useful for such things. (Researchers have used Thoreau’s records of plant phenology in Massachusetts to document climate changes, for example.) As far as iNat’s data, there’s a few issues that need to be considered. First, you’d want to have the date and location set to when and where the specimen was collected. Second, the site considers “recent evidence” to be within the last 100 years, so these wouldn’t qualify as “recent”. But we do have some older references on here, so that may not be a problem – the records would be considered “casual” as a result, but that wouldn’t make them useless. I’ll let others chime in on that issue – I may have a minority view here. Finally, some users may well claim that since you didn’t personally see them in the wild, there’s a problem. Personally, I find that irrelevant, but… (I suppose one possible solution would be to set up a “memorial account” in the name of W. Brewer – again, I’ll let others chime in on the desirability of such a thing.)
The Smithsonian’s botany collections are already in GBIF. Re-adding them to iNaturalist wouldn’t be a great use of time.
If you’re interested in a fun (in my opinion) way to help with historical data, I volunteer with Bionomia https://bionomia.net/ as a Scribe helping to determine who collected historical specimens. In this case, for example, no specimens have been attributed to William Henry Brewer yet https://bionomia.net/Q2596168 so you could go in and help determine whether W. Brewer and W.H. Brewer or Will Brewer are all the same people and which specimens he’s collected from where
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