This week, I am putting the final touches on a paper dealing with the systematics and taxonomy of several groups of ferns from Australasia (and elsewhere) and have been going through the process of making species distribution maps based on georeferenced herbarium specimens. There are a lot of different ways to make these maps - some are much more streamlined than others - but I haven't settled on an approach that I really am pleased with. Although my GIS skills are not very advanced, I find that I can make pretty nice maps using a GIS-based approach, but the abundance of different base maps can be a bit bewildering.
I used this opportunity to try out an R package that was published by Marcelo Reginato in 2016 (see reference at bottom of the post), around the same time he was publishing his treatments of Leandra (Melastomataceae). I had played around with the package a little bit previously, but never got very far with it before today. The package is really appealing because it allows for taxonomists to automatically generate species descriptions, indices to collectors, distribution maps, etc. from carefully formatted specimen databases. It even can generate phenology plots and species richness heat maps!
After a half hour or so of tinkering around with the code, I was able to make some nice distribution maps for the species in my study group. I did have to use Illustrator to deal with a few issues that I was not able to deal with directly in monographaR, but I think if I spend some more time at it, I should be able to get the final product I want in R alone. Once I get that figured out, I'll post some code (it's very easy to use!)
If you are working on a taxonomic treatment or some other research project dealing with species distributions or descriptions, I recommend taking a look at monographaR. Marcelo has a really nice overview of the package available online (here). Thanks, Marcelo!
Reginato, M. (2016). monographaR: an R package to facilitate the production of plant taxonomic monographs. Brittonia, 68(2), 212-216.