The Algal Herbarium contains approximately 8000 specimens starting with the collection by Charles L. Anderson and collaborators (1873-1889) which serves as the basis of the first published list of algae of California (Anderson 1891, 1893). The earliest specimens from the Santa Barbara region, collected by Lorenzo Yates (1902) and Donald Peattie in the 1930s and 1940s, are also part of the algal collection.
The phycological collection is an important resource for marine biodiversity and biogeography studies of the Pacific Rim region. The collections provide an excellent 125-year record of the marine flora of the Santa Barbara region and Channel Islands, and include a special collection restricted to Santa Cruz Island. The specimens and collection information are of particular importance because of the adjacency of this region to Point Conception, California, a major biogeographic boundary.
In addition to California material, the collection includes the following:
- Oregon, Washington, British Columbia and Alaska (J.W. Markham)
- Pacific Mexico (E. Y. Dawson)
- Chile (J.W. Markham)
- New Zealand (V.J. Chapman, V.W. Lindauer, and J.M. Trevarthen)
- South Australia,Tasmania (H.B.S. Womersley)
- Queensland (A.B. Cribb)
- Japan (Y. Yamada)
- Nova Scotia (J.W. Markham)
- Jamaica (V.J. Chapman)
- North Central and Northeast United States (F.D. Ott and D.C. Eaton)
- Great Britain (V.J. Chapman and M.E. Gray)
- Scandinavia (A. Areschoug, J.W. Markham and T. Levring)
- Spain (J.W. Markham and L. Druehl)
- South Africa (D. Woodward)
- Three exsiccatae collections (Lindauer from New Zealand, Areschoug from Scandinavia (in part) and Scagel from British Columbia (in part)
The collection includes over 1000 reprints on marine algae and ecology as well as an extensive worldwide collection of algal floras.