This page is dedicated to news concerning the Science Program of Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden and its Associates, including information about visiting scientists and students, new staff joining our team, major field trips, awards and grants, attendance to professional meetings, talks delivered in other institutions, outreach activities with the general public or schools, cover of journals highlighting our research, and other exciting research developments.
Invited by teacher Mrs. Ana de la Cruz Pérez (see top image, below), our FIU-Fairchild faculty Prof. Javier Francisco-Ortega delivered a plant identification workshop at the CEIP Rafael Gaviño del Bosque Elementary Schoool (at María Jiménez, Santa Cruz de Tenerife, Canary Islands) on December 4th 2013. This educational activity targeted students from 1st through 6th grade and focused on Tropical plants cultivated in the school garden (see middle image, below). During the workshop the students learned how to make herbarium specimens (see bottom top and bottom images, below) and about the main morphological features to distinguish the main plant groups found in the school garden. Tropical vegetables and fruits are also grown in this school garden (e.g., papaya, orange, eggplant, etc.) and during this workshop the students also learned about plant domestication and economic botany.
FIU-Fairchild Faculty Dr. Javier Francisco-Ortega has been invited by the Museum of Natural Sciences of Tenerife (Canary Islands) to deliver an oral presentation to the "Seminario Internacional Historia Natural de la Macaronesia" (21 - 22 November, 2013. His talk was entitled "Plant Hunting in the Canary Islands by British Botanists during the 17th and 19th Centuries". During this visit to the Canary Islands Dr. Francisco-Ortega also was invited by the Catedra UNESCO para la Conservacion de la Biodiversidad Vegetal en Macaronesia y el Oeste de Africa (Gran Canaria, Canary Islands) to deliver a presentation in the Gabinete Literario of Las Palmas de Gran Canaria. This second talk was entitled "David Fairchild and his expeditions to the Canary Islands" (November 26th).
Amanda Neill Director of the Herbarium of the Botanical Research Institute of Texas visited Fairchild on November 11. Amanda Neill delivered a talk entitled "A Floristic Survey of the Hellshire Hills & Goat Islands, Jamaica". During her visit Amanda was hosted by FIU-Fairchild faculty Javier Francisco-Ortega and Fairchild Herbarium Curator Brett Jestrow. She came with the Director of the Forth Worth Zoo Mike Fouraker. Amanda and Mike are leading a project pertinent to iguana conservation in a an area located near Kingston. This is the only site where this endemic iguana occurs.
|Dr. Hong Liu (FIU-Fairchild Faculty) was invited on Oct 30, 2013 to give a presentation titled "Assisted Colonization: why is this new biodiversity conservation measure so controversial and can it work for Chinese endangered species?" in the College of Life Sciences, Peking University. Peking University is the most prestigious university in China. Her presentation was taped and archived by the Library of Peking University for future viewing by students and faculty members of Peking University. During this visit Dr. Liu was hosted by the College Senior Associate Dean Professor Gu Hongya.|
Between October 14-15, Dr. David Bramwell, UNESCO Professor for Plant Biodiversity Conservation in the Macaronesian Islands and West Africa (UNESCO Center Gran Canaria) at the Canary Islands visited us. Prof. Bramwell is a widely recognized authority on biodiversity and conservation of island plants. Before his appointment at UNESCO he was the Director of the Botanic Garden Viera y Clavijo (Gran Canaria) where he led one of the most successful programs for plant taxonomy and conservation of island plants. This botanical institution was pioneer in ex situ conservation programs in botanic gardens. During this visit he was hosted by Prof. Javier Francisco-Ortega (FIU-Fairchild Faculty). The main aim of this visit was to find ways to establish future collaborations focusing on global plant biodiversity conservation issues on islands worldwide. During this visit Prof. Bramwell also met with colleagues from the Montgomery Botanical Center (Excecutive Director Dr. Patrick Griffith) and from FIU College of Arts and Sciences (Dr. Mike Maunder, currently Interim Director of The Kampong Gardens from the National Tropical Botanic Garden) and we had enjoyable discussions on potential partnerships among institutions from Miami and the UNESCO Center Gran Canaria. Our gratitude to The Kampong Gardens for arranging lodging for Prof. Bramwell in its main guest house and to FIU College of Arts and Sciences for supporting this visit. Image below: Top row: Prof. David Bramwell standing outside the Barbour Cottage (built in 1926) at the Kampong Gardens. Middle row: Prof. David Bramwell standing on the lowlands of Fairchild (left); Prof. David Bramwell and Prof. Javier Francisco-Ortega looking at a plant of the Dominican Republic endemic Pilea fairchildiana (Urticaceae) at Fairchild (right). Bottom row: Prof. David Bramwell, Dr. Patrick Griffith, and Prof. Javier Francisco-Ortega during the visit to the Montgomery Botanical Center.
|Supported by a gift by Dr. Lin Lougheed (through Montgomery Botanical Center) a team of botanists and horticulturists from the National Botanic Garden of the Dominican Republic (Mr. Teodoro Clase), Montgomery Botanical Center (Dr. Chad Husby), and Fairchild (Mr. Jason Lopez and Dr. Brett Jestrow) performed extensive field work across the Dominican Republic between 7-17 October. The main aim of this project was to collect material for the living collections of these three botanic gardens. This material will be valuable for research, education, and gardening purposes. The team collected living material for over 100 accessions which are currently being cultivated in the greenhouses of the botanic gardens. Image on left: Salcedoa mirabilis a Critically Endangered sunflower belonging to a genus endemic in the Dominican Republic. Images on bottom: top (from left to right Dr. Chad Husby, Mr. Jason Lopez, Mr. Teodoro Clase, Dr. Brett Jestrow, and Mr. Francisco Rodriguez (Head of the Botany Department of the National Botanic Garden of the Dominican Republic); bottom left: Dr. Brett Jestrow and Mr. Jason Lopez collecting plant material of Salcedoa; bottom right: view of the primary locality of Coccothrinax boschiana.|
Between October 17-20, William Cinea, Director of the Botanic Garden of Cayes (Haiti) visited us. During this visit he was hosted by Dr. Javier Francisco-Ortega (FIU-Fairchild Faculty). The main aim of this visit was to review the results of a project pertinent to conservation biology of the Critically Endangered palm Pseudophoenix lediniana. This species is restricted to a single population in southern Haiti and it is being funded by the Mohamed Bin Zayed Species Conservation Fund. During this visit Mr. Cinea also met with our herbarium curator Dr. Brett Jestrow and with colleagues from the Montgomery Botanical Center (Dr. Chad Husby) and from FIU College of Arts and Sciences (Dr. Mike Maunder, currently Interim Director of The Kampong Gardens from the National Tropical Botanic Garden). Our gratitude to The Kampong Gardens for arranging lodging for William in its guest house. Image below: left (Dr. Brett Jestrow), right (Mr. William Cinea).
|Danielle Coogan and Rachel Matthews from Coral Reef High School (Miami-Dade) are learning DNA skills in the FIU-FTBG Plant Molecular Systematics Laboratory located in the Science Village. They are being mentored by FIU-Fairchild Ph.D. candidate Emily Warschefsky (FIU major professor Eric Von Wettberg) and are developing a project centered on molecular phylogenetics of mango (Mangifera spp. (Anacardiaceae)). Image below from left to right: Danielle Coogan, Rachel Matthews, and Emily Warschefsky performing PCR reactions in the molecular lab.|
Prof. Eugenio Santiago-Valentín (Director of the Herbarium of the Jardín Botánico de Puerto Rico and Faculty of the Departamento de Biología de Universidad de Puerto Rico, Campus of Río Piedras, San Juan) is visiting (Sept, 1st - 14th) the Fairchild herbarium and library to perform research on taxonomy and nomenclature of several species from Puerto Rico. Prof. Santiago-Valentín's visit is supported by the Center for Applied Ecology and Conservation of the University of Puerto Rico through a grant from the National Science Foundation. During this research visit Prof. Eugenio Santiago-Valentín is being hosted by FIU-FTBG researcher Dr. Javier Francisco-Ortega and the Head of the Fairchild Herbarium Dr. Brett Jestrow. Our gratitude to the Montgomery Botanical Center for providing Prof. Santiago-Valentín with lodging at its guest house. Image below: Prof. Santiago-Valentín looking at some original descriptions of the species that are part of this research. Image below: Dr. Carl Lewis (left) and Prof. Santiago-Valentín (right) during a meeting yo discuss institutional collaborations.
Fairchild researcher and FIU faculty member Eric von Wettberg and his colleagues Doug Cook and Varma Penmetsa at the University of California at Davis were recently awarded an NSF grant for a project entitled: "Deducing the Genomic Footprint and Functional Impact of Chickpea Domestication on Nitrogen Fixation." In this project they aim to understand the dynamics of nitrogen uptake via symbiotic bacteria in the wild progenitors of legume crops and the ways in which human selection has reshaped this potential during domestication. Specifically, they will combine ecology and population genomics with classical molecular genetics and reverse genetic assays to deduce the functional consequences of standing variation in wild populations of Cicer reticulatum and its domesticated counterpart Cicer arietinum (chickpea). They hope to expand our knowledge of symbiotic nitrogen fixation in novel ways, and will contribute to an emerging paradigm in plant biology where the intersection of ecology, genomics and molecular biology empowers the study of gene function in natural and human-built environments. Ultimately this work has the potential to reduce inputs of fertilizer in agricultural systems. This project owes much to the legacy of David Fairchild, as one of its aims is to expand the diversity of crop wild relatives in international breeding collections. von Wettberg will be continuing field work began in Turkey during the summer of 2013 in the coming years through this project.