With the support of Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden and the Center for Applied Tropical Ecology and Conservation of the Universidad de Puerto Rico (sponsored by the National Science Foundation) , FIU-Fairchild graduate alumna Karen Laubengayer (currently working for Monsanto Company) conducted field work in Puerto Rico between 1/29/2012 and 1/30/2012. The objective of this study was to obtain morphological data for the Caribbean Island endemic Aiphanes minima. This palm species has a disjunct distribution between Puerto Rico and the Windward Islands (Dominique, Martinique, Saint Vincent and the Granadines, Saint Lucia, Barbados, and Granada). For her Master Thesis, Karen sampled throughout the Lesser Antilles. This graduate project was under the research supervision of Dr. Scott Zona (Curator of Wertheim Conservatory of Florida International University). This recent field work at Puerto Rico has allowed Karen to have a complete biometrical data set that covers populations from the whole distribution range of this species. The biometrical analyses will be performed in partnership with Dr. Chad Husby (Montgomery Botanical Center). Our gratitude to Dr. Eugenio Santiago (Department of Biology and Botanic Garden, University of Puerto Rico) for his time, help, and support with the logistics of this field trip. Image below: Left (Dr. Eugenio Santiago processing herbarium specimens at the Botanic Garden of the University of Puerto Rico). Right (Karen Laubengayer preparing collecting tools in the field).
In January 2012, Vanessa Sanchez and Klara Scharnagl, FIU-Fairchild students of Dr. Eric von Wettberg and Dr. Krish Jayachandran, visited the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi Arid Tropics (ICRISAT) in India. They were joined by three researchers from University of California Davis to assist with a National Science Foundation and Gates Foundation funded project aimed at reducing the need for artificial fertilizer through improving the use of natural nitrogen-fixing bacteria (called rhizobia) on chickpea. ICRISAT is a non-profit agricultural research center working for Asia and sub-Saharan Africa to design crops and farming practices that help to fight hunger and poverty around the world located near Hyderabad, in southern India. While there, Vanessa and Klara helped harvest chickpea, wash the roots, and count root nodules that house rhizobial bacteria for over 280 plant specimens. They learned a good deal about root nodulation and experimental design, but also had the opportunity to explore Hyderabad, to eat traditional Indian food, and to make many friends and connections. It was a thoroughly enriching experience and a fantastic way to begin the new year. Images from the trip: Right top: Vanessa Sanchez preparing samples in the field. Bottom: Klara Scharnagl (left) and Vanessa Sanchez (right) performing laboratory research.
On January 28 a workshop on Cycad Biology was offered to high school teachers from the Miami-metro area. The workshop was funded by the National Science Foundation and jointly organized by the Montgomery Botanical Center (MBC), the New York Botanical Garden (NYBG), Fairchild Tropical Botanic and Florida International University (FIU). Instructors included Dennis Stevenson (NYBG), Patrick Griffith (MBC), Michael Calonje (MBC), and Javier Francisco-Ortega (FIU-Fairchild). A total of six high school teachers joined us. In addition, Shelley Cant, (Education Officer from the Bahamas National Trust) also participated in this event. The workshop included: (1) field components based on the extraordinary living collections of MBC and (2) classroom lectures and laboratory demonstrations at the Center for Tropical Plant Conservation of Fairchild. Images from the workshop: Bottom left (Dennis Stevenson dissecting cycad seeds), bottom right (course participants).
As part of the activities to celebrate the 30th Anniversary of the publication of the Flora of the Bahama Archipelago (written by Donovan Correll and Helen Correll in 1982 under the sponsorship of Fairchild), Dr. Brett Jestrow and Dr. Ethan Freid (botanist of the Bahamas National Trust) made a joint trip to the Leon Levy Native Plant Preserve (Eleuthera Island) (January 20 - 23). During this visit arrangements were made for a joint plant hunting expedition that will take place this Spring. This expedition will involve botanists from LLNPP, the Bahamas National Trust, and Fairchild and aim to enrich the living collections of Caribbean/Bahamian endemics of these institutes. Mark Daniels from the LLNPP hosted Brett and Ethan during this visit. Images from the LLNPP: Top right (the Bahamian endemic Chromolaena lucayan a (Asteraceae)), bottom left (Encyclia altissima (Orchidaceae)), and bottom right (view of the preserve pond).
As part of the international partnerships of our Education Department and the Center for Tropical Plant Conservation we are enhancing our educaitonal and research projects with the Bahamas National Trust. Two members of this institution (Portia Sweeting, Director of Education and Shelley Cant, Education Officer) are visiting us between January 25 and 29. During this visit Portia and Shelley will exchange ideas and experiences concerning environmental education and ways to link science, education, and outreach. The Bahamas National Trust has a particular interest in the Fairchild Challenge program as both South Florida and the Bahamas face similar environmental issues. During this visit Shelley will also attend the Cycad Biology Workshop for High School Teachers. Image on the right: From left to right: Tadeus Foote(Fairchild Challenge High School Coordinator), Barbara Martinez (Fairchild Challenge Middle School Coordinator), Javier Francisco-Ortega (FIU-Fairchild faculty), Portia Sweeting, and Shelley Cant.
Between January 20 and 23 a team of botanists from Montgomery Botanical Center (Patrick Griffith), Universidad de Puerto Rico (Eugenio Santiago), the Departamento de Recursos Naturales y Ambientales of Puerto Rico (Jose Sustache), and FIU-Fairchild (Javier Francisco-Ortega) travelled to the Island of Mona to collect seeds of the palm Pseudophoenix sargentii. The Island of Mona is located between Hispaniola and Puerto Rico. The species is extremely rare on this island where fewer than 50 individuals were located. This plant hunting expedition was funded with a grant from the International Palm Society. Image on the right: From left to right: Jose Sustache, Javier Francisco-Ortega, Eugenio Santiago, and Patrick Griffith) on the base of the old lighthouse of Mona. On the bottom left: individuals of P. sargentii being tagged for morphological studies. On the bottom right: aerial view of Island of Mona.
A team of biologists from the Botanic Garden of Cayes, the National Botanic Garden of the Dominican Republic, the Montgomery Botanical Center, USDA, and FIU-Fairchild have received a $15,000 grant to perform Conservation Biology studies of the Critically Endangered palm Pseudophoenix lediniana. This species is restricted to a single area in southern Haiti. The project will involve conservation assessments, outreach, environmental education, ex situ conservation, and the establishment of a DNA bank for future conservation genetic studies. Principal Investigators of this project are: William Cinea (Botanic Garden of Cayes), Alberto Veloz (Botanic Garden of the Dominican Republic), Brett Jestrow (Fairchild), Patrick Griffith (Montgomery Botanical Center), and Javier Francisco-Ortega (FIU-Fairchid).