FIU assistant professor, and FTBG affiliate, Dr. Eric von Wettberg traveled to southeastern Turkey from May 2-11 to identify populations of wild relatives of chickpea. With the support from the Australian Grains Research and Development Corporation, von Wettberg and colleagues Dr. Jens Berger from Western Australia and Doug Cook and Varma Penmetsa from the University of California at Davis visited colleagues Abdullah Kahraman of Harran University, Canan Can of Gaziantep University, and Dean Bekir Bukun of Dichle University in southeastern Turkey. Although previously described as rare, several populations of three species related to chickpea were found within pasture areas regularly visited by local villagers. These species likely harbor adaptations that could improve the resilience of chickpea to climate change. However, although currently abundant within some habitats, they are threatened by rising temperatures and landscape changes such as intensified irrigation and commodity agriculture. von Wettberg and colleagues are working to both systematically collect these wild species to serve as a population genetic resource for breeding in the developing world, but also to build relationships that will protect these species in their native habitat.
As part of Caribbean palm conservation initiatives sponsored by the Mohamed Bin Zayed Species Conservation Fund a symposium was organized at the National Botanic Garden of the Dominican Republic on May 9th, 2013. Main themes of the symposium were conservation education strategies in botanic gardens and the way forward to protect species of Pseudophoenix in Hispaniola. Particularly the Haitian endemic P. lediniana (Critically Endangered status) and two additional species (P. ekmanii (Critically Endangered status) and P. vinifera (no conservation status listed by IUCN). The latter two species are under threat because of extraction of sap to make a local drink known as mabi de cacheo. This was a joint international and inter-institutional event with speakers from the Botanic Garden of Cayes, Haiti (William Cinea), the National Botanic Garden of the Dominican Republic (Alberto Veloz and Rosa Rodriguez (currently performing graduate studies at Florida International University and Fairchild), Montgomery Botanical Center (Chad Husby), and FIU-Fairchild (Javier Francisco-Ortega). The symposium was chaired by Francisco Jimenez (National Botanic Garden of the Dominican Republic) who also led a discussion group who answered questions from the audience. During the symposium there was a presentation of outreach material (one poster, one folded brochure, and one postcard) that will be used for palm conservation education activities of both the Botanic Garden of Cayes and the National Botanic Garden of the Dominican Republic. Image below. Top:from left to right, Rosa Rodriguez, Francisco Jimenez, William Cinea, Ricardo Garcia (Director of the National Botanic Garden of the Dominican Republic), Javier Francisco-Ortega, and Chad Husby. Bottom: general public attending the symposium.