Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden - Institute of Jamaica Workshop on DNA Methods

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

 • Under the supervision of our Herbarium Curator Dr. Brett Jestrow, botanists from the the Institute of Jamaica (Tracy Commock and Keron Campbell) undertook an intensive workshop on DNA methods for plant biodiversity assessment between May 16th - 18th.  The workshop included an introduction to DNA isolation, PCR, and sequencing techniques with an overview of phylogenetic methods and related resources.  As a result of the workshop, we achieved our goal of establishing the foundation for future collaborative projects focused on threatened endemic plant species from Jamaica. Image on the left (from left to right): Brett Jestrow, Keron Campbell, Tracy Commock, Melissa Abdo, and Marlon Rumble.



 As part of the educational activities of our NSF funded project on Caribbean cycads and in coordination with the Fairchild Challenge program, the Montgomery Botanical Center hosted students from Hialeah-Miami Lakes Senior High School on May 3. The students were led by teacher Marie Remy. These activities were part of the Environmental Immersion Day Option of the Fairchild Challenge. The visit focused mostly on the "Cycad Biology" program of the Montgomery Botanical Center.



•  A new article by FIU/FTBG conservation Biologist Dr. Kenneth Feeley was published as the cover article in the new issue of the prestigious journal Ecology.  The article, entitled "Directional changes in the species composition of a tropical forest", examines changes in the composition of tree species growing on Barro Colorado Island, Panama.  Dr. Feeley shows that over the past 25 years there has been a remarkably consistent and directional pattern of increasing abundances of drought tolerant species at the expense of more drought insensitive tree species.  The cause(s) of this change remains uncertain but the most likely culprits are either long-term changes in climate leading to reduced water availability (i.e., increasing temperatures adn reduced rainfall), or alternatively the compositional changes may be the ongoing legacy of an extreme El Nino drought that occurred in the early 1980’s.   

•  FIU/FTBG graduate student Evan Rehm (Feeley lab) will spend May 2011 initiating his dissertation research project in the Andean highlands of southern Peru.  Specifically he will be working with local collaborators to establish longt erm vegetation and seed dispersal monitoring plots at the ecotone between montane cloud forest and puna grasslands.  Evan will leave Peru in June and July in order to attend the Organization for Tropical Studies course in Tropical Ecology at Costa Rica. Evan will return to Peru briefly in August in order to complete the summer field season of work before returning to FIU for the fall semester.

•  FIU/FTBG graduate student Catherine Bravo (Feeley lab) will spend May – August in her home country of Peru in order research patterns of carbon allocation in cloudforest plant species.  This research will help inform our understandings of the impacts of global climate change on carbon sequestration in tropical forests and will form the foundation of Catherine’s thesis project.

•  FIU/FTBG graduate student Brian Machovia (Feeley lab) will remain in Miami over the summer in order to focus on his dissertation research investigating patterns of land conversion for Banana production in Central and South America.  This research will be conducted primarily through the analysis of time series of remotely-sensed data (e.g., satellite and aerial images) combined with environmental data layers (e.g., temperature, precipitation, soil type, and topography), supplemented with field based data to be collected in the future. Bananas are one of the most widespread an important of all tropical crops yet their impact on the environment remains woefully understudied.


•  FIU/FTBG Conservation Biologist Dr. Kenneth Feeley will spend May-July in southern Peru.  In addition to assisting his graduate students, Evan Rehm, Catherine Bravo, and Brian Machovia. Dr. Feeley will be initiating a new series of field projects aimed at experimentally manipulating environmental conditions (temperature, precipitation, radiation) in the high puna grasslands above Cusco and monitoring the consequences for the establishment of cloud forest tree species.  Understanding the role of environmental filters in limiting the distribution of cloud forest species is an important piece of data required to predict how this critical ecosystem will respond to climate change and other anthropogenic disturbances.  Dr. Feeley will also take several exploratory trips throughout southern and central in order to scout new field sites and establish relationships with potential collaborators.