Madagascar Orchid Conservation project in collaboration with Illinois College
26 January 2012
The Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, and Illinois College have finalised plans to collaborate on research studying selected critically endangered orchids in Madagascar. The five year study will focus on aspects to:
- investigate the importance of mycorrhizal fungi to augment orchid population size in the wild
- improve the knowledge and practical applications regarding orchid seed baiting
- apply in vitro collecting method to improve seed germination and facilitate living collection development, taxonomic identification, mycorrhizal DNA bar-coding and cryopreservation
- study population genetics and documenting natural orchid pollination
Dr. Viswambharan Sarasan, head of Kew’s Conservation Biotechnology Section, will lead the project which includes specialists from Kew and Madagascar for the five-year project. This project is a partner of the Madagascar Orchid Conservation Project working closely with Kew's Madagascar Conservation Centre. Dr. Lawrence W. Zettler, professor of biology at Illinois College, has been invited to join the team whose collective expertise makes possible a holistic approach to orchid conservation in Madagascar. “Practical methods and knowledge in the areas of mycorrhizal seed germination and in vitro collecting are slowly developing. Research in both these areas is important for the success of species restoration in the wild. It will be too late for some taxa unless they are saved this way; a high proportion of them are on the brink”, explained Dr Sarasan.
“By understanding how these orchids utilize fungi to grow in nature, we hope to develop and improve techniques for growing these rare species from seed in a practical, reliable manner,” explained Zettler.
Funding for the research will be provided mostly by Kew through the Sainsbury Orchid Project, supported by the Sainsbury Family Charitable Trust (£56,000). An additional $50,000 will be provided by Illinois College, with the majority being used for transportation expenses by Illinois College faculty, staff and students who will work with Zettler. Part of the research will be carried out at Kew’s on-site facility in Madagascar, with expeditions to remote orchid habitats. Members of the team are planning their first trip in June 2012. The team hopes to begin work by in vitro collecting orchid seeds, in situ seed baiting and documenting natural orchid pollination.
For further information please contact the RBG Kew press team on +44 (0)208 332 5607 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Notes to editors:
- Ex situ conservation of Madagascar's endangered orchids
- Madagascar orchid conservation project
- Sainsbury Orchid Conservation: in vitro propagation and re-establishment of UK terrestrial orchids
- Orchids of Madagascar
- Illinois College Orchid Recovery Program
Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew
- Dr Viswambharan Sarasan (Conservation Biotechnology)
- Stuart Cable (Herbarium and Millennium Seed Bank Partnership)
- Dr. Bryn Dentinger (Mycology)
- Dr. Mike Fay (Genetics)
- Jonathan Kendon, Harriet Day (Conservation Biotechnology)
Prof Zettler brings to the team 22 years of research experience growing rare orchids native to North America, including Hawaii and South Florida, in collaboration with specialists from the National Tropical Botanical Garden and U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service. He earned his Bachelor of Science degree from the University of Florida and Ph.D. from Clemson University. Currently serving on the Research Committee of the American Orchid Society, he is also a member of the North American Region of the Orchid Specialist Group, International Union for the Conservation of Nature, as well as a research associate at The Morton Arboretum in Lisle.
Kew’s Madagascar Conservation Centre
- Landy Rajaovelona
- Tiana Randriamboavonjy
- Hélène Ralimanana
- Franck Rakotonasolo
- Jacky Andriantiana of PBZT
The Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew
The Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew is a world famous scientific organisation, internationally respected for its outstanding living collection of plants and world-class Herbarium as well as its scientific expertise in plant diversity, conservation and sustainable development in the UK and around the world. Kew Gardens is a major international visitor attraction. Its landscaped 132 hectares and Kew's country estate, Wakehurst Place, attract nearly two million visitors every year. Kew was made a UNESCO World Heritage Site in July 2003 and celebrated its 250th anniversary in 2009. Wakehurst Place is home to Kew's Millennium Seed Bank, the largest wild plant seed bank in the world. Kew and its partners have collected and conserved seed from 10% of the world's wild flowering plant species (c.30, 000 species) and aim to conserve 25% by 2020.
Kew’s Millennium Seed Bank partnership has already achieved so much, and its enormous potential for future conservation can only be fulfilled with the support of the public and other funders. Kew needs to raise significant funds both in the UK and overseas. Members of the public can support the work of Kew’s Millennium Seed Bank partnership by getting involved with the ‘Adopt a Seed, Save a Species' campaign. For £25 an individual can adopt a seed or for £1,000 anyone can save an entire species.www.kew.org/adoptaseed. True to its founding vision in 1829, Illinois College is a community committed to the highest standards of scholarship and integrity in the liberal arts. The college enrolls approximately 1,000 students in over 45 majors. The Orchid Recovery Program at Illinois College engages students in research aimed at saving rare orchids from extinction. The research in Madagascar will complement the program’s mission to integrate student learning with orchid conservation, instilling an appreciation for the planet’s natural resources.
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