Gabriela Rocha Alvarez, B.S.

Gabriela Rocha
Plant Recorder
(847) 835-8274

Gabriela Rocha Alvarez is the plant recorder at the Chicago Botanic Garden. Gabriela started working at the Garden as a volunteer, working in the Production and Plant Documentation Departments. During that time, she learned everything about labeling and tagging the plant collection and created a schedule for the Integrated Pest Management scouting program that assisted Production staff in decision-making.

She was hired to be the labeling coordinator, a job she did for a decade, where she established protocols and procedures and doubled the number of labels produced -now close to 10,000 labels a year. During that time, she labeled and tagged unique taxa in the Garden and Greenhouses and assisted with plant inventories. Gabriela managed projects within established scope, schedule, and budget, and established and maintained relationships with vendors and suppliers, focusing on minority- and women-owned businesses. She has trained and coached volunteers, and mentored high school, college, and graduate students, as well as veterans. Gabriela coordinated the visit of international Garden guests and has translated documents for educational programs including the Regenstein School, Sea Grant Illinois-Indiana Program, Plant Collecting trips (legal requirements for collecting germplasm), and for the Garden’s website and smartphone app. She was a regular guest in a radio talk show in Spanish where she shared gardening tips and answered questions from the audience. One of the highlights for Gabriela was participating in a plant-collecting trip to the Republic of Georgia, where Garden staff obtained more than 100 collections of wild-collected plants from the Caucasus region. 

In her current role, she maintains the accuracy of all the data in the Garden’s relational plant documentation databases, reviewing and editing all new germplasm nomenclature. She produces quarterly reports of plant material and custom reports for communications, horticulture, curators, senior management, and marketing staff. Data collection and data analysis form the basis for curating and evaluating the plant collection that Gabriela is aiming to project.

Gabriela is a social justice advocate, and she was part of the inaugural Employee Resource Group at the Garden, where EDIA principles were developed and instituted. She hosted and co-hosted meetings with staff both in English and Spanish, emphasizing the importance of treating people with respect and civility. She has served as interpreter and translator in All-Staff meetings. She enjoys facilitating and mediating groups.

This value connected her to the American Public Garden Association network, where now she is part of the Program Selection Committee, whose goal is to create a relevant, timely, and quality program for the APGA Annual Conference.  

Prior to her life in the United States, Gabriela earned a bachelor of science degree in agriculture, and supervised scientific projects in agriculture, natural resources, and livestock for federal and state programs in Mexico. She was a grant reviewer and inspected and monitored the technical and financial aspects of the projects; she performed technical on-site verification, conducted interviews with scientists, researchers, farmers, suppliers, vendors, etc., and collaborated with scientists and board of directors to establish state and federal goals. Gabriela evaluated projects based on the Logical Framework Approach (USAID LFA methodology), and FAO methodology. 

Gabriela’s experience includes working as an intern in a Mexican institution and national leader in the corn breeding program, to laboratory soil assistant, an exterminator, and educator.