Jessica Wong oversees the Plant Documentation Department—encompassing plant records, GIS mapping, and labeling—at the Chicago Botanic Garden. The overarching goal of the department is to enhance the connection between people and plants. Jessica and her staff are responsible for updating records of the Garden’s living collection with current planting and location data as well as ensuring that plants are properly labeled for visitors. For decades the Garden had a custom-built plant records database along with several other disparate databases; now Jessica is leading a cross-departmental effort to migrate the Garden’s collective data to BRAHMS, a collections management software widely used by other gardens and museums. She also manages volunteer teams that assist with digital photography, phenology, and herbarium and DNA vouchering.
While she always enjoyed nature, Jessica’s passion for plants really blossomed after a semester abroad in Australia and a life-changing field botany course in college. She earned a Bachelor of Science in Biology from the University of Puget Sound and a Master of Arts in Museum Studies from Johns Hopkins University. Her career in public gardens began through internships at Longwood Gardens in Pennsylvania and the Betty Ford Alpine Gardens in Colorado. Prior to coming to the Chicago Botanic Garden, she worked in plant records at Descanso Gardens in California and The Dawes Arboretum in Ohio. She is thrilled to be at the Garden and back in her hometown of Chicago.