New research by Garden scientists offers hope for plants growing in human-altered landscapes. The ability of organisms to move across a landscape is an important part of dealing with change. For example, this ability to move—or disperse—allows plants and animals to deal with human-altered land-use change, such as urban development, agriculture, and grazing. For plants, the ability to disperse from one habitat to another occurs via the movement of pollen and seeds, which involves the help of pollinators and seed dispersers.
Researchers at the Chicago Botanic Garden teamed up with experts nationwide to help home gardeners select the best native plant sources for their backyards. Many resources are available to help home gardeners decide which native plant species are right for their garden and goals. However, selecting the best source for those species can be challenging and often overwhelming. Gardeners often have many different sources or cultivars to select from at their local nursery, and not all are equal in their ability to survive and support wildlife in their yard.
CBG scientist leads first South East Asian Fungal Conservation Workshop. This past summer, scientists from Malaysia, Thailand, Singapore, Germany, Belgium, and the United States met in Sarawak, Malaysia, to carry out the first conservation assessment of fungi (mushrooms) in Southeast Asia. Fungi are important for forest health and many are valuable as medicine and food for people. Losing unique species of fungi diminishes the health of natural ecosystems, especially forests.
A team of scientists led by Chicago Botanic Garden and Northwestern University graduate students found that more than three-quarters of biology conferences do not have codes of conduct and the codes that do exist are insufficient in protecting historically marginalized groups. Conferences are beneficial for career advancement and networking, but can exacerbate inequities and power differentials based on racism and sexism, which harm historically marginalized groups.
Scientists at the Chicago Botanic Garden are investigating a new approach to improve degraded landscapes for pollinators and other wildlife. In 2018, the Donnelley Foundation awarded $66,000 to investigate how well seed collected from native plants along roadsides and other tough habitats can germinate and persist in degraded, minimally-managed sites. Using these “native winners” could improve habitat and be a first step toward full-scale restoration.
Chicago Botanic Garden scientists received a grant from the National Science Foundation to collect and study fossil plants from Mongolia and Inner Mongolia, China. The three-year grant to Patrick Herendeen, Ph.D., and Fabiany Herrera, Ph.D., funds an international team of scientists to investigate the diversity and evolution of plants 66 to 250 million years ago when ecosystems changed very rapidly.
Scientists have discovered that what and how caterpillars eat has led to the evolution of new species. Plant-eating insects make up nearly 25 percent of all animals globally, but we know little about how this great diversity came to be. Historically, scientists have affiliated this diversity with insects eating foods of specific plants—think monarch caterpillars and milkweeds.
Two Chicago Botanic Garden scientists received funding to organize a workshop promoting international collaborative research on biodiversity conservation in a global biodiversity hotspot. Nyree Zerega, Ph.D., and Jeremie Fant, Ph.D. received a grant from the National Science Foundation to convene a meeting of U.S. and Indonesian biodiversity scientists spanning expertise in organisms from coral reefs, fungi, microbes, insects, bats, and plants.
Plants of Concern, the Chicago Botanic Garden’s citizen science rare-plant monitoring program, made steps toward extending its boundaries to southern Illinois. Many rare plants occur in southern Illinois, and local communities want to assess the health of these plant populations. However, they currently lack a standardized method of large-scale monitoring of rare plants. Plants of Concern (POC) scientists traveled to Southern Illinois University at Carbondale (SIUC) in mid-May to train members of Dr. David Gibson’s lab in rare-plant monitoring techniques as part of a U.S.
Scientists at Chicago Botanic Garden evaluated 425 experiments that gauged the effectiveness of insects for controlling weeds. Introducing insects to control weeds has been helpful, but often the insect does not damage the target weed, and instead attacks beneficial plants.