Science News

New Non-native Bee Species for State of Illinois

Megachile apicalis

Scientists report new non-native bee species for state of Illinois. Andrea Gruver, a student in the Chicago Botanic Garden and Northwestern University graduate program, along with Paul CaraDonna, PhD, conservation scientist at the Garden, reported the first record in Illinois of a non-native leaf cutter bee, Megachile apicalis. This finding is part of Gruver’s graduate research, which aims to understand the effects of urbanization on the wild bees of the Chicago region.

Plant-pollinator Networks are Resilient to Environmental Changes

research conducted in subalpine ecosystem in the Colorado Rocky Mountains

Garden scientists learn that flexible plant-pollinator networks are resilient to environmental changes. Despite the regularity of the changing seasons, scientists know much less about the seasonality of interactions between organisms, such as the networks among plants and pollinators. New research conducted by Garden scientist, Paul CaraDonna, PhD, shows that networks of interactions between plants and pollinators shift dramatically with the changing seasons.

Scientists Describe Two New Tree Species

Scientists Describe Two New Tree Species

Garden scientists, students, and collaborators describe two new tree species related to breadfruit and jackfruit. While conducting fieldwork in Thailand, Chicago Botanic Garden scientist Nyree Zerega, Ph.D., and collaborators encountered a curious specimen of a tree related to jackfruit and breadfruit. Dr. Zerega is an expert on plants in this group, but nevertheless she was unable to identify the newly encountered specimen—in fact, she suspected it may be a new species. Zerega and Elliot Gardner, a Ph.D.

New Research Supports the Restoration of Resilient Plant Populations

Castilleja levisecta

Restoring destroyed or damaged ecosystems is necessary to tackle global issues like climate change, soil health, clean water, and biodiversity loss. Highlighting its global importance, the United Nations has declared the next decade (2021–2030) the Decade on Ecosystem Restoration. Research conducted by scientists at the Chicago Botanic Garden is focused on making ecosystem restoration as successful as possible by understanding how to restore resilient plant populations that can cope with current conditions and adapt to changes over time.

Applying the Zoo Model to Conservation of Threatened Exceptional Plant Species

Brighamia insignis

While zoos and botanic gardens around the world are closed to help flatten the pandemic curve, scientists at the Garden continue to work remotely to ensure the rare species they care for are not lost. This is important because plant species are being lost at an alarming rate, and botanic gardens play a central role in preventing their extinction.

New Benefit of Prescribed Fires Discovered

controlled burn

Scientists at the Negaunee Institute for Plant Conservation Science and Action at the Chicago Botanic Garden discovered a new benefit of prescribed fires. In a 21-year study, researchers discovered that fires synchronize the bloom time of flowering prairie plants, which helps plants find mates, reproduce, and make more seeds. These findings demonstrate a previously undocumented and potentially widespread way that fire promotes healthy plant populations and maintains plant diversity in fire-dependent ecosystems worldwide.

When Legumes Ruled the World

60-million-year-old legume fossils

Paleobotanists Fabiany Herrera, Ph.D., and Patrick Herendeen, Ph.D., recently reported one of the earliest and most rich associations of legume fruits and leaves. Legumes, including plants such as beans, peanuts, chickpeas, and lentils, are among the most diverse flowering-plant groups today. Still, we know very little about their origin because of the scarce early fossil record, mainly from lowland tropics. The new fossils were collected from extensive coal and clay open-pit mines in Colombia and are about 58 to 60 million years old, from the Paleocene epoch.

Research Team Reviews Impacts of Climate Change in Polar Regions

fly on artic plant

Scientist Amy Iler, Ph.D., is part of a research team reviewing major impacts of climate change in polar regions of our planet. The study was motivated by the upcoming International Polar Year (IPY), a scientific research campaign focused on the latest findings in the polar regions: the Arctic and Antarctic. The Arctic is warming twice as fast as the rest of the earth, resulting in melting ice on sea and land, release of the powerful greenhouse gas methane due to melting permafrost, and disruptions of species interactions (Dr. Iler’s research specialty).

Scientist Discovers New Species of Plants from Fossils

19-million-year-old Spondias (hog plum) fruit from Panama, Central America

Chicago Botanic Garden scientist Fabiany Herrera, Ph.D., discovered three new species of plants from fossils collected during the most recent expansion of the Panama Canal in Central America. The 19-million-year-old fossils are related to modern-day mangos, poison ivy, and cashews—all members of the family Anacardiaceae. The fossils include dozens of “petrified” fruits that were trapped in sediments from volcanoes that erupted during the Early Miocene geological era. The fruits are exquisitely preserved intact in their original three-dimensional shape.

Scientists Train Graduate Students to Share Their Science

Wicked Plants exhibit

Conservation scientist Becky Barak, Ph.D., and assistant professor at the University of Michigan-Flint, Rebecca Tonietto, Ph.D., designed and implemented a science communication workshop at Bell Museum at the University of Minnesota.

The workshop covered multiple techniques for communicating science, including using a storytelling approach to share science in an effective and memorable way.