Science News

Negaunee Institute faculty, staff and collaborators publish papers describing their research in national and international scientific journals. They also publish technical reports and other products depending on the nature of the work. Our research and conservation work is promoted through news stories, blog posts, and other contributions that seek to explain the importance and impact of our work.

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.

Scientist Travels to Antarctica

Women from the second cohort of Homeward Bound

Chicago Botanic Garden Conservation Scientist and Northwestern University Adjunct Professor Krissa Skogen, Ph.D. will join 100 women in STEMM (science, technology, engineering, math and medicine) to embark on a voyage to Antarctica this November, the largest such expedition in history. The Antarctic expedition is the culmination of a year-long global leadership training program for women in STEMM called Homeward Bound.

How do Plants Stay Connected in Fragmented Habitats?

Manduca quinquemaculata

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.

Helping Gardeners Select the Best Nativars

Plant evaluation beds

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.

First Southeast Asian Fungal Conservation Workshop

Southeast Asian Fungal Conservation Workshop

Garden 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.

Research Suggests National Science Conferences Can Improve Diversity Inclusion

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 Test New Restoration Approach

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.

Fossil Plant Research Helps Unravel Plant Evolution

field camp

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.