2018 Conference Speakers

Featured Speakers

George Gann

The Promise (and some perils) of Ecological Restoration

As Floridians, we are all too aware of the consequences of habitat destruction, fragmentation, sea level rise, increasing climatic disturbances (hurricanes!), invasive species, drainage, fire suppression, and a host of other human-produced ills. We are also aware of a wide variety of efforts, from massive projects like the Everglades Restoration to tiny backyard native gardens, to address these problems. But we are not alone. All around the world millions of people, from grass-roots restorationists and activists, to scientists and citizen scientists, to policymakers and politicians, to the public, are embracing ecological restoration and other restorative activities as a means of meeting the challenges of the 21st century head on. In this featured presentation we will embark on a whirlwind tour of global restoration initiatives, the promise of what they could deliver, and the perils of misuse and failure. We will tackle controversial topics like restoration targets, novel ecosystems, standards of practice, extralimital natives, mitigation, carbon markets, reforestation and more, and bring them back into focus as they pertain to the native plant conservation movement in Florida. Please join us for this interesting journey and (we hope!) an even more interesting discussion following the talk.

A native of southern Miami-Dade County, George Gann is a founder of The Institute for Regional Conservation (IRC) as well as Chair Emeritus and Global Restoration Ambassador of the Society for Ecological Restoration (SER). Over a 40-year career George has completed hundreds of on-the-ground conservation projects, published more than 100 articles, technical reports, websites, and a book, and presented talks and workshops to the public and technical audiences nearly around the world. He has worked intensively on native plants and rare plant conservation in Florida and the Caribbean, from large-scale floristic efforts in South Florida, Puerto Rico and Everglades National Park to intensive small-scale projects at residential sites and in botanical gardens. He has done conservation policy work globally for SER and IRC and conducted botanical field work in more than a dozen Latin American and Caribbean countries. He believes in using traditional conservation tools, such as the establishment and management of protected areas, augmented by modern approaches including ecological restoration, rare species reintroduction and augmentation, and utilizing regional matrices of protected and restored areas to conserve native plants and animals. He advocates for transparency, data sharing, and stakeholder participation in conservation planning and has developed numerous popular online resources for IRC, including the Floristic Inventory of South Florida and Natives For Your Neighborhood.

Roger Hammer

Exploring the Everglades Backcountry (without dying a horrible death)

This featured presentation focuses on exploring the vast backcountry of Everglades National Park by foot, bicycle, kayak, and canoe. Roger Hammer has canoed the 99-mile Everglades Wilderness Waterway 3 times solo, he once solo canoed for 4 days from Shark Valley across the Everglades to Flamingo, and in May 2010 he solo canoed from Flamingo around Cape Sable and up the Gulf coast to Highland Beach, and then back via the interior bays and rivers, logging 120 miles over 10 days. In this presentation he will share some of his experiences and explain the best equipment and safety gear, eating with class, and some do's and don'ts. Roger has logged countless days kayak fishing in the Everglades frontcountry and backcountry, so he will offer tips on where to go and what type of gear to bring to make your fishing trip safe, memorable, and productive. Roger has also hiked and biked for miles in search of some of the rarest wildflowers in the Everglades, and managed to do so without dying a horrible death! Roger also once waded 20 miles through the heart of the Fakahatchee Swamp, sleeping in a jungle hammock suspended above the swamp water, and emerging onto Alligator Alley five days later. He had to hitchhike back to his VW van in the same clothes he wore for five days and thinks he may be responsible for the very first Skunk Ape sightings.

Roger Hammer is a professional naturalist, botanist, wildflower photographer, author, and survivalist instructor for the Discovery Channel’s reality TV program, Naked and Afraid. He has received numerous awards from the Florida Native Plant Society, Tropical Audubon Society, and the North American Butterfly Association, and has been a Keynote speaker for the Florida Native Plant Society, Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden, Florida Wildflower Foundation, and the World Orchid Conference. He is an avid long-distance solo canoeist, kayak fisherman, and connoisseur of expensive rums. Roger’s books include Florida Keys Wildflowers, Everglades Wildflowers, Central Florida Wildflowers, Exploring Everglades National Park and the Surrounding Area, Attracting Hummingbirds and Butterflies in Tropical Florida, and Florida Icons. He lives in Homestead with his wife, Michelle.

Tiffany Troxler, PhD

Local and Regional Opportunities for Natural Systems to Benefit Society

Coastal ecosystems provide many ecosystem services as “the benefits people obtain from ecosystems.” These include important recreational and tourism opportunities, key fishery habitat, water quality improvements, flood and erosion mitigation and carbon sequestration. These services also have monetary value. These are best known for coastal protection and carbon sequestration, with monetary value of coastal protection services estimated at $23 billion per year- between 1980 and 2008. Local and regional opportunities for coastal ecosystems to benefit society extend from preserving local mangrove forests to restoring the Everglades. Management strategies that enhance the ecological functions of natural systems improve the ability of these systems to confer benefits to society.

Dr. Tiffany Troxler is Director of the Sea Level Solutions Center at Florida International University, a state university center that focuses on advancing knowledge, decision making and actions toward mitigating the causes and adapting to the effects of sea-level rise. She is a research scientist with expertise in coastal and wetland ecosystem ecology. Some of her projects include collaborative research that examines the effects of saltwater inundation on Everglades coastal wetlands, monitoring adaptive management actions associated with Everglades restoration and advancing interdisciplinary nature-based solutions to extreme events in urban environments.

Craig Huegel, PhD

Sex in the Garden

In this talk, Dr. Craig Huegel describes the intricate systems plants have developed to reproduce successfully. As in animals, plants have to find the right partners with which to produce their offspring, but they have to do so without the benefit of mobility. To accomplish this, they have developed various lures and structures that attract us with their beauty, but are instrumental in attracting pollinators necessary to achieve their mission and methods to disperse their fertilized seed. Like animals, plants are not passive in selecting their partners. Complex hormonal systems are involved throughout the process and the seeds they produce play an important role in their own development and the eventual germination required. Understanding all of this is important to everyone who grows and maintains plants in their landscape.

Craig N. Huegel is an ecologist and educator with a special interest in wildlife and plants. He has written extensively on the interaction of plants as wildlife habitat and has written five books on native plants and wildlife. His forthcoming book on how plants work is devoted to describing the sometimes complex way that plants function and relate to their environment. Craig is a founding member of the Pinellas Chapter of the Florida Native Plant Society and an active supporter of the Florida Association of Native Plant Nurseries (FANN).

Scientific Research Presentations

Clayborn, Jaeson and Suzanne Koptur, PhD. Rising seas in the Florida Keys: The last refuge for the Federally Endangered Schaus’ Swallowtail Butterfly. 
Cosner, Zachariah. The Custard Apple Swamp.
Esposito Sarmet, Linamar, D. Steward, and C. Warthen. A history of creation and conservation of Samsons Island Park in Satellite Beach, FL.
Koptur, Suzanne, Beyte Barrios, PhD, Imena Valdes, and Maha Nusrat. A fishing expedition to discover the pollinators of several subtropical Apocynaceae.
Riera, David, Amir Khoddamzadeh, Jason Downing, and Krishnaswamy Jayachandran. Application of conservation biotechnology in threatened Floridian orchids.
Roberts, Richard E. and Marion Y. Hedgepeth.. Seventy years of vegetation change on the Loxahatchee National Wild and Scenic River, Southeast Florida.
Salas, Andrea. Using an endemic Pine Rockland plant in restoration of agricultural landscapes of South Florida – Potential benefits from a native ‘insectary’ plant.
Valdes, Imeña, Maha Nusrat, Wendy Villavicencio, and Suzanne Koptur. How does pollen source affect reproductive success of Echites umbellatus (Apocynaceae)?
Blochel, Alexander. Pineland Croton, Croton linearis, propagation and planting - National Key Deer Refuge.
De Stefano, Douglas, Amir A. Khoddamzadeh, PhD, and Jason Downing, PhD. Conservation Horticulture: Application of in-vitro micropropagation techniques in a South Floridian endangered native orchid.  
Drucker, Daley and Alan R. Franck, PhD. The Herbarium: a library of plant specimens to preserve our natural history.  
Mangum, Samantha. How is flowering phenology being quantified and is it time to rethink our methods?
Molgo, Iwan, Douglas Soltis, PhD, and Pamela Soltis, PhD. Molecular analysis of Callisia section Cuthbertia (Commelinaceae).
Smith, Michelle M. Coastal Pine Rockland.
Naranjo, Andre A., Pamela S. Soltis, PhD, and Douglas E. Soltis, PhD. Dicerandra: Understanding ancestral niches of a narrow endemic.

Friday Speakers   (day subject to change)

Amir Khoddamzadeh, Ph.D.

Friday Conservation Track Workshop Leader

The Friday Conservation Track will be a day-long workshop, ending in a panel discussion on "Orchid Conservation, Restoration, and Citizen Science."  Attendees will learn about Florida’s rich Orchid species which comprise about half of the Orchids species found in the United States and Canada, with most of those species occurring in south Florida.  Presentations will demonstrate how researchers and citizen scientists are working to save Florida’s Orchids from extinction.  Topics will include cutting-edge propagation methods, restoration work, cryopreservation, and the massive “Million Orchid project” that may help us develop more general strategies for rescuing rare plants through citizen science initiatives.

Dr. Amir Khoddamzadeh is a conservation horticulturalist and cryobiologist in the Agroecology Program within the Department of Earth and Environment at Florida International University. Dr. Khoddamzadeh is also affiliated with International Centre for Tropical Botany at the Kampong Botanic Garden. He serves as the chair of Seed and Stand Establishment and the chair of Ornamental Plant Breeding Interest Groups and Outstanding International Horticulturist Award Committee in American Society for Horticultural Science (ASHS), and serving in the Conservation and Education Committee of the Florida Native Plant Society. Dr. Khoddamzadeh has taught the courses such as Medicinal, Aromatic, and Poisonous Plants, Sustainable Agriculture, Introduction to Environmental Science, Modern Crop Production, Introduction to Horticulture Sciences, Sustainability in Action, Biotechnology Applications in Horticultural Crops, and also organized number of professional workshops throughout his career. His current research focuses are on: a) In-vitro propagation (tissue/cell culture) and gene-banking (cryopreservation) of the endangered Floridian native plants (mostly orchids), and b) Optical non-destructive handheld sensor technology for sustainable fertilizer management in horticultural crops.

Frank Ridgley, PhD

Transforming Invasives to Critical Habitat: Zoo Miami Pine Rockland Restoration

Pine rockland is a globally critically endangered ecosystem and the most biodiverse flora ecosystem in South Florida. The Richmond Tract is the largest remaining fragment of pine rockland outside of Everglades National Park. The Richmond Tract still exists due in large part that the property was once a Naval Air Base. While the base preserved many areas of forest, scars from its development in the 1940’s still create problem areas for management of invasive species within the tract. With funding from the FNPS, and coordination with Zoo Miami, Miami-Dade County Natural Areas Management and the Environmentally Endangered Land Program, we were able to permanently remove an invasive species dominated problem area and transform it into a more functional pine rockland ecosystem.

In 2007, Dr. Ridgley accepted a position at Zoo Miami as an Associate Veterinarian after being the Senior Veterinarian for the Buffalo Zoo for many years.  In 2011, Dr. Ridgley shifted his focus to field conservation and research efforts and became the Director of Conservation and Research.  He is currently a research associate and graduate faculty at Florida International University, on the Steering Committee of the Everglades CISMA, on the Steering Committee of the Florida Imperiled Butterfly Working Group, on the Conservation Committee of the Florida Association of Zoos and Aquariums, and a member of the Florida Bonneted Bat Working Group.

Chuck McCartney

Native Orchids: The Florida-Cuba Connection

Cuba, the largest island of the Greater Antilles, is home to 312 orchid species and natural hybrids, as well as a few naturalized exotics. Of these, Florida shares 58 species, in addition to 6 of the naturalized exotics. Those 58 species represent slightly more than 50 percent of the orchids known to have been native to the whole state of Florida. Because of the proximity to Cuba, lying only 90 miles at the closest point from our shores, it seems logical that most of our native orchids derived from that source. In this program, we’ll take a quick overview of those species.

Chuck McCartney is a third-generation Floridian raised in Homestead. Among the first flowers he remembers as a child growing up there were orchids, including several of our native species. Although trained as a high school English teacher, he spent most of his career in journalism, including 5 years with the publications of the American Orchid Society. He has lived in Hollywood since 1976 and retired in 2009 after nearly 19 years as a copy editor with the Broward Edition of the Miami Herald. After learning about native plants through his early participation with Dade County’s legendary Native Plant Workshop, he joined the Florida Native Plant Society in 1986 and in 2002 received the society’s Green Palmetto Award for his educational efforts. He writes and lectures often about native orchids and other wildflowers, and he has photographed most of the approximately 60 orchid species native to the southern end of the state. He also photographs orchids and wildflowers in the Southern Appalachians, where he has a summer home.

Houston Cypress

Songs of Sovereignty: Traditional Ecological Knowledge & Conservation Priorities

Traditional Ecological Knowledge informs the Everglades conservation priorities of the Miccosukee Tribe of Indians of Florida.  Storytelling, scientific analysis, and the expression of sovereignty are vital components of this indigenous community’s strategy for upholding the integrity of the Circle of Life.  Through a discussion of respected plant species & attendant protocol, short films, poetry and other works of art, the speaker will offer insight on the culture of the Miccosukee Tribe and how their Way of Life is connected with the vitality of the Greater Everglades ecologies.  Speaker will highlight various challenges inhibiting Everglades Restoration, and suggest solutions and items for action using an approach that will be holistic and eclectic.

Rev. Houston R. Cypress grew up in the Grassy Waters of the Greater Everglades, blazing trails through the bush.  The endangered beauty of the natural environment made such an impression on him during his childhood – being a refuge for his ancestors and the source of traditional plant medicines – that he grew to find ways to articulate strategies for preserving this World Heritage Site.
Art, conflict management, communications, and spirituality are some of the modalities and techniques that he employs through his collaborations with the following organizations:  Miccosukee Magazine TV; Film, Recording & Entertainment Council; Medicine Signs Spiritual Center; Camposition, Inc.; Natural Resources Leadership Institute; and the Love The Everglades Movement.
He finds inspiration for his contributions to the Cinema in the words of Patricio Guzman of Chile, who says, “A country without documentaries is like a home without photo albums.”
Houston is committed to supporting his society of clans by assisting in cultural preservation, environmental protection, community outreach, event and media production, business development, and strengthening sovereignty.
Rev. Houston R. Cypress is a Two-Spirit Poet, Artist, and Activist from the Otter Clan of the Miccosukee Tribe of Indians of Florida.  He resides on the Miccosukee Reservation located west of Miami, Florida; and he maintains a number of traditional villages located on tree islands scattered throughout Water Conservation Area 3A – the area known as the historic River of Grass, and called by his community:  KAHAYATLE, which can be translated as “Shimmering Waters.”

Joe Samnik

Avoiding The Lawyers Food Chain

This presentation will provide attendees with an overview of why professionals get sued and how best to avoid the resulting conflict. The most commonly made errors and omissions in landscape architecture will be discussed and presented based upon actual case scenarios. The professional conduct reasonably necessary for conflict avoidance will be presented. This course will be presented indoors and include actual designs, diagrams, contract language, and other criteria commonly a component of litigation.

Joe Samnik is entering his 51st year of practice including arboriculture and horticultural consulting. He received the award for recognition of lifetime achievement in the excellence of arboriculture. He was the founding president of the Florida Chapter of the International Society of Arboriculture (ISA).  He is past president of the Association of Eminent Domain Professionals. He has presented abstracts at 4 international tree conferences. Joe has presented at over 95 state, international, and national conferences. He has been involved as an expert witness in over 800 litigation assignments.  He authored Rule Chapter 1440 of the Florida Statutes for appraising trees and plants in the state of Florida. His portfolio includes over $200 million of tree appraisals in litigation matters. His method of valuing the tree providing forest benefits was copyrighted as intellectual property in 2016 and presented at the ISA annual conference in Washington, DC.

Dennis Giardina & Mike Owen

The restoration of threatened and extirpated orchids at Fakahatchee Strand Preserve State Park

Fakahatchee Strand Preserve State Park is composed of 84,000 acres and multiple vegetative communities, including the largest Taxodium distichum strand swamp in the region. Beneath the Taxodium canopy is found the greatest diversity of epiphytic orchids in the United States. Due to habitat alteration and destruction associated with the industrial logging period of the middle 20th Century and the intense collection of orchids thereafter, several species became very rare and a few were extirpated. This presentation will describe a collaborative effort to conserve two threatened species of epiphytic orchids native to south Florida, Cyrtopodium punctatum and Prosthechea boothiana and two extirpated species native only to the Fakahatchee Strand, Bulbophyllum pachyrachis and Epidendrum acunae.

Dennis Giardina has been the Everglades Region Biologist for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission for the past ten years and before that he was the Park Manager of Fakahatchee Strand Preserve State Park. His career has focused on endangered species recovery and exotic species control since 1989 and has worked for the US Forest Service at the Caribbean and Apalachicola National Forests and the US Fish and Wildlife Service at St. Marks, Florida Panther and 10,000 Islands National Wildlife Refuges.

Mike Owen has been the Park Biologist at the Fakahatchee Strand Preserve State Park since 1993.  His duties include hydrological monitoring, endangered plant surveys, herbarium collection, wildlife observations including road kill data, vertebrate species list, plant species list, non-native plant removal, Prescribed burning and conducting interpretive programs, involving guided swamp walks and PowerPoint programs.

Ginny Stibolt

Native Plants Play a Large Role in Climate-Wise Landscaping

A climate-wise landscape is one that's designed to: 1) be resilient and better survive climate change, 2) help wildlife survive climate change, and/or 3) help to mitigate climate change. This presentation takes an optimistic approach with ideas for actions that property owners or managers (homeowners, communities, businesses, and municipalities) can take right now for a greener future.
Using more native plants and building  natural areas in landscapes help accomplish these climate-wise goals in various ways (especially when compared to typical lawns and repeated seasonal plantings), including less irrigation, less soil disturbance, less use of power tools, little or no use of synthetic fertilizer, no poisons, and much better support of native butterflies and birds. 

Ginny Stibolt, a lifelong gardener, earned a MS degree in botany at the University of Maryland. She has been writing about her adventures in Florida gardening since 2004. Since she joined the Florida Native Plant Society in 2006, she has been including more native plants and more natural areas in her yard. She wrote or co-wrote "Sustainable Gardening for Florida" (2009), Organic Methods for Vegetable Gardening in Florida" (2013), "The Art of Maintaining a Florida Native Landscape" (2015), "A Step-by-Step Guide to a Florida Native Yard" (2018), and "Climate-Wise Landscaping" (2018). In addition to writing books, she's written hundreds of articles, manages a “Sustainable Gardening for Florida” Facebook page, and writes for her own blog at www.GreenGardeningMatters.com

Jason Downing, Ph.D.

The Million Orchid Project and Associated Research

Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden is working to reintroduce eight species of South Florida’s rare and endangered native orchids into our urban landscape. With the help of thousands of students from local schools, Fairchild has been generating large quantities of these orchid plants from seed. We are now propagating native orchids with the goal to re-establish them within South Florida's public landscapes, around schools, on street trees, and in city parks. The Million Orchid Project is unique in its scale, its exclusive focus on public landscapes, and its involvement of the local community throughout the entire process. At its core, The Million Orchid Project is a massive science experiment that allows us to make important discoveries about how native orchids grow and reproduce. Additionally, the techniques used through The Million Orchid Project may help us develop more general strategies for rescuing rare plants through citizen science initiatives.

Jason Downing is originally from Kansas where he completed his BS in Biology at the University of Kansas in 2001. After graduation he relocated to Miami to complete a post-baccalaureate year at the University of Miami and took a position as assistant to the curator for the Gifford Arboretum at University of Miami. He completed his Master's in Environmental Science in 2011 and PhD in Biology at Florida International University in 2016. During his graduate programs he held positions at Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden, and Smithsonian Environmental Research Center working on research related to orchid ecology, specifically interactions with pollinators and mycorrhizal fungi. He has also been working in orchid conservation in China for the past 5 years. He is currently the Orchid Research Biologist at Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden where he leads all of the garden's orchid related research, propagation, education, and conservation efforts, including The Million orchid Project.

David Riera

Application of Conservation Biotechnology in Threatened Floridian Orchids

Native and endemic species have always faced two common yet global conservation threats in overharvesting and habitat fragmentation, both of which have historically resulted in the decreased fitness, extirpation, and extinction of various fauna and flora species on the planet. Of them, plants are compromised the most; they are non-motile which restricts their ranges, naturally constrained by biotic and abiotic elements which can influence seed dispersals, and are artificially inhibited by human activities which has led to reductions in floral diversity across the globe. In this study, three threatened Floridian orchids (Oncidium ensatum, Encyclia tampensis, and Cyrtopodium punctatum) were selected based on published Coefficients of Conservatism Values (CCV rating). This study developed an optimal encapsulation matrix to produce artificial seeds using 4% sodium alginate with 50 µM of calcium chloride (CaCl2) for (C. punctatum) and 4% sodium alginate with 75 µM of calcium chloride (CaCl2) for the other two species. Furthermore, protocorm like bodies (PLBs) were encapsulated before applying the pre-culture treatments, which consisted of ½ strength liquid MS media agitated for three days over the artificial seeds supplemented with 0.5, 0.75, 1.00 and 1.25 moles, prepared by combining 29.4, 44.1, 58.8 and 73.5 g of sucrose, respectively. PLBs were then exposed to liquid nitrogen (LN) for 1 hour and thawed in a hot water bath. Viability of the germplasm was validated using tetrazolium chloride (TTC) assays and post-growth stage development following two weeks. Through this study, an ex-situ strategy has been established to safeguard the survival of this rare Floridian orchid.

David Riera’s childhood in Hialeah and Marine Corps service in the U.S. and Iraq kept him close to nature all of his early life. He received an A.S. degree in Biotechnology at Miami Dade College, and B.S. degrees in both Environmental Science and Marine Biology at FIU.  He was awarded his M. Sci. in Environmental Studies working alongside Dr. Amir Khoddamzadeh, his focus in plant biotechnology helped him develop a method to conserve endangered wetland orchid species which earned him one of FIU highest research awards: World Ahead Scholar (Summer 2017).  David has established a summer research outreach program mentoring at-risk high school students while giving them practical research skills. He serves as the student president of two agroecological societies at FIU and holds the student executive board chair for the Society of Wetland Scientist. Currently, he continues his pathway to a Doctorate degree in the College of Arts, Science, and Education where he looks to research natural resource conservation, environmental justice, and experiential and place-based learning. David fervently believes that the journey to environmental stewardship can be achieved by cultivating the next generation of advocates, innovators, and educators.

Hong Liu, PhD

A comprehensive review of conservation translocations of Florida native orchids

Orchids are a highly diverse group of plants that are threatened due to habitat destruction and overharvesting. Globally, conservation translocation (sensu IUCN 2013) - the deliberate movement of organisms from one site for release in another with an intended conservation benefit – has been an important recovery strategy for orchids. In this study, we review current conservation translocation efforts of orchids in Florida to understand 1) the choice of plants for translocation; 2) the length of monitoring time; 3) the success of translocation efforts, and 4) the type of agencies invoking translocation as a management action. We based our analyses on information gained from peer- and non-peer reviewed publications, and our own research projects.  We found a total of 14 Florida native orchids that have been subject to conservation translocation over the past decades, some more than once. Motivation and fates of these conservation translocations varied widely. Learning the motivation for and outcome of orchid translocations in the past will help to set future priority in orchid conservation.

Dr. Hong Liu is Associate Professor at Florida International University (FIU) in the Department of Earth & Environment and the International Center for Tropical Botany (ICTB). She is also a Research Associate at Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden (FTBG). Her main research interests are in plant conservation ecology. Her current research, carried out both in Florida (USA) and tropical China, addresses important environmental issues such as what are the impacts of climate change on rare and threatened species, how to conserve heavily exploited plant species, the role of biotic interactions in population persistence and expansion, and the ecological consequences of invasive pollinators. She is also interested in rare plant restoration, including endangered orchids. She has published more than 60 peer-reviewed papers, and her research in wild orchid conservation has been recognized by academic peers worldwide. The journal Science featured her work in China in 2010 (Science 329: 1592-1594). She currently serves on the editorial board of Conservation Biology, a flagship journal in the field of biodiversity conservation.

Wagner Vendrame, Ph.D.

Cryopreservation and the Use of Bioreactor Technology for the Clonal Propagation of Orchids

Cryopreservation has been widely regarded as an efficient tool for long-term storage of plant material and several cryopreservation methods have been developed for orchids.  In addition to preservation of endangered orchids, cryopreservation also offers a suitable alternative for breeders, allowing long-term storage of orchid genetic material for breeding and genetic improvement programs. A number of orchid cryopreservation studies have been performed in our laboratory at the University of Florida’s Tropical Research Center for the past 10 years.  Efficient protocols were developed for cryopreservation of orchid seeds, protocorms and pollen. Furthermore, we have established new studies for the clonal propagation of orchids using temporary immersion system bioreactors. Preliminary results indicate large rates of multiplication and regeneration using bioreactor technology.

Dr. Vendrame is a Professor in the Environmental Horticulture Department, working at TREC in ornamental horticulture and biotechnology. He teaches courses on Orchid Biology and Culture and Micropropagation, both at the undergraduate and graduate levels.  He also teaches an Orchid Short Course in Gainesville and an orchid workshop at FIU.  His research program involves production and conservation of ornamental plants using tissue culture and cryopreservation techniques, including orchids and many other ornamental plants.  Additional studies included the evaluation of growth of plant cells under microgravity, with 5 experiments on board of the space shuttles Atlantis, Endeavour and Discovery, and the International Space Station National Laboratory.  Dr. Vendrame has performed several studies on clonal propagation and cryopreservation of orchid species and hybrids and results were published in peer-reviewed scientific journals. More recently studies were initiated with bioreactors for fast and large-scale micropropagation of orchids, among other plants. Dr. Vendrame obtained his B.S. in Agricultural Sciences and M.Sc. in Plant Physiology and Biochemistry from the University of São Paulo, Brazil, and his Ph.D. in Horticulture from the University of Georgia.

Teresa Cooper, PhD

Save Florida’s Bromeliads Conservation Project

In 1989, the Mexican bromeliad weevil, Metamasius callizona (Chevrolat), was found established on native bromeliad populations in Florida. Since then, the weevil has spread throughout central and southern Florida and, along the way, has caused great destruction to bromeliad populations. An attempt was made to use a biological control agent to control the weevil, but was not successful. Alternative methods of controlling the weevil, including host plant resistance, biopesticides, and repellants, are being researched. However, these new lines of study will require years of research before there are results. Meanwhile, the bromeliads are being killed by the weevil and something must be done to protect these plants. A method is being developed and put into practice for conserving Florida’s native bromeliads, while we continue searching for a solution to the weevil. This method was developed while working with land managers, volunteers, and scientists in parks, refuges, sanctuaries, preserves, and other natural areas throughout central and southern Florida. Dr. Cooper will talk about the history of the bromeliads and the weevil in Florida, alternative methods for controlling the weevil, and the conservation efforts that are being put into action to save these wonderful plants.

Dr. Teresa Cooper is an entomologist, conservationist, and artist. From 2001 to 2016 she was at the University of Florida, first as a graduate student (Gainesville, Florida) then as a Research Scientist (Ft. Pierce, Florida). During this time, she was fixated on one goal: saving Florida’s bromeliads from an invasive bromeliad-eating weevil, Metamasius callizona. Until 2015, great efforts were made by Dr. Cooper and her colleagues to control the weevil using classical biological control; ultimately, it was not successful. Now, several of Florida’s bromeliads may be extirpated because of the weevil. In 2015, Dr. Cooper began the Save Florida’s Bromeliads Conservation Project to promote intensive conservation and research efforts to keep Florida’s bromeliads alive. In 2016, she left the University of Florida and launched her own business, teresamariedreams. She creates and sells fine art, and she is still fixated on that one goal:  saving Florida’s bromeliads.

Gregory S. Wheeler, Ph.D.

Biological Control of Invasive Weeds

Research on biological control of invasive weeds is being conducted by scientists at the USDA/ARS Invasive Plant Research Lab in Ft Lauderdale. Our primary target weeds include Melaleuca, Brazilian peppertree, Old World Climbing fern, Chinese tallowtree, Air potato, and Waterhyacinth. Despite the success of biological control of melaleuca, waterhyacinth, and air potato, new agents continue to be developed to further reduce these invasive weeds in natural areas. Two agents have been established against Old World Climbing fern and additional agents are currently being evaluated. Most recently an international and local team has been searching and evaluating agents against Brazilian peppertree and Chinese tallowtree.  These agents include defoliators, sap suckers, stem borers, and leaf and stem gall formers. Despite difficulty finding agents sufficiently safe for field release against Brazilian peppertree in Florida, we have narrowed the field to two promising species, a thrips and a foliage gall-former. Results of trials conducted overseas and in quarantine indicate both species will safely contribute to the control of Brazilian peppertree. The immature and adult feeding by both herbivore species will stunt the growth, distort leaves, and should reduce reproductive output of Brazilian peppertrees. Similar studies are underway against Chinese tallowtree and air potato that indicate potential agents will safely damage these invasive weeds. 

Dr. Wheeler has studied insect/plant interactions on various aspects of nutritional and chemical ecology for more than 30 years. His primary focus has been to develop safe and effective biological control agents against several environmental weeds including, Lygodium (Lygodium microphyllum), Brazilian peppertree Schinus terebinthifolia (Anacardiaceae) and Chinese tallowtree Triadica (=Sapium) sebifera. This entails both overseas explorations surveying for natural enemies of the target weeds and quarantine host testing of prospective agents. Host testing at the USDA/ARS/IPRL involves the colonization of prospective agents under quarantine where work is conducted against target weed species.  Work completed, where agents are being petitioned for release, include the thrips, Pseudophilothrips ichini against Brazilian peppertree and the flea beetle Bikasha collaris against Chinese tallowtree. Overseas surveys and quarantine testing of numerous additional prospective agents continues. 
In addition, Dr. Wheeler has provided hands-on experience to promising young high school students, university interns and members of the Student Conservation Association - AmeriCorps. Through this program he has recruited and trained interns (~2/yr) prior to pursuit of advanced degrees in biology and conservation. During the past 10 years, he has trained 20 SCA-AmeriCorps conservation interns and students.

Christopher McVoy, PhD

Landscapes, Vegetation and [some] Hydrology of the Predrainage (<1880) Everglades

The Florida Everglades have been extensively altered, in both obvious and subtle ways. FNPS members Christopher McVoy and Winifred Park Said gathered, screened and mapped an exhaustive range of historical sources to piece together an ecological picture of the Everglades as they were before being drained, diked and outright developed. Our research, which culminated in a University Press of Florida book and also led to a South Florida Water Management District regional hydrological model, has helped guide ongoing efforts to restore the Everglades. We will “walk” through a virtual tour of the original Everglades, comparing and contrasting with what presently remains. Along the way we will point out examples of specific places in South Florida that still show traces of former Everglades influence, despite being partially obscured by roads and houses. Patterns of vegetation change as well as an example of restoration of a former “arm” (transverse glade) of the Everglades on the Deering Estate also will be discussed.

Dr. Christopher McVoy is an ecohydrologist, an expert in environmental restoration of the Everglades, and a former three term city councilperson (Lake Worth). He holds degrees from Cornell University (B.A., systems ecology; Ph.D., soil physics) and the University of Florida (M.S., soil physics). In the book Landscapes and Hydrology of the Predrainage Everglades, he and his coauthors successfully combined historical information with multi-disciplinary science to reconstruct a detailed picture of the original (1850s) Everglades. An amateur botanist, he enjoys exploring remaining natural areas in South Florida. His yard was one of those featured in the 2017 Palm Beach County FNPS garden tour. In cultures where strong cultural traditions persist, he is intrigued by the interaction of seasonal celebrations, music and dance with environmental ethics. As a systems ecologist, Dr. McVoy has long been conscious of the harm humanity has inflicted on the Earth, especially through climate disruption. He has translated this into lifestyle changes, from solar hot water and electricity, to graywater systems, or to bicycle transportation. Whether through science, politics or art, he is passionate about encouraging creative ways to spur environmental change. The Lake Worth Science Mobile is one of his current projects for inspiring kids.

Saturday Speakers  (day subject to change)

Emily Brin Roberson, Ph.D.

The Native Plant Conservation Campaign – a national native plant society for the United States

Plants are second-class conservation citizens. Botanists have coined the term “plant blindness” to refer to the all too common “inability to see or notice plants in [the] environment.” Sadly, plant blindness is widespread among policymakers.  Even environmental groups often overlook native plants in their work.  As a result, plants are discriminated against in every aspect of law, policies and budgets for science and conservation. 
The Native Plant Conservation Campaign (NPCC) was created to combat these problems. The NPCC is a national network of Affiliate plant conservation groups including native plant societies, botanic gardens and others. In 2017, the NPCC passed the 50 Affiliate mark and now represents more than 200,000 native plant enthusiasts. The mission of the NPCC is to promote the conservation of native plants and their habitats through collaboration, education, research and advocacy.
This presentation will discuss the NPCC, our approach to native plant conservation advocacy, and our plans for 2018 and beyond. We will also examine how the Trump administration has affected the native plant conservation landscape. For more information, see PLANTSOCIETIES.ORG. 

Emily Brin Roberson is the director of the Native Plant Conservation Campaign. Previously, she was Senior Policy Analyst for the California Native Plant Society for 11 years. She then directed the Campaign as a project of the Center for Biological Diversity before launching the Campaign as an independent organization. She holds a bachelor’s degree magna cum laude in plant ecology from Harvard University, a M.S. in soil science from UC Davis, and a Ph.D. in soil microbial ecology from UC Berkeley. She worked as a researcher in the plant and soil sciences for 10 years before joining CNPS in 1993. 

Jaclyn Lopez, JD

Habitat Under Attack: A Snap Shot of Development Threats Across the State

From habitat fragmentation, to outright destruction, Florida’s native and natural habitats are under attack. This presentation will provide a synopsis of ongoing and planned development throughout Florida. It will provide details regarding the who, what, when, where, and why, and will give the audience tools to engage and inform decisionmakers.  

Jaclyn Lopez, Florida Director and Senior Attorney with the Center for Biological Diversity, is a Florida native and has been with the Center since 2002. She holds a master of laws degree in environmental and land-use law from the University of Florida, a J.D. from the University of Denver Sturm College of Law and a master's degree in urban planning from the University of Arizona. Jacki coordinates campaigns in the Southeast and Caribbean, focusing on protecting imperiled species and ecosystems. She has presented and written on numerous Endangered Species Act issues and taught courses on environmental law.

Elizabeth Golden

The Restoration of Cape Florida – Twenty-five Years After the “Big One”

Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park, on the southern end of Key Biscayne, was for decades dominated by an Australian-pine forest. In 1992, Hurricane Andrew destroyed that forest and launched the Florida Park Service on a long-term project to restore the original plant communities of this 506-acre site. At present the park’s four main upland plant communities and two wetland communities are at varying levels of maturity. This presentation will show how the various communities look today and will explain the factors that influenced their current condition.

Elizabeth Golden is the park biologist at Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park. She started working at Cape Florida as an exotic plant removal technician in 1994, two years after the park was devastated by Hurricane Andrew. Within two years she became the onsite biologist, responsible for the park’s plants and wildlife, while the park was being replanted in a large-scale restoration project. She has had the rare opportunity observing over the last 24 years the changes to the park’s plant communities, from the start of the post-Andrew ecological restoration to the present day.

Steve Woodmansee & Suzanne Kennedy

Everglades National Park, Hole-In-The-Donut: Restoring Wetlands From Farmland to Native Plant Communities

Within the boundaries of Everglades National Park once existed 6,600 acres (10.3 sq. mi) of privately held farmland. In the early 1970s this area known as the “Hole-In-The-Donut” (HID) was purchased and included within the Park. It was left fallow, and as a result became dominated by the invasive shrub/tree Brazilian-Pepper (Schinus terebinthifolius). By the mid 1980s, studies were performed to determine the best way to rid the Park of this menace, and by 1989 an innovative method of restoration was determined. To date, over 5,000 acres have been returned to wetland with over 350 native plant species. The HID has met and exceeded restoration success parameters quickly with no native plant seeding or cultivation. Steve Woodmansee and Suzanne Kennedy will detail the past and present Hole-In-The-Donut ongoing restoration, and its high level of achievement, as measured by state and federal performance standards. They will also explain why the HID has become perhaps one of the coolest, friendliest, places to visit within Everglades National Park.


A Miami native, Steve has spent much of his life exploring South Florida’s nature.  He worked as a botanist for over 20 years, notably at Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden, The Institute for Regional Conservation, and at Miami Dade College.  For the past ten years, he has owned Pro Native Consulting, growing and selling south Florida native plants, and providing Environmental Consulting services to the community including government agencies, academic institutions, conservation/community-based NGOs, and private sector companies.  He has been long involved with the Dade Chapter of FNPS as well as FNPS where he has served on the Board of Directors, and President.  For the past 18 years he has Co-Chaired the monthly Dade Native Plant Workshop, a 60-year old, free public resource to teach anyone how to identify native plants.  He has written and co-written several dozen reports, journal articles, newsletter columns, website-based resources, and a book.  He has given many presentations and programs on plants, landscaping, and research to various government agencies and other groups.  His expertise is in native plant identification, rare and exotic plant research, floristic inventories, non-native, invasive plant identification, native plant horticulture, institution building, and award-winning native plant community restoration.  

A native Floridian, Suzanne has invested much of her life studying south and central Florida’s nature.  Suzanne has over 24 consecutive work experience years in plant ecology, endangered plant seed bank and population demography research, and environmental science professions.  For the past 14 years, she operates Floravista, Inc., as the President and Principal Ecological Scientist.  Floravista is dedicated to Florida’s rare native plant and natural communities’ conservation, restoration, and land management support.  Prior to launching Floravista, Suzanne was Brevard County Natural Resources Management Office’s Environmental Scientist, Fairchild Tropical Botanical Garden’s Assistant Curator of Endangered Species, a Researcher / Educator in Everglades restoration, botany, and ecology for FIU, Fairchild, Archbold, and various NGOs.  Her formal education includes a M.S. and B.S. in Biological Sciences, certificate in botany, at FIU.  She was a Dade Chapter member, and currently is a Conradina Chapter member.  She served on FNPS Board of Directors, and as Conservation Committee Chair (2002 – 2008), which implemented the FNPS Native Plant Conservation Grant Program and collaborated with other committees to develop the FNPS Model Florida Landscape Ordinance Guidebook.

James Lange and Jennifer Possley

Mitigating Hurricane Impacts to Rare Plant Populations in South Florida

Since the late 1980s, Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden has had an active plant conservation program for the rare flora of South Florida and the Caribbean. As part of this, Garden biologists have played an active role in post-hurricane assessment and recovery of natural habitats. Though our native plants and habitats evolved with extreme weather, habitat alteration and loss combined with low population numbers has left several species with a limited capacity to recover from losses. After Hurricane Irma, Fairchild and DEP biologists assessed multiple rare cactus populations (wild and introduced) in the Florida Keys, including the Key tree cactus (Pilosocereus, spp.), Jumping cactus (Opuntia abjecta), and Semaphore cactus (Consolea corallicola).  Impacts varied spatially and by species throughout the Keys. Where necessary, both in situ and ex situ measures were implemented. Slightly to the north in urban Miami preserves, we collaborated with preserve managers from Miami-Dade EEL and NAM to assess rare fern populations. We took action to increase shade when needed and collected spores for ex-situ propagation or storage when possible. This presentation will also briefly discuss Fairchild’s rare fern work in Puerto Rico, and potential impacts to endangered ferns from Hurricanes Irma and Maria. 

Photo by S. Thompson

Jennifer Possley is a field biologist and leader of Fairchild’s Conservation Team.  She joined Fairchild’s research staff in 2001 and spent much of the ensuing 17 years mapping, monitoring, and researching the rare flora of Miami-Dade County, with a special emphasis on ferns.  She also runs Fairchild’s Connect to Protect Network, which enlists Miami schools and homes to plant native pine rockland plants.  Jennifer’s career with Florida native plants began with Americorps in 1997, when she worked for six months removing Melaleuca from Big Cypress National Preserve. After completing her Americorps position, she enrolled at University of Florida and obtained a M.S. in agronomy, with the Center for Aquatic and Invasive Plants.  In her pre-Florida life, she received a B.A. in biology from Kalamazoo College.  She is originally from the village of Dexter, Michigan. 

Jimmy Lange is a botanist with several years of experience working with South Florida plants and ecosystems. Graduating with honors from UF with a BS in Environmental Science, Jimmy began his research career studying effects of time-since-fire on foliar nutrients of scrub palmettos under the guidance of the Mack Ecosystem Ecology Lab. He then joined the Plant Ecology Lab at Archbold Biological Station where he assisted on a number of research projects on several rare plant populations and scrub habitat. He then worked at the Michigan Tech Research Institute conducting surveys of Great Lakes wetland communities while mapping Phragmites australis. Jimmy’s graduate work at FAU focused on impacts of Melaleuca quinquenervia and management practices on plant communities in the northern Everglades. Jimmy joined the Institute for Regional Conservation (IRC) in January 2014 working on several projects relating to rare plant research and habitat management, and is a current research associate. He currently is a field botanist with the South Florida Conservation Team at Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden where he continues to work with South Florida plants and ecosystems, primarily focusing on mapping and monitoring of rare species, as well as helping guide management activities that promote native plant diversity.

Jonathan Burgess

The Sustainable SITES Initiative

This presentation is an introduction and overview to the Sustainable SITES Initiative (SITES). SITES is a comprehensive land design and development rating system that is being used by both private and public sectors all around the world.  SITES certification is given to landscapes, site infrastructure and spaces that demonstrate a high level of environmental and social sustainability.  SITES works for all types of projects with or without a building –including parks, university campuses and commercial headquarters – for new construction or major renovation of existing sites.  You will learn about the SITES v2 rating system, the value of applying SITES v2 and pursuing project certification, important steps and considerations for pursuing SITES certification.

Jonathan Burgess is a licensed Landscape Architect and Vice President of Sustainable Operations at The Spinnaker Group, a premiere green building consulting firm based in Florida. Jonathan and his team have helped inform the design of over 120 Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certified building projects here in Florida and across the globe. In addition to LEED, Jonathan's team works with over a dozen sustainability focused rating systems to advise design professionals and property owners of all land use types on how to build resilient and healthy buildings, landscapes, and communities. Jonathan will provide an overview of the SITES certification, a sustainability-focused framework that ushers landscape architects, engineers and others toward practices that protect ecosystems and enhance the mosaic of benefits they continuously provide our communities, such as climate regulation, carbon storage and flood mitigation.

Isabel Castilla and Emily Tyrer

Creating Native Gardens on the Underline

The Underline will transform the land below Miami’s Metrorail from Brickell to Dadeland into a 10-mile signature linear park and urban trail that is inspired by the Miami area, well-connected to transit, and a gateway to the adjacent communities. 
James Corner Field Operations (JCFO) will discuss the development of the planting palette for the park, inspired by historic plant communities that once inhabited the area – hardwood hammock and pine rocklands. These historic plant communities play a large role in anchoring The Underline, giving it a feel that is unique and specific to its location in South Florida and on the Miami Rock Ridge. 
Working closely with Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden, JCFO has developed a planting design  that is focused on native plants, well-suited to the existing soils and climate, and that  will provide habitat for many pollinators and butterflies creating a unique ecological corridor cutting across some of the most densely populated parts of Miami.   The project does not seek to do a restoration, but rather a native planting approach that is distinctive, functional, engaging, and surprising.

Educated in both architecture and landscape architecture, Isabel brings exceptional attention to design creativity, detailing and construction implementation.  She is currently the lead designer and project manager the for Section 3 of New York’s High Line; Miami Beach’s Lincoln Road District; and The Underline in Miami, a 10-mile long corridor of parkland, trails and neighborhood connections.  
She was previously responsible for the design and delivery of the ICEBERGS installation in the National Building Museum in Washington D.C. She has also worked on the master plan and vision for a 128-hectare decommissioned defense site in Australia; the design of the 15-acre Baker Field, a waterfront park on the Harlem River, New York; the East River Master Plan, a 9-acre commercial and residential development with more than 6 acres of public open space overlooking the East River in Manhattan; Surfside Residence, a 14-acre residential estate and gardens on the coastal dune landscape of Nantucket, MA; and various smaller rooftop terraces and gardens around the country. 
Isabel holds Master of Landscape Architecture and Master of Architecture degrees from the University Of Pennsylvania School Of Design.
Emily Tyrer is a landscape and architectural designer at James Corner Field Operations.  She is currently working on Phase 1 of the Miami Underline and Miami Beach’s Lincoln District Improvements, with a focus on planting design for both projects.  Emily earned her Master of Landscape Architecture and Master of Architecture degrees from the University of Pennsylvania in 2017, and a Bachelor of Arts degree from Wesleyan University in 2010.  Her academic projects explore ecology in an urban context and how to integrate habitat into cities and public spaces.  Prior to joining James Corner Field Operations, Emily was a landscape designer at John McAslan + Partners in London.

Student Research Track

BioTECH@ Richmond Heights 9-12 High School provides students with a challenging and advanced level math and science curriculum focused on Conservation Biology that exposes them to rigorous coursework including Advanced Placement and Dual Enrollment, as well as research opportunities with practicing scientists in state-of-the-art laboratories.  The entire school is thematically tied to STEM, research methodology, and applications in the area of innovative, high impact environmental science research. BioTECH Student researchers at the Florida Native Plant Society Conference are participants under a partnership involving BioTECH Science Teaching faculty and Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden research scientists.  

José Martí MAST 6-12 Academy is thematically tied to scientific and mathematical research, methodology, and, most importantly, to the application of the sciences.  The mission is to graduate students with a firm and enriched background in the sciences as well as all aspects associated with it.  Students are provided with a challenging curriculum that will expose them to critical thinking, the nature of science, mathematics, computer technology and scientific research throughout their middle and high school years. Students will become seasoned critical thinkers with well thought out goals for their futures.

Jessica Little and Emilio Vergara Kniveton

Seed Storage: The Chilling Facts

With increasing pressures of habitat loss, climate change, and other stresses, conservation biologists work to refine techniques that preserve biodiversity and reduce species extinction risks. Long-term seed storage, where seeds are desiccated and frozen, is an essential tool in plant conservation which can serve as a cost-effective means to safeguard species from extinction. Understanding the seed storage behavior of a given species (that is, whether it can tolerate desiccation and freezing, and its expected lifespan in storage) allows conservation biologists to take appropriate and effective ex situ conservation measures. Our work focuses on plants of pine rocklands, a globally imperiled South Florida ecosystem known for its floral diversity and high levels of endemism. Using germination assays of ambient, desiccated, and desiccated then frozen seeds, we assessed the storage behavior of two state-endangered species native to pine rocklands, Byrsonima lucida (Long Key Locustberry) and Scutellaria havanensis (Havana Scullcap). Byrsonima seeds exhibited orthodox behavior while Scutellaria seeds displayed intermediate behavior, with desiccation significantly reducing seed viability. We similarly assessed the viability of collections of the federally-endangered Linum arenicola (Sand Flax) recently put into storage. Data from germination trials like these serve as a baseline for long-term survival of stored seeds.

Jessica Little is a senior at BioTECH @ Richmond Heights 9-12, a conservation biology magnet high school in Miami. At the end of her sophomore year, she decided to major in botany and continue her research at Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden (FTBG). During the summer of 2017, she was awarded the opportunity to work as an intern under James Lange and Jennifer Possley, two field biologists that work at FTBG. As their summer intern, she assisted in propagating and monitoring the Key Tree Cactus, Pilosocereus robinii, studying which pollination method allowed for the highest germination rate. Jessica also worked to help the John Pennekamp State Park compile 40+ years’ worth of survey data on trees fruiting and blooming habits in the park. Currently, she is an Executive Intern, along with Emilio Vergara Kniveton, under James and Jennifer where she works mostly as a seed lab technician. Her work consists of cleaning and counting wild-collect seeds, running seed viability and storage trials, as well as creating an efficient organization method for the seed bank.

Emilio Vergara Kniveton is a senior at BioTECH @ Richmond Heights 9-12, a conservation biology magnet high school in Miami. For the past four years he has worked with Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden on numerous independent projects and even took part in the Million Orchid Project. In his junior year, Emilio decided to work exclusively with the botany magnet of the school, and worked during the school year with James Lange and Jennifer Possley, two field biologists who work at Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden, on fern propagation. This year, he was awarded an executive internship under James and Jennifer. During this internship he has worked on numerous seed trials and created a more effective record of seeds in storage. 

Alexa Martinez & Robert Forte

Testing Long Term Seed Storage Methods for Native Florida Orchids

BioTECH@ Richmond Heights 9-12 High School 

Seed banking is a valuable strategy to preserve plant biodiversity for future research and conservation actions. Biotech @ Richmond Heights 11th grade research  group at Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden (FTBG) has partnered with the North American Orchid Conservation Center (NAOCC), to help receive, process, and bank native Florida orchid seeds. Through research and outreach NAOCC has the goal of establishing long term storage for seeds and mycorrhizal fungi of all the orchid species in North America. This effort is particularly relevant in Florida where a large proportion of native orchids occur many of which are critically endangered or threatened. Some of these imperiled species can still be found within miles of the greater Miami area.  With the support of FTBG, students are following protocols for storing orchid seeds long term. To improve long term storage techniques we tested different seed viability methods and storage temperatures. Dry seeds of seven native species were assessed for initial viability and stored at -80°C, -20°C, 4°C and 25°C. A subset of seeds will be scored for embryo viability every 100 days, and the remaining seeds were returned to long term storage. Native orchids showed resistance to standard embryo viability testing methods using Triphenyltetrazolium chloride, acid fuchsin. Microscopic examination proved to be the most conservative, efficient, and reliable method for seed viability determination of these species. Cryogenic temperatures will be tested on a subset of seeds that will be distributed to other institutions and NAOCC headquarters at the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center. We also developed improved storage units for cataloging and organizing orchid seeds in the garden collections.  Non-traditional partnerships such as this will be required to address the multitude of problems our native flora face and further orchid conservation in a rapidly changing world. 

Emily Hernandez, Madalynne Gonzalez, Sarah Marrero & Ryan Duncan

The Correlations and Differences Between Four Florida Native Species of Orchids According to Size, Shape and Growth Habit

BioTECH@ Richmond Heights 9-12 High School

South Florida is home to the highest diversity of native orchid species in the continental United States and can be characterized as an orchid hotspot. Orchids have evolved a vast array of flower shapes, sizes, and colors which drive specialized pollination interactions. Similarly the seed morphology of orchids can also vary greatly between species and likely play an important role in seed dispersal patterns and recruitment. How seeds disperse influences the chance acquisition of mycorrhizal fungi necessary for germination in the wild. Here we quantify the morphometrics of four different species of native Florida orchids. Specifically, we examine how they diverge in size of embryo and shape, and how this may be correlated to growth habit and dispersal patterns. The study species represented three different growth habits; terrestrial, hemi-epiphytic, and strictly epiphytic. Species included Bassiphylea corallicola, Bletia purpurea, Encyclia tampensis, and Oncidium ensatum. Fifty seeds per species were measured for total seed volume, embryo volume, and air space volume. Precision measurements and photos were made using Motic camera and Zyrene stacker software connected to compound microscopes. Using these measurements we calculated the seed volume, and the mean embryo to airspace ratio. To test how differences in embryo to air space ratios may affect dispersal patterns we also attempted to capture any differences in seed flight patterns among the species using a wind tunnel design.  Using laminar flow conditions with a controlled air source (2-3 meters/second), preliminary dispersal curves were determined for select species, and resulting patterns in dispersal distance, shape, and shadow were compared. This study forwards our understanding of seed dispersal and recruitment potential in orchids as it relates to their evolved growth habitat and seed morphologies. Better understanding of these patterns over different taxa will critical to orchid conservation efforts by helping researchers choose appropriate restoration sites that most enhance the probability of seed germination. 

Emile Vazquez and Ralph Fleuranvil

Prosthechea boothiana: comparison of potting substrates post de-flasking from sterile media

José Martí MAST 6-12 Academy
By exploring the growth of Prosthechea boothiana in coir (coconut husk) and sphagnum moss, we wish to determine the survivorship and growth rates of this native orchid given these different growing mediums. Using two media, sphagnum moss and coir (coconut husk), the experiment was intentionally designed to measure the plant’s growth in order to benefit our native environment. To accomplish this task, we used statistical analysis to compare the survivorship proportion and the mean lengths of the leaves of seedlings between coir (coconut husk) and sphagnum moss. We concluded that there is no significant difference between the survivorship rate of the orchids planted in coir (coconut husk) and sphagnum moss.  Similarly, we found that there was no statistically significant difference in the growth rate of Prosthechea boothiana in the two media. 

Robert Fontan, Benet Sieg Sintas

Linum arenicola: comparison of substrates for germination and propagation

José Martí MAST 6-12 Academy

Linum arenicola, commonly known as sand flax, is a South Florida pine rockland endemic species that is critically imperiled and federally protected.  South Florida conservationists and researchers are trying to stabilize the species. We tested the difference in survivorship proportions of the Linum arenicola between two substrates: one substrate consisting of only loam and another substrate that combined 80% clay and 20% loam (clay/loam).  Our group also compared the mean lengths of the longest leaf for Linum arenicola in both clay/loam and loam substrates to determine if there was a difference in growth rates. When testing the survivorship proportions for both clay/loam and loam, we found evidence concluding that survivorship proportion is greater in loam than in the substrate of clay/loam. When we tested sample means of the longest leaf lengths, we conclude that there is no statistically significant difference in the loam and clay/loam substrates. 

Alejandra Beltran, Daniela Hernandez, Leonardo Leon

Cyrtopodium punctatum: comparison of clay pellet and sphagnum moss for introduction to shade house environment

José Martí MAST 6-12 Academy

Cyrtopodium punctatum is an endangered orchid native to the state of Florida. To better understand these rare orchids, we have been researching best conditions for propagation. Throughout the 2016-2017 school year, seedlings were randomly assigned to different light treatments in the sphagnum moss substrate within our indoor lab. Noticing the sphagnum moss held too much moisture led us to search for an alternative substrate for the next phase: introducing them to the shade house environment. To find the best substrate for the Cyrtopodium punctatum seedlings, we randomly assigned 274 seedlings to the two substrates: sphagnum moss or clay pellets. The orchid seedlings were placed in an irrigated shade house under identical conditions. In the experiment, we assumed that the clay pellets would result in higher survivorship as they hold less water but that both substrates would have similar leaf growth. Research protocols were interrupted during the passage of Hurricane Irma and both treatment groups endured 13 days of darkness, heat, and limited water. Our results show that contrary to our first assumption, the sphagnum moss had a statistically significant higher survivorship proportion. The sphagnum moss seedlings also had slightly higher mean leaf growth although the difference was not statistically significant.

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