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Selby Gardens receives research grant

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  • | 4:00 a.m. August 17, 2009
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Walking through Marie Selby Botanical Gardens sporting black glasses and Converse sneakers, Dr. John Clark says plant conservation and identification are in his genes. It was a love that started when he was a child, while playing in his mother’s garden.

While walking, Clark gives a lesson on epiphytes — plants that live on other plants — and two focal research plant groups, research projects that, with the addition of a new molecular research program, will address relevant questions in epiphyte diversification and conservation.

After a $133,025 grant from the federal Institute of Museum and Library Services, Clark will get a chance to further his knowledge of plant identification, classification and conservation research.

Selby Gardens’ new research program, a two-year start-up project, will provide Selby scientists with cutting-edge resources.  

“Molecular research capabilities, using DNA to understand the relationships between organisms, allows us to address critical questions about plant evolution and conservation, questions that concern the identity and origin of the plants we study,” said Clark, head of molecular programs and director of the Gesneriad Research Center at Selby Gardens, in a press release. “Think of it as CSI meets Selby Gardens, where botanists, instead of forensic scientists, use DNA to identify and, ultimately, conserve plants.”

The new program will be based in Selby’s existing research facilities, with the IMLS grant providing funding to aid in salary- and research-budget support for two years.

Clark, along with other Selby scientists, will conduct molecular-based studies on the plant families Gesneriaceae and Orchidaceae, two focal research plant groups at Selby Gardens.

“The new molecular program is vital to Selby Gardens’ ongoing commitment to science and conservation,” said Bruce Holst, director of research at Selby, in a press release. “This grant and the projects it supports are a major step forward in achieving Selby Gardens’ goal of being the leading institution for advancing the scientific understanding of epiphytes.”

Contact Loren Mayo at [email protected].