Atlanta Botanical Garden staff has visited Siempre Verde for many years, but in the last few we initiated the Flora of Siempre Verde project, along with researchers from Columbus State University and Pontificia Universidad Catolica de Ecuador (PUCE) in Quito. We have focused on DNA barcoding, a molecular tool that uses a short sequence of DNA to identify species. Since 2013, we have made five trips to complete sampling for the project, and process collected samples in the herbarium at PUCE in Quito. To date 175 orchid specimens have been collected, processed and plated for molecular analysis. We recently presented our findings at the 6th International Barcode of Life conference (see abstract).
Additional impacts of this project are:
- Hands-on and theoretical training and/or field experiences to high school and university students. Approximately 25 high school students and five university undergraduates have interacted with ABG staff and participated in barcoding related activities.
- Expanded collaboration partnerships with both staff and students at Columbus State University, Jardin de Botanico, and Pontifica Universidad Catolica de Ecuador, which included hosting visiting student interns from both Ecuadoran institutions.
- Documenting the biodiversity present in a rare and threatened habitat. All samples have had herbarium vouchers made and stored at Catolica University in Quito, Ecuador and molecular samples have been prepared and plated for barcode sequencing.
- Contributing to the orchid phylogeny of the subtribe Pleurathallidineae, by using the resulting DNA Barcodes in molecular systematics research. Once completed, these DNA sequences will be publicly accessible through online DNA barcoding databases.
Kylie Bucalo, Atlanta Botanical Garden