Botanists at the Fort Worth Botanic Garden | Botanical Research Institute of Texas (FWBG | BRIT) and Royal Botanical Gardens, Kew have been awarded $1.2 million by the National Science Foundation (NSF) and Natural Environment Research Council (NERC). It is the first grant of its kind awarded to the two recipients through a special international collaborative program between NSF and NERC.
The funds have been allocated to classify and understand plants in a hyper-diverse group referred to as “ironweeds” in the sunflower family, Compositae. This group of plants includes approximately 1,500 species of herbs, shrubs, trees and vines worldwide. The “ironweeds” have confounded botanists attempting to understand patterns shared by species in this group.
According to experts associated with the project, the taxonomic knowledge this grant will help cultivate is essential to conserving the diversity of plant life on the planet. It will also advance the distribution of scientific information and the training of the next generation of scientists.
The results of the work will be added to a public online taxonomic resource. The team conducting the work will train the next generation of plant taxonomists by working with at least three graduate students and four undergraduate students. Further international training will be provided through workshops with students, botanists and herbarium and university staff and via environmental education programs offered by FWBG | BRIT and Kew.
During the four-year project, the team will conduct field work in five countries, including the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Madagascar, Mozambique, South Africa and Thailand. Additionally, plant specimens will be studied in numerous herbaria around the world, most notably at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew (K); Fort Worth Botanic Garden|Botanical Research Institute of Texas (BRIT), Missouri Botanical Garden (MO), Muséum National d’Histoire Naturelle in Paris (P), and Botanic Garden Meise (BR).
The Fort Worth Botanic Garden (FWBG) is the oldest public botanic garden in Texas. The Botanical Research Institute of Texas (BRIT®) is a nonprofit, international research, education and conservation organization that collects and safeguards plant specimens, studies and protects living plants, and teaches about the importance of conservation and biodiversity to the world. On Oct. 1, 2020, BRIT assumed nonprofit management of the Fort Worth Botanic Garden. The combined organization comprises 120 acres in Fort Worth’s Cultural District.