Who was David Fairchild?

There was a time when many Americans didn’t know what a soybean or a zucchini looked like. Dinner plates were filled with corn, potatoes, cheese, grains and meat—pretty drab. The rainbow of foods that we eat now can be traced back to the self-deemed ‘agricultural explorer’ David Fairchild. David Stone’s book “The Food Explorer” eloquently details the life and travels of Fairchild as he brought many of the plants that are common to our diets today. The book is a colorful and fascinating narrative of the life of a man who lived in an age where Americans were eating purely for subsistence, who traveled the world to bring flavor and spice and diversity into our diets.

Read More
Stories of Science—Haydee Borrero

I met Haydee Borrero when I came to visit Miami in 2014. She asked me if I had ever been to the Everglades and when I said no she said “I’ll pick you up tomorrow at 5am”. It was a magical morning. I am happy to call her my friend to this day. This past year we traveled to Cuba together twice since our field sites overlapped. Haydee has had an interesting path is now doing some really cool work as part of her PhD.

Read More
Science Engagement Week

As part of the Botany in Action Fellowship (BIA), I attended Science Engagement Week to augment my science communication skills. This fellowship emphasizes sharing research with the our communities and whole heartedly believes that our science is only as good as we can communicate it. So we convened for a jam-packed weekend with workshops and events tailored to science communication.

Read More
Nichole Tiernan
Hot Off the Press

I am happy to announce that a paper that I have been working on for many years has finally been published in Brittonia this past week! The paper focuses on ten species in the genus Miconia (Melastomataceae), the largest genus in the family. These ten species all occur in the northern Andes in Colombia and Venezuela and the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta and Coastal Cordillera of Venezuela, with one species endemic to Jamaica. This study illustrates the importance of field and herbarium collections. Herbaria document the world’s flora and provide a permanent record of botanical diversity. This is particularly important for endangered and threatened species such as those in the Miconia ulmarioides complex.

Read More
Summer Interns

Two interns were selected from a pool of applicants to work along side me and learn the molecular techniques that have been the basis of my Ph.D. research. They learned how to extract plant DNA from leaves, use PCR to target specific gene regions, Cycle Sequencing to get the DNA sequence of the targeted gene region and were introduced to next-generation sequencing.

Read More
Stories of Science—Tracy Commock

For the last two weeks, we have had a very special visitor at FIU and FTBG, Tracy Commock, Director of the Natural History Museum of Jamaica. I met Tracy, a fellow botanist, in 2014 and she has since become a great colleague and friend. Tracy has been paramount in developing a collaboration between UWI and FIU through an inter-institutional official agreement already in place between these two universities. I took her out for ice cream and we chatted about life as a botanist in Jamaica.

Read More
Parque Nacional Guanahacabibes

I have just returned from a very exciting research trip to Cuba where I made collections in the western part of the country. Parque Nacional Guanahacabibes, located on the western most tip of Cuba in Pinar del Rio province, is very isolated, especially from tourism, and it was here that I saw the densest, most beautiful population of Plumeria that I have ever seen.

Read More
Nichole Tiernan
Being a botanist, Part II

I recently went to a talk given by Drs Doug and Pam Soltis, who are botanists at the University of Florida. They discussed their work on molecular systematics and evolutionary genetics. Their talk was so inspiring that I’d like to talk about how we use DNA molecules and how it all fits into the bigger puzzle of life. The Soltis’s focused specifically on the portion of their work involving the Tree of Life.

Read More
Being a botanist

Most people know that botany is the study of plants, but what does it actually mean to be a botanist? For me, studying plants means inspecting the subtle and sometimes grandiose differences between species. Documenting life on Earth as it is increasingly threatened is imperative in my opinion. If we don’t know what exists in an area, how can we properly implement conservation strategies to preserve Earth’s beautiful biodiversity?

Read More
Everglades National Park

I recently visited Everglades National Park, and was reminded again that it is one of the most serene places I have ever been to. The Everglades is the largest subtropical wetland ecosystem, sometimes called “The River of Grass”, channeling vital water southward, essentially a very slow-moving river. This unique habitat contains endemic plants and animals, species not found anywhere else in the world.

Read More
Nichole Tiernan