Posts in Botany
Lightning Talks and an Evening Walk

After working with the Fairchild Challenge and having had a very non-linear path towards science, I saw a unique opportunity to connect high school students with current graduate students. My experience as someone with a desire to pursue a career in science while not necessarily knowing how to go about it prompted me to create and host the Lightning Talks and Evening Walk student workshop. Last week was Fairchild’s second annual event where 30 high school students had the opportunity to hear from six graduate students from FIU and UM about their path to science.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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?

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"Wonder Leaf"

As a tropical botanist, my research and training has taken me all over the tropics. During a recent fieldwork trip to Haiti I was reminded that even seasoned researchers can be awed by the sheer scope of biodiversity that exists within our tropical rainforests, or in this case lack thereof. Upon first glance, the roadside slopes of Haiti look awfully green, but look again and you’ll notice that it’s all one shade of green: Neem.

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