What is GPCA

Conservation for Georgia and beyond

All of our research and conser­va­tion activ­i­ties have an edu­ca­tio­nal com­po­nent, whether it is hands-on train­ing for under­gra­d­u­ate stu­dents, conser­va­tion hor­ti­cul­ture activ­i­ties for adult vol­un­teers, or staff pre­sen­ta­tions on cam­pus and at pro­fes­sio­nal meet­ings. Our exten­sive col­lec­tions of endan­gered spe­cies and research plots in the Mim­sie Lanier Cen­ter for Native Plant Studies are excep­tio­nal resources for for­mal and infor­mal instruc­tion. Under­gra­d­u­ate stu­dents at the Uni­ver­sity of Georgia have the oppor­tu­nity to par­ti­ci­pate in habi­tat res­to­ra­tion pro­jects at the Garden by enrolling in the ser­vice-learn­ing course “Conserv­ing Native Plants” (Hor­ti­cul­ture 3333S) offered every spring semester. Our pro­grams depend on vol­un­teer and stu­dent par­ti­ci­pa­tion for suc­cess, and we would love to have your help!

Conservation Projects

Saving Plant Populations

The goal of the Georgia Plant Conser­va­tion Alliance (GPCA) is to pre­vent local ext­inc­tions of rare plant pop­u­la­tions. Since these rare plants are part of larger nat­u­ral habi­tats, the GPCA works in situ, in the habi­tats them­selves, in order to ben­e­fit the spe­cies that live in these habi­tats. Backup pop­u­la­tions are usu­ally cre­ated on pro­tected land. Indexed mate­rials are always used so as to safe­guard the rare plant spe­cies in the wild. When the plant repro­duces sex­u­ally on its own, that is a sure sign that the safe­guard­ing pop­u­la­tion is tak­ing hold! From there, the work cont­in­ues with habi­tat man­age­ment and ongo­ing mon­i­tor­ing.

The GPCA has so far worked with more than forty rare plant spe­cies and through the full cir­cle of conser­va­tion: seed to seed, pro­p­a­gat­ing plants ex situ and return­ing the care­fully tracked and sourced plants to the wild for safe­guard­ing. This work is made pos­si­ble by the part­n­ers of the GPCA, whose areas of exper­tise run the full gamut of conser­va­tion biol­ogy. For exam­ple, the GPCA's new aggres­sive conser­va­tion ini­tia­tive tar­gets a pri­or­i­tized list of crit­i­cally endan­gered plant spe­cies. The list was assem­bled by a team of botanists, ecol­o­gists and conser­va­tion pro­fes­sio­n­als from through­out Georgia, and it was coor­d­i­nated by the Georgia Depart­ment of Nat­u­ral Resources as part of the State Wildlife Action Plan (formerly the Com­pre­hen­sive Wildlife Conser­va­tion Strat­egy). Spe­cially-trained Botanical Guar­dians vol­un­teers work with GPCA sci­en­tists to locate pop­u­la­tions of these rare plants, assess their sites and col­lect seeds for pro­p­a­ga­tion at GPCA Botanical gar­dens. With­out the coop­er­a­tion of all these dif­fer­ent groups and indi­vi­d­u­als, the work the GPCA does would not be pos­si­ble.

Botanical Guardians

Volunteers in Action

The Botanical Guar­dians vol­un­teer net­work has been described as our “hands and eyes across the state” by our col­leagues at the Georgia Depart­ment of Nat­u­ral Resources. Guar­dians who have received spe­cial train­ing work along­side conser­va­tion pro­fes­sio­n­als on a vari­ety of pro­jects such as pop­u­la­tion mon­i­tor­ing (our Local Ste­wards pro­jects), seed col­lect­ing and inva­sive spe­cies remo­val. Trusted vol­un­teers help plant safe­guard­ing pop­u­la­tions for Georgia’s most imper­iled plant spe­cies and help res­tore Georgia’s most crit­i­cally rare habi­tats. We need more vol­un­teers, and we will train you. The only require­ments are that you are pas­sio­nate to learn and promise to keep site loca­tions of rare plants a secret.

GPCA Students Today

Growing our Future

Because of the GPCA's con­nec­tions across the state and across many sci­en­tific dis­ci­p­lines, we are able to assist stu­dents in their research of rare spe­cies and their habi­tats. We can quickly track pro­jects in the field, lab and green­house. Many of the stu­dents we help develop into conser­va­tion pro­fes­sio­n­als, and many estab­lish their careers in Georgia and the South­east­ern United States. The last­ing effect our help has on these stu­dents makes assist­ing them one of our great­est accom­plish­ments as a conser­va­tion net­work.

It is also our plea­sure to aid conser­va­tion pro­fes­sio­n­als with their research, col­lec­tion of plant mate­rial or loca­tion of plant pop­u­la­tions. Con­tact us if we can lend a hand with your Georgia conser­va­tion pro­ject.

GPCA Members & Partners

Though the State Botanical Garden of Georgia is the head­quar­ters of the Georgia Plant Conser­va­tion Alliance (GPCA), the GCPA exists beyond the Garden walls. It is not only a net­work of conser­va­tion organi­za­tions; it is a net­work of peo­ple with real per­so­nal com­mit­ments to each other and their work. “It's all about the plants,” is the man­tra that helps bypass the insti­tu­tio­nal egos and com­pet­i­tive atti­tudes. If a col­league from a museum or agency can­not make a field trip, others from the GPCA net­work can cover for them, ensur­ing that seeds are col­lected or pop­u­la­tions are mon­i­tored. Mem­bers of the GPCA are a plea­sure to work with both per­so­n­ally and pro­fes­sio­n­ally, and the GPCA has grown organ­i­cally through col­lab­o­ra­tion since its found­ing in 1995. There is always plenty of work to do. If you would like to work with us, con­tact us.

APGA Program of Excellence

The Georgia Plant Conser­va­tion Alliance (GPCA), a net­work of organi­za­tions coor­d­i­nated by the State Botanical Garden of Georgia at the Uni­ver­sity of Georgia, recently received the Amer­i­can Public Garden Asso­ci­a­tion’s 2013 Award for Pro­gram Excel­lence in recog­ni­tion of its inno­va­tive approach in devel­op­ing new pro­grams. Jen­nifer Ceska, conser­va­tion coor­d­i­na­tor at the Botanical Garden, accepted the award on behalf of GPCA at the asso­ci­a­tion’s annual meet­ing in Phoenix, Ariz.

The alliance was estab­lished in 1995 by the State Botanical Garden, Call­away Gar­dens, the Atlanta Botanical Garden, the Georgia Depart­ment of Nat­u­ral Resources -- Nongame Conser­va­tion Sec­tion, and the US For­est Ser­vice and others. GPCA acts as a vehi­cle for ini­ti­at­ing and effec­tively man­ag­ing statewide conser­va­tion pro­jects, often in close coop­er­a­tion with neigh­bor­ing states. As a UGA Public Ser­vice and Out­reach unit, the State Botanical Garden pro­vides both the public and the uni­ver­sity with oppor­tu­ni­ties for recre­a­tion, events, research and learn­ing.

In sup­port of GPCA for the 2013 Pro­gram Excel­lence Award, Peter White, Direc­tor of the North Car­olina Botanical Garden, describes the Georgia Plant Conser­va­tion Alliance as "one of the best inte­grated conser­va­tion pro­grams in the coun­try, reach­ing across many indi­vi­d­u­als and insti­tu­tions." White added "What you see in this pro­gram is robust and uplift­ing. It is about plants in the wild. It is about plants in our hands, schools, and land­s­capes. It is about plants in Botanical gar­dens. It is about germ­plasm sam­ples stored for future use and as a last resort for conser­va­tion. It is about gra­d­u­ate stu­dent pro­jects and public involve­ment and edu­ca­tion at all lev­els. It is about peo­ple and the good they can do when they work together."

Today, GPCA com­prises 36 gar­dens, organi­za­tions, uni­ver­si­ties and agen­cies that work with more than 70 rare and endan­gered plant spe­cies through­out Georgia, includ­ing the U.S. For­est Ser­vice, Zoo Atlanta, Georgia Power, the Chat­ta­hoochee Nature Cen­ter and more. These organi­za­tions are sup­ported by the Botanical Guar­dians, another pro­gram at the Botanical Garden at UGA that recruits vol­un­teers to help dis­cover, mon­i­tor and res­tore native plant pop­u­la­tions.

Contact Our Research Department

To Learn About Conservation Projects and Find Out How You Can Help

(706) 542-6448

Jim Affolter

Director of Research

Linda Chafin

Conservation Botanist

Heather Alley

Conservation Horticulturalist

Jennifer Ceska

Conservation Coordinator