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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.