Speaker: Dr. Melissa McCormick, Ecologist at the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center
Roughly 10 percent of the world’s plant species are orchids. This huge family has long fascinated scientists and been prized by collectors for its strange and often showy flowers. However, orchids are often among the first casualties from environmental degradation. Of North America’s approximately 220 native orchid species, 1 in 4 are globally threatened and nearly half are threatened at the state or federal level. Orchids’ dependence on specific mycorrhizal fungi and pollinators leaves them vulnerable to habitat change, making conservation and restoration efforts especially challenging. The North American Orchid Conservation Center (NAOCC), based at the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center (SERC) in Edgewater, Maryland, was founded to help conserve native orchids using research on orchid-fungi relationships, populations, and pollinators. In this lecture, ecologist Melissa McCormick will talk about how current research is working to identify critical points in orchid life cycles to help safeguard orchid populations. The SERC team is investigating how managers could use these techniques to improve orchid conservation. NAOCC is also developing seed and fungus collections so these techniques can be applied to orchids across the country.
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