Texas botanists will collaborate with other U.S. institutions and international personnel to conduct research in threatened forests of Southeast Asia.
FORT WORTH, Texas (August 28, 2018) – Researchers at the Botanical Research Institute of Texas (BRIT®) have received a $1.3 million grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to conduct a project titled “Plant Discovery in the Southern Philippines.” Dr. Peter Fritsch, BRIT’s Vice President of Research, will head the team as Principal Investigator with co-Principal Investigators Dr. Taylor Quedensley (BRIT), Dr. Darin Penneys (University of North Carolina at Wilmington), and Dr. Daniel Nickrent (Southern Illinois University Carbondale). The project begins this month and field expeditions will begin in the spring of 2019. [Update, 08-Feb-2021: As of December 2018, Taylor Quedensley is no longer affiliated with the project or BRIT.]
The Philippines contain unique floral and faunal diversity that includes ferns, orchids, pitcher plants, and begonias that are critically threatened by habitat loss. Only 3-7% of the Philippines’ original habitat remains. To address the urgent need for further documenting this diversity in the face of impending large-scale species extinction, BRIT research botanists and multiple collaborators will conduct a four-year project with the objective to survey the land plants and lichens of the southern Philippines through a series of large field expeditions and subsequent identification work.
“We are so excited about this grant and the important work it will accomplish,” said Dr. Ed Schneider, BRIT’s executive director. “For the last three years, we have worked diligently to put together the right combination of scientific personnel, tools, and support programs to make a run at this caliber of grant; winning it validates our efforts and scientific direction and sets the stage for larger grant wins.”
The project team will make thousands of observations on the occurrence and abundance of species, as documented by physical collections for museum study and high-resolution photographs, with images and data all digitized and placed online in readily searchable formats. The team will concentrate efforts on the southern half of the country in the Visayas, Negros, and Mindanao island groups, because plants are not as well-known there as in the north.
This project is expected to result in the discovery of several new species and several scientific publications. Moreover, BRIT researchers will train botany graduate students and have opportunities to involve undergraduate students as well.