NSF Awards $1.9M to Support Plant Exploration

FORT WORTH, Texas (January 19, 2021) — The Fort Worth Botanic Garden | Botanical Research Institute of Texas (FWBG|BRIT) recently received two National Science Foundation (NSF) grants totaling $1.9 million to support botanists and their research teams in plant diversity studies at home and abroad.

A team led by Research Botanist Alejandra Vasco will receive $1.1 million to study the diversity of ferns in Colombia. A second team, led by Vice President of Research and Director of the Herbarium Peter Fritsch, will receive about $780,000 over three years to study North American blueberries.

“These grants are an endorsement by the NSF of the excellent reputations of our scientists and the quality of their research,” said President and Executive Director Ed Schneider. “Both of these projects seek to answer fundamental questions about plant diversity and distribution. They are foundational to our work as botanists.”

Vasco’s project will take her team into remote parts of Colombia that so far have  been poorly explored by scientists. Vasco, a native of Colombia, said she is excited to journey to these lesser-known corners of her home country.

“There is so much still left to learn about the diversity of plants on Earth, and understanding this diversity is urgent because it forms the basis of conservation planning efforts,” Vasco said.

Fritsch’s team will stick closer to home and study a popular food crop, but one about which many questions remain. “Blueberries have an uncertain evolutionary history, and we don’t even have a clear picture of how many wild species there are or how all of the species differ from one another,” Fritsch said.

Fritsch plans to answer these questions through a combination of fieldwork and advanced lab techniques including DNA sequencing. The results could benefit other areas of study, including the breeding of new blueberry species.

“Science advances one step at a time answering questions about the natural world, and with each answer we find dozens of new questions,” Schneider said. “We’re thrilled to be part of this process of discovery.”

For more information on these projects, please visit: https://fwbg.org/blog/two-new-nsf-grants

Research Team

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