Grad student’s thesis work benefits rare plants

December 26th, 2012 by Wendy Gibble

Ivy Clark plants Castilleja seedlings (photo by Wendy Gibble)

Ivy Clark plants Castilleja seedlings (photo by Wendy Gibble)

Reprinted from the Rare Plant Press

Graduate student Lauren “Ivy” Clark has been knee deep in seeds ever since
she started her Master’s work at University of Washington. She first came to work with Rare Care in 2009 to develop protocols for propagating ten shrub-steppe species from seed for a project Rare Care was working on with BLM. Having developed an interest in germination ecology, Ivy also started working with Rare Care’s rare plant seed collection, conducting germination tests on collections held in the Miller Seed Vault. This ongoing work dovetails nicely with her thesis work, in which she explores the potential for hybridization between golden paintbrush (Castilleja levisecta) and harsh Indian paintbrush (C. hispida).

Both Castilleja species occur on Puget Sound prairies, and hybridization has been observed in a nursery setting. Recent golden paintbrush reintroductions have resulted in both species growing in close proximity to one another at out-planting sites. After ascertaining that the same pollinator species frequent both species, Ivy collected seeds from both species where they co-occur and is propagating them in the greenhouse. She will evaluate morphological features of the progeny to determine whether and to what extent hybridization is occurring at these reintroduction sites and whether the risk of hybridization is reduced by increasing the distance between neighboring individuals of the two species.

Ivy has had an interest in plants for as long as she can remember. Growing up in Texas, her interest in the natural world was nurtured by her parents. She’s held a variety of jobs since becoming a biologist, many of them restricting her to laboratories. Finding that she really enjoys being in the field, she hopes to use her skills and degree to work in the restoration ecology field. In the meantime, we are delighted to have her working on Rare Care projects and caring for our ex situ collection.

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