Most Midwestern students come to Florida at Christmas or Spring Break when the weather is pleasant or, if they come in the summer, they go to the beaches to enjoy cool breezes and the water. Interns with the Orchid Recovery Program (ORP) from Illinois College in Jacksonville, IL, brave the heat, humidity, bugs, reptiles and other beasts in the “orchid capital of North America” located in the wilds of Southwest Florida. They come to do valuable research on the native orchids in the Florida Panther National Wildlife Refuge and the Fakahatchee Strand State Park.
They work under the guidance of Dr. Larry Zettler, their professor and director of ORP. Larry Richardson, Wildlife Biologist at the FL Panther Refuge and Mike Owen, Biologist at the state park also lend their extensive expertise and assistance. Over the past several years, the Naples Orchid Society has provided internships to help with the students’ expenses.
While the students are learning scientific study methods and intensive field work, they also are learning skills and knowledge to use in achieving opportunities to advance in their education, experience and careers.
This year Korrie Edwards and Kavita Patel, both sophomores, will be bringing seedlings of the Encyclica tampensisorchid, which have been raised in a laboratory, attaching them to host trees in the swamps and checking periodically to see how they are doing. They will also be collecting small pieces of roots of many kinds of orchids and isolating the mycorrhizal fungi that help orchid seeds germinate in the wild. Then, using the fungus that associates with the plant, they will inoculate the seeds from the plant to verify that association by using the technique of symbiotic seed germination. The research is expected to yield isolated fungi that will be cryopreserved in Canada for use in raising wild orchids from seed and replacing them in protected areas. These two women have already been invited to India to do similar work next summer.
In the past, Dr. Zettler’s interns have researched and surveyed the occurrence of a damaging scale pest on orchids in the refuge and state park. They have published a paper about their discovery of a parasitic wasp that may help control the scale. This is important work because scale can kill large numbers of orchids in the wild where it cannot be treated. Scale is also a pest that occurs in hobby growers’ collections, but chemicals are usually used to protect the plants. Biological controls might be a better alternative.
Dr. Zettler and his students’ work is global in scope. The Orchid Recovery Program has projects in the Midwest, Hawaii, in Madagascar in partnership with the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew, UK, and prospects of working in Cuba, India and Ecuador. The ORP is also a partner with the North American Orchid Conservation Center based at the Smithsonian Institution’s Environmental Research Center.
The Naples Orchid Society is proud to present Dr. Zettler, Miss Edwards and Miss Patel who will discuss their work at the NOS monthly meeting on Thursday, July 11th at the Moorings Presbyterian Church. The church is located at 791 Harbour Drive, Naples. The meeting will be in the Baker Center gym and will start at 6:30 pm; the free program will begin at 7:30 pm. All are welcome. For more information: www.NaplesOrchidSociety.org or call 239-775-5220. For more about the ORP: www.ic.edu/orchidrecoveryprogram.
~ by Kit Kitchen-Maran