Scientists are racing against time to document the Colombian fern species.


Colombian botanist Alejandra Vasco is realizing a long-standing dream of documenting the vast diversity of ferns in her homeland as she races against time to find new species threatened by climate change and other human activities.

Basco, research botanist Fort Worth Botanical Gardens and Texas Botanical Institute (FWBG|Brit) said her current project, which includes a recent collection expedition, will improve humanity’s understanding of how many fern species exist in Colombia, where they occur, and how many of them are endangered.

“We’ve collected plants that haven’t been collected for 50 years, and some plants that haven’t been described in science,” she said. Colombia becomes a reality.”

Colombia is the second most biodiverse country on Earth about plantsAccording to the Convention on Biological Diversity.

Vasco says four researchers from abroad flew together 19650 kilometers to Colombia.

“In 20 days, we drove more than 750 km through the Andes, creating more than a thousand collections and replicas, i.e. 4000 specimens. We will export about 3000 collections to the United States for careful study.” she says. In some places they visited, the diversity of ferns was so high that researchers didn’t have time to collect all the ferns from there, she added.

“We want to go back,” says Vasco. “This project was very close to my heart, and I started thinking about it because I decided I wanted to devote my life to researching ferns.”

“The biggest challenge is that the process of documenting and describing biodiversity often cannot keep up with the rate of habitat loss and species extinction. It is the highest and most severely threatened.” Now, she adds, her team will visit natural history collections in the United States and Colombia, and move to places in Colombia that haven’t been visited by many researchers or botanical collectors in the last 40 years. age.

“We are also working with a great group of botanists and students in Colombia who are interested in researching and studying ferns. So, with this project, we can all strengthen this group to understand the diversity of our great plants and help them understand the diversity of our great plants. I hope we can protect the country,” says Vasco.

inspired by the teacher

Vasco was born and raised in Medellin, Colombia, and says she was inspired by her biology high school teacher, a “very smart and very sweet” woman. She is also a great teacher.

“During difficult times in Colombia, she plucked up the courage to take us (a high school student in their 40s and 16s) to the Colombian Pacific Ocean and Gorgona Island,” says Vasco. It was one of her happiest experiences and one of the first to see a lot of marine and plant diversity.”

After graduating from the University of Antioquia in Medellin with a BA in Biology, Vasco moved to the United States to pursue a PhD in Botany from a joint program at the New York Botanical Garden and City University of New York, followed by postdoctoral studies. He studied Botany in New York before he worked at the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM). Vasco has been with Fort Worth Botanic Garden since 2017.

Vasco says a big part of the collaboration between the United States and Latin America is translating not only language, but also understanding of certain peculiarities of how scientists conduct research and interact with colleagues from both regions.

“I live and work in North Korea, but I was born and raised in South America (with part of her mind and academic interests), and as a researcher, I always try to facilitate interaction and dialogue between the two sides,” Vasco said. My experience working in North and South Korea brings the best of all of us. So students, researchers, and global challenges can all benefit from working together.”

Another Colombian botanist is Slendy Rodríguez-Alarcón, who is currently a PhD student in Botany and Ecology. Tartu UniversityEstonia.

More from ForbesThe enthusiasm of this scientist took her from the forests of Colombia to the steppes of Estonia.

Rodríguez-Alarcón traveled to Estonia to study how certain characteristics of plants change when there is turmoil in the ecosystem. This could provide clues about how plants will adapt under climate change.

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