Research In The Garden

Research Opportunities

Researchers and students are invited to contact us to determine if UBC Botanical Garden has the resources and/or collections to support your individual research interests. In addition to its significant plant collections, UBC Botanical Garden has expert horticultural and botanical staff, plant-growing facilities (including a nursery), resident faunal and floral biodiversity, and a mission to promote plant research.

Research Projects Conducted in UBC Botanical Garden

The Franklinia Foundation projects, 2004-2014

For ten years, the Franklinia Foundation partnered with UBC Botanical Garden to support conservation research. This partnership led to important research, both at UBC and with international partners, while making training opportunities and research experiences for staff and students possible.

The Foundation’s support has led to meaningful engagement with a broad community through joint expeditions, with procurement and exchange of plant material and public engagement through presentations and lectures. It has also helped catalyze significant collaborations with a number of botanical gardens and international organizations.

Research focus and capacity development at UBC Botanical Garden

Conservation work supported by the Franklinia Foundation has contributed greatly to the Garden’s mission (conservation research and teaching), while enriching the scientific collections and public enjoyment of the David. C. Lam Asian Garden.

Andrew Hill, Curator, David C. Lam Asian Garden (since 2008)

• 2014 Vietnam, Hoang Lien Son expedition
• 2010 United States, North America-China Plant Exploration Consortium meeting at the Arnold Arboretum and China, Sichuan expedition
• 2009 China, Magnoliaceae symposium at the South China Botanical Garden and Sichuan expedition Peter Wharton, Curator, David C. Lam Asian Garden (until 2008)
• 2008 China, Sichuan expedition
• 2007 Vietnam, Hoang Lien Son expedition
• 2006 China, Sichuan and Vietnam, Hoang Lien Son expeditions
• 2005 Vietnam, Hoang Lien Son expedition
• 2004 China, Yunnan and Vietnam, Hoang Lien Son expeditions

Douglas Justice, Associate Director, Horticulture and Collections

• 2010 United States, North America-China Plant Exploration Consortium meeting at the Arnold Arboretum
• 2009 China, Magnoliaceae symposium

Total collections made from above expeditions (approximate):

• 600 of seeds
• 1600 of herbarium vouchers
• 150 of DNA samples
• Extensive data collections, field notes, and photographic images

Expedition highlights

• Ailao Shan Nature Reserve and Wuliang Shan: species range mapping and vouchering
• Dafengding Nature Reserve and Emeishan: extensive botanical field exploration and data collections
• Hengduan Shan: detailed survey and comprehensive collections of critically endangered Acer pentaphyllum
• Hoang Lien Son mountain range: biodiversity forest surveys of Magnolia and Acer for Global Trees Campaign

Professional collaborations to 2014

In the past ten years UBC Botanical Garden has reinforced existing collaborative relationships, as well as developed new relationships with institutional partners in Canada and abroad. These collaborations continue to provide opportunities for work and sharing of information. The Garden also entered into collaborative agreements over this period with Kunming Institute of Botany and Sichuan University (see a listing of partners in appendices).

In order to engage other professionals and the public with this research, the Garden team has contributed to workshops, classes, conferences and symposia. These include: plant taxonomy and species diversification lectures given to students at Sichuan University (Wharton); a multi-day workshop of biodiversity management and conservation training for Hoang Lien National Park staff (Wharton); Asian Plant Collection lecture at the joint Eastern and Western Region International Plant Propagator’s Society meeting in Denver in 2008 (Justice); and a session about new technologies for data collection in the field at Quarryhill Botanical Garden’s 2011 American Public Gardens Association Plant Collections symposium (Hill).

New work in 2014

Andrew Hill participated in a three week expedition to north west Vietnam concentrating on the Hoang Lien Son Mountain Range. A great number of species native to this area are currently severely threatened by deforestation and development, and many currently have very small, vulnerable populations.

The key aims of this expedition were to collect and examine species distribution of Magnolia—in recent years a number of new species have been found that are not in cultivation—and to collect living material mainly in the form of seed. Specialist field research will also lead to a better understanding of species distribution and conservation issues that threaten these populations.

Garden and institutional relationships strengthened through this ten-year period:

• Arboretum Wespelaar, Haacht-Wespelaar, Belgium
• Arnold Arboretum, Boston, United States
• Darts Hill Garden, Surrey, Canada
• Fairy Lake Botanical Garden, Shenzhen, China
• Institute of Ecology and Biological Resources, Hanoi, Vietnam
• Kunming Institute of Botany, Kunming, China
• Longwood Gardens, Kennett Square, United States
• Quarryhill Botanical Garden, Sonoma, United States
• Rhododendron Species Botanical Garden, Federal Way, United States
• Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh, Edinburgh, United Kingdom
• Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, Richmond, United Kingdom
• Scott Arboretum, Swarthmore, United States
• Sichuan University, Chengdu, China
• South China Botanical Garden, Guangzhou, China
• VanDusen Botanical Garden, Vancouver, Canada

Association and society relationships strengthened:

• American Public Gardens Association
• Botanic Gardens Conservation International
• Flora & Fauna International
• Global Trees Campaign
• International Dendrology Society

Magnolia Society International Monitoring plant condition and phenology using infrared sensitive consumer grade digital cameras

Wiebe Nijland, Rogier de Jong, Steven M. de Jong, Michael A. Wulder, Chris W. Bater, Nicholas C. Coops

This research team with representation from UBC’s Faculty of Forestry compared infrared-modified and true colour cameras to detect seasonal development of understory plants species in a forest, with the main goal of evaluating the utility of infrared-modified cameras for the remote monitoring of plant health and phenology. The British Columbia Rainforest Garden in UBC Botanical Garden provided an accessible location for mounting the cameras as well as seasonally-changing vegetation. The research paper: Nijland, W et al. 2014. Monitoring plant condition and phenology using infrared sensitive consumer grade digital cameras. Agricultural and Forest Meteorology, 15 January 2014, 184(98-106).

Geographic Variation in Birds of Western Canada

Darren Irwin (lead), Alison Porter, Kate Broadley, Christine Grossen, Kira Delmore, Thomas Pierce, Michelle Chen, Stephanie Cavanagh, Jessica Irwin

Studying how and why there are differences between western and eastern forms in a variety of species, as well as much geographic variation within western forms. The team uses mist nets to temporarily capture individual birds, measure and photograph them, and take a blood sample (for later genetic analysis) and feather sample (for later isotopic analysis). The birds are then banded with numbered leg bands and released.

The Pink Mountain Project: Preserving the Irreplaceable

Researchers from UBC Botanical Garden have been visiting Pink Mountain in northeast British Columbia to sample the unique plant and soil biodiversity of the region. During a 2013 visit, researchers gathered an initial collection of about 150 vascular plants. More importantly, over 1,000 plants were metal-tagged, identified, measured, and geolocated for long-term study.

Seeds from a half dozen target species were collected, and germination trials were done. The resulting plants were cared for in part by horticulture students and are now planted in the UBC Botanical Garden. Selecting the target taxa was a labour-intensive process. Studies are continuing on seed fecundity, a measure of how many seeds a plant produces. Through this project, baseline data has been established for a long-term study of population dynamics and the effect of climate change on this region.

Work with the sampled soil and plant materials continues, and there may be future visits to gather additional samples. However, with what has been sampled so far, a strong case can be made for protecting the most fragile and unique area of the mountain. A red-listed plant species and several blue-listed species were found, and the Garden is awaiting confirmation that they discovered a new moss species for BC in the area. The Garden and other groups and individuals continue to work toward the goal of preserving the most biodiverse area of Pink Mountain as an ecological reserve.

The biodiversity of Pink Mountain is unique and irreplaceable.

Partners: Ron Long (principal conservationist), Nature Vancouver, Alpine Garden Club of British Columbia, and a number of benefactors

Bryophytes of the UBC Botanical Garden

Sean Graham (lead), Steve Joya, Sean Montgomery

Multiple collecting trips for bryophytes within the Garden (the last bryophyte inventory was done in 2002). In 2013, Montgomery deposited vouchered samples in the UBC herbarium and also started DNA barcoding work on the samples in the Graham Lab. On the field and organismal side of things, Montgomery will be mentored by Joya, a young bryologist who actively contributes to the UBC Herbarium.

Joint collection forays

UBC Botanical Garden, in partnership with the UBC Herbarium, has established an annual plant collection foray within British Columbia. For the Garden, these forays help serve the purpose of renewing the native plant collections within the British Columbia Rainforest Garden as well as develop the collections in the Garry Oak Meadow and Woodland Garden and the eventual Pacific Slope Garden. These forays also help to provide field experience and training to students and expand the documented knowledge of the British Columbia flora.

In 2011, the joint collection foray visited sites near the communities of Yale, Lytton, Spences Bridge and Ashcroft along southern British Columbia’s Fraser and Thompson River corridors.

Involvement with Canadensys and other research programs

UBC Botanical Garden are institutional partners in the Canada-wide Canadensys project. Through funding from the Canada Foundation for Innovation for Canadensys, UBC Botanical Garden has been able to significantly improve the identification, documentation, and herbarium specimen deposits of its plant collections. In turn, this has allowed UBC Botanical Garden to make plant tissue and DNA sequence data available to the International Barcode of Life and oneKP projects.

Magnolia phenology project

UBC Friends of the Garden, in coordination with UBC Botanical Garden and staff members, have developed a long-term monitoring project of Magnolia phenology in UBC Botanical Garden’s collections. Phenology, the study of cyclic and seasonal natural phenomena in relation to climate, is a mechanism by which long-term changes in climate can be identified. The Magnolia phenology project has been ongoing for over twenty years.