Orchid Recovery Program

VIDEO: Each summer, Illinois College students carry out field research at the Florida Panther National Wildlife Refuge involving orchids in south Florida including the rare Ghost Orchid, Dendrophylax lindenii. This research, under the direction of Lawrence Zettler, is funded primarily though the Naples Orchid Society. This video, filmed in 2015, documents our ongoing Ghost Orchid research in collaboration with Dr. Ernesto Mujica from Cuba. IC students continue to study Ghost Orchids in both south Florida and Cuba. The two IC students in the video (Shannon Skarha, Justin Mably) have since graduated, and have earned graduate degrees. The work presented in the video led to scientific paper published in an international journal, and both students were listed as co-authors. The paper can be accessed at: https://academic.oup.com/botlinnean/article/186/4/572/4921016

Our Mission

The Mission of the Orchid Recovery Program at Illinois College is to integrate undergraduate student learning with the conservation of the world’s rarest orchids. The Program seeks to instill in its students an appreciation for our planet’s natural resources, and provide the basic tools for lifelong learning, stewardship, and service.

We work closely with a variety of organizations, including the North American Orchid Conservation Center (NAOCC). External funding for our students is provided by donations from regional orchid societies (Illinois Orchid Society, Prairie State Orchid Society) and grants/scholarships through the Naples Orchid Society, and Native Orchid Conference, Inc.

Madagascar, 2015. Research with Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew and Kew Madagascar Conservation Centre. IC student Amanda Wood is pictured on right (wearing sunglasses).
Illinois native orchid, Platanthera leucophaea. Photo by Dr. Tim Bell.
Research in labotatory at Soroa Orchid Garden, Cuba in March 2018. PhD student and IC alum, Lynnaun Johnson, is pictured on right.
Reintroduction of U.S. Federally endangered Peristylus holochila in Hawaii, 2011.
Field research in Andean cloud forest in Ecuador (S America) in 2015.
IC students Adam Herdman and Connor Melton with Dr. Mujica in Florida Panther NWR, 2017. Photo by Mark Danaher.

The Lab

We grow our rare orchids from seed using fungi, and this process starts in the laboratory at Illinois College, housed in the Parker Science building. The lab is equipped with a sterile hood, microscopes, orchid library, computers, and personal desk space for two undergraduate students and a visiting scientist. Students also conduct research involving molecular techniques in the laboratory of Dr. Laura Corey. For samples of foreign origin, students work under close supervision in Parker Science's USDA Level II Quarantine Facility. Seedlings ready for release into natural habitats are transferred to the Parker Science greenhouse located on the roof of the building. Seedlings are then carefully packaged and transported as carry-on baggage by IC students and flown to distant points worldwide.

The Orchid Recovery Program's laboratory in Parker Science building. Photo: Chris Young.
A Petri dish containing fungus colonies that will eventually used to germinate orchid seeds.
Seedlings of U.S. Federally threatened Platanthera integrilabia grown with a fungus in a Petri dish. Each seedling is ca. 0.5 cm long.
Orchid seedlings on soil in the greenhouse ready to be re-introduced into natural habitats. These seedlings were released into the Florida Panther NWR in 2005.
USDA Level II Quarantine Facility in Parker Science building where samples of foreign origin are contained.
The greenhouse facility on the roof of Parker Science building where endangered orchids are cultivated.
Orchid seedlings are carefully monitored annually after release.