Have you taken some time to thank some pollinators recently? A large portion of the food and products that we use daily are a direct result from the process of pollination. Generally speaking, pollination is the transfer of pollen from the male portion of a plant to the female part of a plant, leading to fertilization and resulting in the production of seeds. A seed, enclosed in a seed coat, is an embryonic plant that will continue its intended life cycle for their species, something we directly benefit from. During my first week at my internship with the Ventura U.S. Fish and Wildlife office, I learned how important pollination is to the survival of our species and the species that depend on this process to ensure it's survival in the wild.
My project specificaly focuses on the conservation of several federally protected plant species on the Channel Islands. We have several species of concern in our nursery that are housed in small tents to prevent cross pollination. Since pollen grains are extremely small it is easy for plants to be cross pollinated by a variety of external factors including wind and insects. To prevent cross pollination, plants are grouped with their maternal line so that they are not fertilized with pollen grains from different plants of the same or similar species. With a small paintbrush, each plant is artifically pollinated in a circular method to ensure the successful fertilization of an individual maternal line. This is common when working with rare plants that are federally protected because it allows conservationists an opportunity increase genetic diversity for a specific species. Pictured is Dudleya nesiotica, an endemic species found on Santa Cruz Island. As you can imagine, real estate for the plants and animals that occupy these small niche spaces are slim, therefore, it is important that the genetic diversity of each species remain large so that they can continue to adapt to their environment in the face of ecological disturbances. Dudleya nesiotica, along with other rare plants on the Channel Islands, face the threat of hybridizing with similar plants in close proximity. As the threat of climate change increases, niche spaces will begin to overlap, negatively affecting genetic diversity and resulting in limited distribution or extinction.
Part of my role as a Directorate Fellow with U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is to promote the genetic diversity of federaly protected species through artifical pollination, separating seed collections by maternal line, and seed banking in an effort to restore these rare plant populations on the Channel Islands. Feel free to follow along with me as I document my time with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and share my upcoming experiences as I travel to and from the Santa Rosa Island collecting data and learning from the professionals that keep the Channel Islands a biodiversity hotspot.
Agency: U.S Forest Service
Program: US Fish & Wildlife Service - DFP
Location: Ventura Fish and Wildlife Office