For 4 weeks, a group of fifteen advanced students and professionals from seven different countries took part in the 2018 Tropical Botany course hosted by FIU’s International Center for Tropical Botany (ICTB) and The Kampong for the 38th consecutive year. Here’s what they experienced.
Students from across the U.S., Trinidad and Tobago, France, Brazil, Jamaica, French Guiana, Peru, and Colombia arrived in Miami on May 20th and checked into The Kampong grounds- a unique site with an extensive collection of tropical plants, and their new home and classroom for the upcoming class. Throughout their stay, students were immersed in the world of tropical botany alongside renowned Professor Emeritus at the University of Florida Dr. Walter Judd, distinguished botanist and ICTB’s director Dr. Christopher Baraloto, and Dr. Lucas Majure, botanist for the Desert Botanical Garden, who instructed the course.
From vegetative morphology to tropical plant communities, students participated in dozens of lectures, attended field trips to natural sites such as Everglades National Park and the Florida Keys, and were trained in the areas of taxonomy, phylogeny, diversity of structure, economic botany and conservation of tropical seed plants in both laboratory and field settings. As one student notes, the depth of knowledge and experience offered by this course is remarkable.
“Being a part of the 2018 Tropical Botany course was a one of a kind experience; absorbing all the information I could from great instructors and getting to know amazing young botanists from around the world. It can’t get any better than that,” writes Ph.D. Candidate Maria Cortez.
The course, in collaboration with Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden and Montgomery Botanical Center, fulfills a global need to extensively train the men and women who dedicate their lives to both studying and protecting tropical areas. During a BBQ celebration held on the final day of the course, students who received travel grants were asked to speak on their experience, and their answers consistently had one thing in common: they felt compelled to share, and put to use, what they had learned when they got back home.
Whether it be finishing their doctoral degree, conducting research in tropical areas, conserving and preserving protected areas, or teaching tropical botany and conservation, students acquired a set of robust tools that would serve them in their professional careers.
“As soon as I walked around UF campus on Monday I would find myself trying to figure out the families of all the plants surrounding me and I could hear their voices in my head whispering all the traits that I had to look for in order to identify a plant. I guess that says it all,” describes Cortez.
To give to ICTB and support the next 2019 Tropical Botany course, visit their Give page.