OSSSU - Orchid Seed Science And Sustainable Use

There will be no higher purpose in sustainability without a solid Team that makes it possible. The brightest minds in the Orchid World are @ OSSSU.

Hugh Pritchard

I joined Kew more than 30 years ago to research orchid seed longevity and have retained a strong interest in orchid seed biology ever since, with > 10% of my > 100 international peer review journal publications on that topic. Apart from editing the book ‘Modern Methods in Orchid Conservation (CUP, 1989), I have co-written three major reviews on orchids: seed storage (1993, Selbyana) with Phil Seaton; conservation (2010, Bot Rev) with Seaton and others; and cryobiotechnology (2016 Biotech Adv) with Elena Popova et al. Innovative findings from my research include: the first successful cryopreservation of orchid seeds, including with their fungal symbionts; that orchid seed generally have short lifespans compared to other angiosperms; and with Tim Marks, the kinetics of orchid pollen longevity. I retain an interest in improving orchid seed storage and am also progressing work with OSSSU collaborators on orchid seed germination across the family. I led the original Darwin Initiative-funded project on OSSSU with 15 countries in Latin America and Asia. I am a member of the IUCN Orchid Specialist Group.

Phil Seaton

I started out as an amateur orchid grower as a young biology lecturer more than 40 years ago. What began as a hobby soon evolved into a research interest in micropropagation and the long-term storage of orchid seeds. Having determined that the dry seeds of many species have the potential to survive for many years when maintained at low temperatures, the opportunity to turn theory into practice came about when, in 2007, I was appointed project manager of OSSSU. As an educator I am interested in communicating the importance of conserving orchid biodiversity through practical workshops, lectures and talks, writing popular articles and scientific papers, and producing visual materials. I have authored, co-authored, and illustrated three books about micropropagation and cultivation of orchids. I manage an orchid laboratory in a local school where I teach both citizen scientists and schoolchildren how to grow orchids from seed using both symbiotic and asymbiotic techniques. I am Chair of the Ex situ Conservation Group for the IUCN Orchid Specialist Group.

Sara Magrini

I am an enthusiastic and passionate orchidologist with a PhD in Forest Ecology, who works in the Tuscia Germplasm Bank (Tuscia University) since 2006 for the conservation of endemic or threatened species of the Italian flora. I am in love with orchids so I deal with all the aspects concerning their reproductive biology and conservation, especially, seed conservation, germination ecology, in vitro reproduction, in situ conservation, and red listing. I was part of the original OSSSU project, as an associate member, since 2009. Currently, I am a member of the Orchid Specialist Group of the IUCN Species Survival Commission, the President of RIBES, the Italian network of seedbanks, and a member of the Italian Red List Authority for orchids.

Kanchit Thammasiri

I was trained in orchid breeding for M.Sc. and Ph.D. degrees at the University of Hawaii during 1981-1984. After graduation, I worked at the Department of Agriculture, Ministry of Agriculture & Cooperatives in charge of wild Thai orchid collection, orchid production and breeding. Then, I moved to work as a lecturer at the Department of Plant Science, Faculty of Science, Mahidol University where I can disseminate my orchid knowledge and experience. My interest is to work on ex situ Thai orchid conservation by developing new techniques for cryopreservation and sustainable use through efficient and low cost production and breeding (making commercial orchid cultivars from outstanding Thai orchid species). I was persuaded by Philip Seaton and Hugh Pritchard to join the OSSSU project since the beginning and went for its meetings in China and Costa Rica. I am glad to join the OSSSU network which help me widen my knowledge, as well as have friends from around the world who have the same interest in orchid seed conservation.

Nelson & Ceci

I became an amateur orchid grower as a teenager and have continued to work on this plant family ever since, and with a special interest in the lithophytic Cattleyas. During my under graduate studies in Agronomy, I focused on plant breeding and tissue culture. I started my collection of this genus during the 1990’s and have been successful in growing some 75% of them, and have been very keen to propagate as many as possible. A number of these species are endemic to particular states in Brazil, where their survival in the wild is threatened, and some are on the verge of extinction. I married Ceci in 1996, who like me is an agronomist, but with a specialization in Seed Technology. We both did our PhD studies on Seed Biology; my thesis was presented in 1999, while Ceci’s was presented in 2001. In 2004, we were invited to participate at the Second International Orchid Conservation Conference in Sarasota, where we presented our data on seed storage and germination from many tropical orchid species. In 2006, we received an invitation to be part of the OSSSU project, and joined in 2008. We both find orchid seeds a fascinating subject for research, as these unique tiny seeds still present a ‘blank book’ in the understanding of their physiology, despite their existence in almost all environments where they can be found growing in habitats ranging from the soil through to the heights of the tree canopy. We are working in a Crop Production team in an Agronomy college, where a key objective is to understand and support sustainable conservation of orchid germplasm under both in situ and ex situ conditions. The questions these issues raise has helped enormously in attracting students to join us in this research. We are currently leading a team of students researching topics ranging from pollen viability and pollination, to seed maturation, storage and biochemistry. A recent result of our work was a methodology paper for the OSSSU project for viability testing of seeds using tetrazolium.

Emily Coffey

My research focuses on plant conservation collections and field research of under-represented endangered plant groups including orchids and the restoration and management of their habitats. In addition to the in situ work the conservation horticulture team at ABG specializes in ex situ collections management and propagation techniques from field to nursery production of imperiled orchids. My experience includes the conservation and recovery of rare and threatened orchid species through propagation, collaborative restoration, and habitat management. The ABG team works to addresses the urgent need to protect key imperiled orchids across 7 southeastern states in the US and 3 Caribbean Islands through in situ and ex situ conservation, development of germination and propagation protocols for target species, and seed banking. Furthermore, we actively engage in capacity building through workshops and in situ training, as well as establishment of tissue culture laboratories focusing on development of plant material for in situ augmentation at identified protected sites, outplanting of plants, and monitoring of natural populations.

Tatiana Arias

My research combines the study of impressive orchid private collections and expertise from such collectors with disciplines across different biological scales including phylogenomic studies, population genomics, and conservation to explore the molecular diversity of main groups of endemic orchids of the Colombian Andes. In regards to the orchid specialists IUCN ex-situ conservation group we are generating the first digital herbarium for live orchid collections for scientific and conservation purposes. We inventory species using high resolution photographs and storage fresh leaf tissue in the tissue bank at Instituto Humboldt, the main environmental authority in Colombia. This inventory will accelerate scientific research in orchids and facilitate the governmental legalization of these collections, aiding to fight illegal trade.

Marc Freestone

I am currently finishing a PhD in Australia on propagation of difficult-to-grow threatened Australian orchids, based at the Royal Botanic Gardens Victoria (Melbourne) and Australian National University. The Royal Botanic Gardens Victoria has a large (terrestrial) orchid conservation program headed by Noushka Reiter (https://www.rbg.vic.gov.au/) that I’ve been involved with for nearly four years as a lab-tec and PhD student. I have experience in ex-situ propagation, seed and mycorrhizal fungi collection and storage, monitoring of wild populations and undertaking reintroductions and am member of several recovery teams for threatened Australian orchids. My PhD is mostly on mycorrhizal fungi, ex-situ propagation techniques and seed viability.

Nicola Flanagan

Based at the Javeriana University, in Cali, Southwest Colombia, my work aims to develop integrative approaches to address conservation challenges in this mega-biodiverse country. I lead the Research Program for Conservation and Sustainable Use of Vanilla Crop Wild Relatives, and the ECOrquideas student research group. Our integrated orchid conservation programs combine in situ and ex situ approaches. Studies include orchid pollination, mycorrhizal interactions, functional ecology, landscape genomics, population demography and monitoring, as well as seed and mycorrhizal banking, symbiotic and asymbiotic in vitro propagation, and population restoration. We also aim to build capacity for community-based conservation. I believe firmly in inclusive research, and in my projects look to develop broad collaborations across diverse stakeholders, including orchid growers, governmental and non-governmental entities, and particularly with local communities, including indigenous peoples, and afro-descendent communities, who, under the Colombian constitution have autonomous control over their territories. As such, I have projects that encompass the Amazon, Andean and Pacific Regions of the country.

Be part of OSSSU Team

OSSSU is looking for talented people in the World of Orchids to join our team!