Plant Discovery in the Southern Philippines
The Philippines archipelago contains unique floral and faunal diversity that is critically threatened by habitat loss, with only 3-7% of original habitat remaining. To address the urgent need for further documenting this diversity in the face of impending large-scale species extinction, I am working with colleagues from the U.S. and the Philippines on a four-year project to document the land plants and lichens of the southern Philippines through a series of large field expeditions and subsequent taxonomic study. The project is funded by the U.S. National Science Foundation "Biodiscovery: Discovery and Analysis" program. The project team will make thousands of observations on the occurrence and abundance of species, as documented by physical collections for museum study and high-resolution photographs, with images and data all digitized and placed online in easily searchable formats. It will also develop a species tissue and DNA biorepository of the collections for future studies (for example, understanding species origins and relatedness). The data will be used to publish species inventories of the most ecologically sensitive areas for use in forest management and restoration, and species protection. The team will teach the methods and significance of biodiversity science to undergraduate and graduate students, as well as local Filipino scientists and community members. More broadly, this project will serve to reinforce and expand the longstanding ties between the scientists, institutions, and citizens of the U.S. and the Philippines.