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Garden Volunteers Keep NTBG Growing Green

April 18-24 is National Volunteer Week and at NTBG volunteers are critical to our success. Despite the suspension of the volunteer program in March 2020, volunteers returned in June and 294 individuals served nearly 11,000 hours! Volunteers enhance the visitor experience by greeting guests and offering interpretation in the garden. They help maintain our facilities, care for plants in the nursery and horticulture center, clean seeds to prepare them for storage, and mount and digitize specimens in the herbarium. These dedicated folks answer our numerous calls for support and lend their time, talent, and passion to assisting NTBG staff in documenting and protecting some of the world’s rarest plant species. As a nonprofit environmental organization committed to plant conservation, we rely on volunteers to help us save plants and people. You can help. Become a volunteer today or contribute to the Growing Green Campaign to help us reach our energy efficiency goals.

Spotlight on Botanical Research Center Volunteers

No matter your skill, age or interest, you can help National Tropical Botanical Garden save plants. This week we’d like to thank and highlight some of our dedicated Botanical Research Center volunteers. Find out what they are working on and what they love about volunteering with NTBG!

“Without our volunteers, we couldn’t accomplish many of our goals – we rely on volunteer efforts to mount almost all of our specimens as well as digitize those specimens once they have been mounted. These efforts help make our specimens available and useful to a world-wide audience. We simply couldn’t perform very necessary functions in a timely manner without volunteer help.”

– Tim Flynn, Curator of the Herbarium

Herbarium Specimen Mounting

Herbarium Specimen Mounting volunteers use their artistic eye to mount pressed and dried plant materials collected from the field onto paper for storage in the Herbarium. Sometimes this task can be quite challenging! Volunteer Joan Shaw had her work cut out for her carefully mounting this tiny challenge.

Joan, NTBG Garden Volunteer
Herbarium volunteer, Joan Shaw, works on mounting a specimen.

Joan Shaw, Volunteering Since 2019

What brought you to NTBG and the Botanical Research Center?

I moved to Kaua’i in 1978 and have always considered McBryde and Allerton Gardens as very special places. I fully support the mission of NTBG and love any excuse to spend time in the garden. Years ago I toured the BRC with a school group and told Tim Flynn that I would be back to help out in the herbarium after I retired. I retired from a 40 year career in education two years ago and now spend my Wednesday mornings mounting plant specimens. 

Why is volunteering in this role important to you? 

I think each of us has the responsibility to give back to our community. I’m happy I found a volunteer position that supports the mission of NTBG and brings me great pleasure and satisfaction as well.

Herbarium Digital Imaging

Herbarium Digital Imaging volunteers have the important task of digitally documenting thousands of specimens collected by NTBG scientists. Digitizing the collection allows this unique reference of natural history and a resource for researchers searchable online. Specimens can also be found through JSTOR Plants database.

Charlie, NTBG Garden Volunteer
Herbarium volunteer, Charlie Harrison

Charlie Harrison, Volunteering Since 2020

What’s your favorite part about volunteering at the BRC?

My favorite part about volunteering is knowing that what I’m doing is useful and impactful to the community and NTBG. It’s also cool to meet (on occasion) some of the other people who work for NTBG and learn about how they are contributing.  

Why is volunteering in this role important to you?

Through taking pictures for the cataloging of plant specimens, I’ve learned how far-reaching the work at NTBG really is. I’ve taken pictures of plants from Mexico to our very island and from as far back as the 1970s. It’s amazing to me that I may be volunteering on a small island in the Pacific, but the work truly is a global effort. 

Neil, NTBG Garden Volunteer
Herbarium volunteer, Neil Brosnahan

Neil Brosnahan, Volunteering Since 2008

What’s your favorite part about volunteering at the BRC?

Working with NTBG staff, I set up the photographic equipment and process technology that’s used to digitize and make available on the world wide web over sixty  thousand herbarium specimens to date, allowing scientists and researchers around the world to view in great detail the specimen collection curated at the BRC. Formerly, physical specimens had to be shipped to the scientist or institution at significant expense. Today, only rarely, are physical specimens shipped, and many are small sample amounts for DNA identification and research.

Why is volunteering in this role important to you?

Making our herbarium resources at the BRC available around the world is immensely rewarding. Developing ways for other volunteers to join in makes it even more rewarding.

Seed Bank Assistant

Seed Bank Assistants help NTBG staff routinely check the viability of seeds stored in the bank. Seed banking is an important ex situ conservation means of rare and threatened flora and the NTBG Seed Bank and Laboratory currently includes over 15 million seeds representing 533 native Hawaiian taxa (892 total taxa, ecotypes and cultivars), which are routinely checked for viability.

John, NTBG Volunteer
Seed bank volunteer, John Steinhorst, using a microscope to study a seed.

John Steinhorst, Volunteering Since 2016

What brought you to the Botanical Research Center?

I believe conservation of Hawaii’s endemic plants is important, so I began volunteering with NTBG in 2016. 

What is your favorite part about volunteering at the BRC?

My favorite part of volunteering at the BRC is learning about scientific techniques while studying Hawaii’s flora.

Why is volunteering important to you?

Volunteering is one way to benefit the island’s unique plants and be a contributing member of the community.

Leslie, NTBG Garden Volunteers
Seed bank volunteer, Leslie Ridpath, prepares petri dishes.

Leslie Ridpath, Volunteering Since 2019

What brought you to NTBG and the Botanical Research Center?

I am an avid gardener and volunteered with NTBG to learn more about tropical plants to help with my own garden.  

What’s your favorite part about volunteering at the BRC?

I volunteer with the seed bank where I help test the viability of seeds in NTBG’s collection and with other scientific research projects.  While science wasn’t my favorite subject in school, the team in the seed lab has made it easy and enjoyable to learn.  

Why is volunteering in this role important to you?

It is very rewarding to know this work contributes to the preservation of rare and endangered Hawaiian plants.

Research Librarian 

The library collection at NTBG houses more than 20,000 books, journals, botanical prints, and archival materials.  With no librarian on staff, Lisa’s decades of experience in Library Science has been invaluable to maintaining this important collection.

Herbarium & library volunteer, Liza Kostic

Lisa Kostic, Volunteering Since 2020

What brought you to NTBG and the Botanical Research Center?

My husband Andy and I fell in love with Kaua’i on our first visit here in 2005.  We spent the next decade and half waiting for our two kids to finish school and strike out on their own, all the while planning our  retirement and a permanent move to the island.

NTBG was one place Andy and I always visited on our subsequent trips.  Because we appreciate NTBG’s noble mission, we became members.  Still, I felt I could offer not just financial support but also the benefit of my nearly 3 decades of experience as a library paraprofessional.

What’s your favorite part about volunteering at the BRC?

Currently, I volunteer in the Herbarium photographing preserved plant specimens for Dr. Tim Flynn, as well as in the BRC Library processing incoming books and periodicals for Dr. Lorence.  I am also working on a project for Janet Mayfield to digitally image historic issues of The Bulletin going back 50 years.  Lastly, when I have room in my schedule, I try to squeeze in a shift at the Nursery with Rhian Campbell.

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