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Seed Bank and Lab

Science & Conservation
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Dustin Wolkis

Seed Bank Curator and Laboratory Manager

Seed Bank Curator and Laboratory Manager Dustin Wolkis is responsible for curating NTBGs seed bank and conducting seed conservation research. Dustin holds an MSc in Plant Biology and Conservation from Arizona State University and is currently pursuing a PhD degree at the University of Copenhagen, Denmark, focused on changing the seed banking paradigm using Hawaiian lobeliads as a model system. Dustin is also Deputy Chair of the IUCN SSC Seed Conservation Specialist Group.

Volunteers, interns, and students are providing critical help with all aspects of the Seed Bank. Kupu Member Kelli Jones came to work with the Seed Bank after completing her BSc in Forensic Anthropology from Fort Worth, Texas. Kelli has helped with completing a full inventory of our holdings of over 16 million seeds most of which are rare and endangered Hawaiian plants. In addition Kelli is doing research to understand the potential of herbarium collections as a last seed resource to resurrect species at the brink of extinction.

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. The seeds are either collected by NTBGs field botanists or deposited by State departments and collaborating institutions.

The emphasis of the Seed Lab is determining seed and pollen storage behavior, seed longevity and aging kinetics, seed borne pathogen abatement, and seed dormancy and dormancy alleviation of native Hawaiian plant species of conservation importance. Our research aims to understand how seeds respond to desiccation and subfreezing temperatures, identifying regeneration intervals, and determining optimal seed propagation techniques. To help secure Hawai‘i’s foundational ‘ōhi‘a trees (Metrosideros species), which are now threatened by fungi causing Rapid Ohia Disease (ROD), the Seed Bank has been collecting and now holds over 6.4 million ‘ōhi‘a seeds with an additional 2.4 million seeds backed up at partner institutions.

In addition, we are using more than 30 years of occurrence, distribution and viability data associated with the collections to understand more about the health of Hawai‘i’s flora and rare plants, which can be used to prioritize and improve collecting and conservation efforts.

Examples of recent scientific publications from NTBGs Seed Bank and Laboratory:

Wolkis D, Blackwell S, Villanueva SK (2020) Conservation seed physiology of the ciénega endemic, Eryngium sparganophyllum (Apiaceae). Conservation Physiology, 8:1, coaa17.
https://doi.org/10.1093/conphys/coaa017.

Baskin C, Baskin J, Yoshinaga A, Wolkis D (2020) Seed dormancy in Campanulaceae: morphological and morphophysiological dormancy in six species of Hawaiian lobelioids. Botany, 0:ja.
https://doi.org/10.1139/cjb-2020-0009

Chau M, Chambers T, Weisenberger L, Keir M, Kroessig TI, Wolkis D, Kam R, Yoshinaga AY (2019). Seed freeze sensitivity and ex situ longevity of 295 species in the native Hawaiian flora. American Journal of Botany 106(9):1–23. 
https://doi.org/10.1002/ajb2.1351

Wolkis, D., Deans, S. (2019). Picking from the past in preparation for a pest: assessing the potential for herbaria to serve as novel sources for ʻōhiʻa seed preservation. Biopreservation and Biobanking 17(6) 583-590. 
https://doi.org/10.1089/bio.2019.0044

Wolkis D. and Walsh S. K. (2018). Dormancy and germination of two Kaua’i endemic Hibiscus taxa. Seed Science and Technology 46: 267Á274. 
https://doi.org/10.15258/sst.2018.46.2.08

Wolkis D., Baskin C. C., Baskin J. M. (2018). Dormancy‐breaking and germination requirements of seeds of the Hawaiian endemic Dianella sandwicensis (Xanthorrhoeaceae). Australian Journal of Botany 66: 213Á217.
https://doi.org/10.1071/BT17214

Our Collections

To learn more about our collections browse these pages. Some of our underlying databases are public. Access to the herbarium and library collections in the Juliet Rice Wichman Botanical Research Center for scientific or education purposes can be arranged. See contact information under each collection.

Public tours of NTBGs five gardens can be booked online. The Behind the Scenes tour, South Shore Kauai includes the nursery and botanical research center.

Our Areas of Focus

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