Seed Bank and Lab

Science & Conservation

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.

Full of passion for conserving the natural world, Emily Saling comes to the Seed Lab as a Kupu Member and recent graduate in Biology from the University of Puget Sound. She draws on her past experiences working in museums and botanical gardens and on lichens as a pollutant bioindicator. Emily is excited to dive into seed conservation research and has already become an invaluable member of the Seed Bank and Laboratory team.

Seed banking is an important ex situ conservation means of rare and threatened flora and the NTBG Seed Bank and Laboratory currently includes over 17 million seeds representing 533 native Hawaiian taxa (923 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., Baskin, C.C., Baskin, J.M., Rønsted, N. (2022). Seed dormancy and germination of the endangered exceptional Hawaiian lobelioid Brighamia rockii. Applications in Plant Science, e11492.

Hay, F.R., R.M. Davies, J.B. Dickie, D.J. Merritt, and D. Wolkis. (2022). More on seed longevity phenotyping. Seed Science Research: 1–6.

Wolkis D, Walsh SK, Barnes CJ, Stacy EA, Rønsted N. (2022). Variation in germination traits inform conservation planning of Hawaiʻi’s foundational ‘Ōhiʻa trees. Journal of Sustainable Forestry

Wolkis D, Jones K, Flynn T, DeMotta M, Rønsted N. (2021). Germination of seeds from herbarium specimens as a last conservation resort for resurrecting extinct or critically endangered Hawaiian plants. Conservation Science and Practice, e576.

Wolkis D, Blackwell S, Villanueva SK (2020). Conservation seed physiology of the ciénega endemic, Eryngium sparganophyllum (Apiaceae). Conservation Physiology, 8:1, coaa17.

Jensen SM, Wolkis D, Keshtkar E, Streibig JC, Ritz C. (2020). Improved two-step analysis of germination data from complex experimental designs. Seed Science Research 30(3): 194-198.

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.

Baskin CC, Baskin JM, Yoshinaga A, Wolkis D. (2020). Physiological dormancy in seeds of tropical montane woody species in Hawai`i. Plant Species Biology 36(1), 60-71.

Bernard J, Brock KC, Tonnell V, Walsh S, Wenger JP, Wolkis D, Weiblen GD. (2020). New species assemblages disrupt obligatory mutualisms between figs and their pollinators. Frontiers in Plant Science, 8, 406.

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.

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.

Wolkis D and Walsh SK. (2018). Dormancy and germination of two Kaua’i endemic Hibiscus taxa. Seed Science and Technology 46: 267Á274.

Wolkis D, Baskin CC, Baskin JM. (2018). Dormancy‐breaking and germination requirements of seeds of the Hawaiian endemic Dianella sandwicensis (Xanthorrhoeaceae). Australian Journal of Botany 66: 213Á217.

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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