Scientific Curator of Seed Conservation
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 a PhD degree from 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.
The endemic Hawaiian lobeliads (115 species in six genera: Brighamia, Clermontia, Cyanea, Delissea, Lobelia and Trematolobelia) are known for their colorful flowers that are likely bird or moth pollinated.
The Hawaiian lobeliads exemplify adaptive radiation in plants and comprise the largest plant family in the flora of the most isolated archipelago on Earth, the bell flower or lobelia family (Campanulaceae). Endemic Hawaiian Campanulaceae species are distributed on seven of the eight main Hawaiian Islands ranging in elevation from less than 100 to over 4000 meter above sea level and demonstrates remarkable diversity of habit (e.g., shrubs, trees, rosettes, succulents, vines, epiphytes) and habitat (e.g., high elevation bogs, cliff faces, forests).
Many of the Hawaiian lobeliads are rare and NTBG is involved in conservation work to help save these unique species. However, Hawaiian lobeliads exhibit anomalous response to conventional seed storage methods.
While the majority of species in the family have been identified as producing orthodox seeds (i.e., desiccation and freeze tolerant), this is not the case with Hawaiian-endemic Campanulaceae which appear to have intermediate – freeze sensitive storage behavior; seeds in equilibrium with 15-25% relative humidity store poorly at -18°C (conventional seed bank conditions). This is in contrast to both orthodox seeds and recalcitrant seeds (i.e., desiccation sensitive). A number of correlants of seed storage behavior have been proposed: for example, seed mass, seed coat:whole seed mass ratio, and lipid phase state changes at storage temperature. Also, some attempt has been made to assess how storage response may relate to potential ecological and phylogenetic drivers.
Scientific Curator of Seed Collections Dustin Wolkis is conducting research to determine how seed traits, phylogeny, and ecology can be used to predict seed storage behavior enabling successful seed banking and conservation of endangered plant species in the future.
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.