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How To Bank Seeds

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.

NTBG’s field botanists are collecting seeds of rare and endangered plants for conservation in our seed bank and propagation into our living collections or planting back into nature.

All seed collections are recorded in our databases, so we always know where any collection came from. It is important to collect the seeds at the right time when they are fully developed and ready to disperse.

Before seeds can be stored in the seed bank they need to be cleaned from fruit, a laborious work that take many hours for our dedicated volunteers.


To enable long-term storage seeds are kept at -18°C degrees. However, seed storage behavior varies greatly among and within species and understanding of seed behavior is critical for successful seed banking and conservation. NTBG conducts research and develops specific protocols ensuring optimal conditions for each of the over 500 species currently in the seed bank.

Once the seeds can be safely stored, it is critical to conduct viability studies to follow the germination success over time and know when seeds need to be propagated and resampled or new collections need to be made if possible. For each collection or accession, small samples are tested at regular intervals of 0, 1, 2, 5, 10 and every ten years after. The goal is for all seed collections to have at least 70% of their initial viability. All this data from over 30 years of seed banking can also be used to understand general trends and better prediction of storage behavior and viability of species where little is known. NTBGs seed work is planting new seeds of hope for Hawaii’s many rare and endangered plants.

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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