Remote Research: Out of Africa

Throughout the world, closures and lockdowns aimed to stop the spread of COVID-19 have disrupted many people’s lives and work. As a global institution, the Missouri Botanical Garden does research around the world, making travel restrictions a major hindrance. The “stay at home” order means staff has lost access to the Garden’s herbarium and labs, too.

But of course, they’ve adapted. Some are using the time to catch up on data analysis. Others are completing manuscripts, which communicate the findings of their work, and floras, a descriptive list of plants in a particular region. And in more remote locations, like protected sites in Madagascar, conservation efforts go on.

“None of us are running out of stuff we can do,” says Jim Miller , Senior Vice President of Science and Conservation.  “Everybody’s got a laptop, we’re all able to work.”

Like Pete Lowry, Patricia Barberá Sánchez planned to attend the Taxonomic Study of the Flora of Tropical Africa meeting in Zambia, then planned to hop over to Tanzania. There, she and other researchers were going to investigate potential areas for collaboration in botanical research in conservation. Travel restrictions forced both trips to be postponed, but Barberá Sánchez figured she’d use the extra time to work specimens in the collection at the Garden. The “stay at home” order took that off the table, too. Plus, the other institutions she typically collaborates with are closed, which adds another complication.

Still, she’s been able to stay busy. She’s made headway on several papers she’s worked on, talked with her team on Skype to prepare projects, prepared photos of specimens she’s collected to download to Tropicos and provide other information to improve the database.

“There are always things to do,” she says, “things that usually we do not find time for on normal days.”

While the COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted every facet of our lives, the Garden’s critical work conserving plant life goes on. These efforts would not be possible without your support. Consider helping us continue our mission in these uncertain times by becoming a member or making a donation.

Catherine Martin
Public Information Officer

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