Christine Edwards, Christy Edwards, Missouri Botanical Garden discussed on In Defense of Plants Podcast


How is everyone doing this week? I'm doing great because we are talking about a wonderful little milkweed that desperately needs some conservation attention and that is why my guest is here today. We are talking about mead's milkweed with doctor Christine Edwards of the Missouri botanical garden. Meade's milkweed is growing increasingly rare on the landscape. It loves pristine remnant prairies, and as you've heard in previous episodes, those are harder and harder to come by these days. But thanks to people like doctor Edwards, we have a better idea of what is needed to conserve the species to keep it on the landscape for generations to come. I don't want to spoil any of her thunder, so let's just jump right into it without further ado. Here's my conversation with doctor Christine Edwards. I hope you enjoy. All right, doctor Christy Edwards, welcome to the podcast. I am so excited to talk with you today, but first let's start off with an introduction. Tell everyone a little bit about who you are and what it is you do. Hi, I'm Christy Edwards. I am the Stephen and Camila brauer conservation geneticist at the Missouri botanical garden. And yeah, and I run the conservation genetics program here. Excellent. I am a huge fan of the work that you do, and I'm again, the topic we're talking about today is near and dear to my heart. But where did this all begin for you? I mean, were you interested in nature as a kid? Were you more the molecular side, like genetics and really wanted to just find a system to fit that into? How did it all kind of unfold for you? So I really came to this field as more of a nature lever. And so for example, so my mom had a green thumb when I was growing up. And so she would, she was actually when I was a kid, she was taking like a landscape architecture course. And so one of the things that got me really interested in plant diversity when I was a kid is I went on this field trip. So she was going these field trips with her. And it was like a plant ID field trips. A plan ID course. And so we would go and the guy would show all the different trees in Colorado. I'm from Colorado. And so I was like, oh, that's super cool. Nice. Yeah. That's fun. Yeah, and then, you know, just kind of an overall nature lover. You know, I would kind of run around in the Woods near my house and things like that. So it just kind of became interested in plants that way. Excellent. I always am curious how many kids really get into it plants first. It's definitely a rarity, but happens. But when did you realize you could make a career out of this? I mean, what really set you on the path to being like, no, I want to do this for a living. Well, so I was always kind of interested in biology and then when I was an undergrad, I went on a study abroad and I took this tropical ecology and conservation course for a semester. And I think they really kind of hammered home the point about conservation and I also was just really interested in the plants and I saw there was so much diversity. And I think that course definitely kind of sealed sealed the interests in the main and then so when I got back, I started volunteering for a PhD student and did a bunch of research up in Rocky Mountain national park. Once again, it was like IDing plants. It was super cool. And I got really into that. And then it was just kind of kept doing all these different plant jobs. So after graduating from college, it was a field botanist up in Massachusetts. For a few months, once again, it was just plant ID. Really interested in plant diversity. Yeah, so then when I wanted to go to graduate school, I was just, you know, how can I study plant diversity? And so I kind of came at it as systematic conservation and then did a PhD in systematics and conservation genetics. So, yeah. Well, that's cool. I love that conservation was kind of the thread appreciating the number and uniqueness of all the plant species out there, but really wanted to kind of use these theoretical approaches to do something in the realm of keeping plants on the landscape for future generations. Hopefully. Or whatever. Yeah, that's the main goal, right? Yeah, totally. And so yeah, I can imagine it is both exciting and I know for a fact how daunting it can be when you finally are staring down the decision tree you've made and going, okay, now I have to find work in this. And now you've ended up at Missouri botanical garden, which is one of the most amazing botanical gardens and it's got this wonderful other side to it of all of the conservation that goes on. You know, both in the public eye and behind the scenes, depending on the degree of interest, but yeah, it sounds like it really worked out for you. Yeah, you know, honestly, I absolutely love my job. I feel like I have the best job, I basically get to work on cool plants, and I get to do whatever research project I want to, and I feel like what I do, and really is making a difference in conservation, you know, we're able to do conservation just a little bit better with the genetic information. So yeah, it's a great job. And you kind of hinted at it there. But yeah, it sounds like it's great because you get to choose your adventure, so to speak. And plants get the short shrift in conservation, and there's more endangered plants than often a lot of the more charismatic animal groups that get all of the attention. How do you start on an okay, we've got some funding, what do we do with it? Where do you start looking or perusing to even throw a dart and go, okay, that's the species there. Well, you know, a lot of times we're approached by people who are, you know, for example, like land managers, and they will come to me and say, you know, I have this question, I want answered. So for example, a lot of times will be approached by people who work for you in this fish and wildlife service. And they want to know, for example, so with every endangered species, there's a recovery plan..

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