Scientific Research

International Plant Science Center

The Botanical Garden's International Plant Science Center is a world leader in plant research and exploration, using cutting-edge tools to discover, document, interpret, and preserve Earth's vast botanical biodiversity. Garden scientists describe and name close to 50 new species each year in a race to catalog the world’s plant diversity before it is lost to deforestation and degradation of natural habitats. The Garden is one of the few institutions worldwide with the resources, collections, and expertise to develop the information needed to understand plant evolutionary relationships and manage plant diversity. It also serves as a center for scientific scholarship and as a sponsor of vital field work.

The Center employs an expert staff of professional researchers, technicians, and assistants, including dozens of Ph.D. scientists and candidates, in the fields of plant systematics, economic botany, ecology, molecular systematics, and plant genomics. The Center’s research facilities were greatly improved with the opening in May 2006 of the 28,000-square-foot, state-of-the-art Pfizer Plant Research Laboratory. It houses the Lewis B. and Dorothy Cullman Program for Molecular Systematics, Genomics Program, and Graduate Studies Program.

Garden scientists have been conducting international research for more than a century; this longstanding tradition in the field and in the laboratory is enhanced by peerless resources. The William and Lynda Steere Herbarium, the fourth largest in the world and the largest in the Western Hemisphere, houses 7.3 million specimens, from every continent and dating from the 18th century to the present. The C.V. Starr Virtual Herbarium provides Internet access to information for more than 1 million specimens in the Steere Herbarium, with thousands of new records being added each year. The LuEsther T. Mertz Library holds more than 1 million items spanning 10 centuries. The New York Botanical Garden Press is one of the largest science publication programs of any botanical garden, publishing journals, monographs, and books on botanical research.

The Garden’s Graduate Studies Program, the largest at any botanical garden in the world, was established in 1896 and addresses the shortage of biological scientists; 260 degrees have been granted, including 180 Ph.D.s. The program has grown to include six premier universities (CUNY, Columbia, Cornell, Fordham, New York University, and Yale), enrolling an annual average of 40 students during recent years. It has also built a network of graduates in key positions at institutions and universities around the world.

The outstanding staff, programs, and resources of the Center position the Garden at the forefront of botanical research worldwide.