Exploring the science of plants, from the field to the lab

A New Era for Collaboration with Cuba

Posted in Interesting Plant Stories on October 25, 2017 by Science Talk

Brian M. Boom, Ph.D., is Vice President for Conservation Strategy and Bassett Maguire Curator of Botany at The New York Botanical Garden. Ina Vandebroek, Ph.D., is NYBG’s Matthew Calbraith Perry Assistant Curator of Economic Botany and Director of the Caribbean Program.

Photo of Long and Monterrey
Gregory Long, NYBG’s CEO and The William C. Steere Sr. President, and Nora Monterrey, General Director of Cuba’s National Botanical Garden. The two institutions recently signed a new Memorandum of Understanding.

The New York Botanical Garden and Cuba’s National Botanical Garden (Jardín Botánico Nacional, or JBN) have a history of collaboration that spans no less than five decades on numerous specific plant research and conservation initiatives. Science Talk has chronicled some of the more recent ones here, here, and here.

Earlier this month, Nora Monterrey, JBN’s General Director, and Alejandro Palmarola, Head of Conservation Program at JBN, visited NYBG to launch an exciting new era for collaboration between our two institutions. The discussions about this renewed commitment for collaboration began in Havana in July 2015, when one of us (Brian) went to Cuba to meet Nora as the new General Director of JBN and to discuss how our institutions could best join forces on cutting-edge science or conservation projects.

However, in a visionary move, Nora Monterrey proposed to take our collaboration to the next level. Instead of a specific agreement for a specific collaborative project, she envisioned establishing a wide-reaching umbrella agreement, spanning multiple years. This approach, which is laid out in a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU), will promote all sorts of collaborative initiatives between our institutions–not only science and conservation but also other programmatic areas such as education, horticulture, and exhibitions, as well as support areas, such as marketing, outreach, and sustainable tourism.

Photo of scientists
Drs. Eldis Bécquer (left), Jardín Botánico Nacional, and Fabián Michelangeli (right), NYBG, examine plant specimens in the William and Lynda Steere Herbarium as part of a collaborative conservation research project.

Such a broad MOU represents a novel and very exciting development in the partnership between the NYBG and JBN and is a real breakthrough in facilitating long-standing projects based on shared institutional interests. As a next step, several staff members from NYBG will participate in a forthcoming international conference in Havana, which will take place April 2-5, 2018, to celebrate JBN’s 50th anniversary. During this conference, we will present results from current collaborative research between NYBG and the JBN and explore the next steps for joint multi-disciplinary initiatives.