Local seed bank moves to campus

After more than 30 years, the Berry Botanic Garden will be moving to Portland State’s campus this year.

After more than 30 years, the Berry Botanic Garden will be moving to Portland State’s campus this year. To help with the transition costs, the garden’s board chair presented the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences with a check for $325,000.

According to Conservation Director Ed Guerrant, the garden has been experiencing financial issues in the past few years and struggled to find funding after the economic recession in 2008.

The garden’s board believed that the seed bank was critically important to the long-term survival of threatened and endangered plant species in the Pacific Northwest, and therefore sought out entities that could take on the garden’s functions in the future. After interviewing several educational institutions, the board elected to work with PSU.

Guerrant will oversee the transfer of the Conservation Program and the seed bank to PSU, and will continue as conservation director after the move. The seed bank will be part of PSU’s Environmental Sciences and Management Department.

According to Board Member Jim Sjulin, the department appears to be a very good fit due to its applied science approach to natural resource protection and management. She also said that the move provides a platform for student programs, including the opportunity for graduate and undergraduate projects and student internships.

“It is our hope that the Conservation Program and the Seed Bank will be fully integrated into PSU and that PSU students will embrace the obvious educational and applied science opportunities that these programs bring,” Sjulin said.  “I can envision that seed banking as a plant conservation strategy will find its way into the [environmental sciences and management] curriculum.” 

PSU has been involved with Berry Botanic Garden since its inception in 1978, prior to the development of the garden’s Conservation Program and seed bank. 

Former PSU professor Dr. Clyde Calvin also served as executive director of the garden for a time. 

According to former board member Andrea Raven, in addition to the scientific study and preservation efforts, the garden has provided internships and summer field studies programs in the past.

“[The programs] have provided unique professional training in the field of conservation science to more than 200 college and high school students,” Raven said. “In addition, we’ve developed a thriving group of citizen advocates for native plants through the hundreds of volunteers who’ve worked in the Conservation Program.”

PSU students have worked at the garden as interns, volunteers and temporary staff and PSU graduate students have worked at the Conservation Program for the past two years.

Guerrant said that the move will be an opportunity for more student involvement in the seed bank and is looking forward to the collaboration with PSU.

According to the Berry Botanic Garden’s website, the bank currently has over 300 preserved seeds that act as an insurance policy for native endangered species.

Species such as the Malheur wire lettuce went extinct in the wild, but thanks the seed bank, the species has been preserved, Guerrant said.

“I struggled with the concept of taking plants out of nature in order to preserve them for many years; it seemed counter-intuitive, but through my time at the bank I’ve seen that it’s imperative,” he said.

The program will be housed in Science Building 2, and the seed vault will be in a secure room in the now seismically safe lower level of the building.

Seeds will be transferred to the seed vault when work in the area has been completed, at which point Guerrant will move from the garden location to PSU. ?