Strengthening Connections Between Community and Conservation

Lauren Muller, State Botanical Garden of GA at UGA

The Science and Conservation Department at the State Botanical Garden of Georgia serves as a link between Georgians and plant conservation. Much of our work takes place within the context of the Georgia Plant Conservation Alliance, a statewide network of conservation professionals whose mission is to study and conserve Georgia’s flora through multidisciplinary research, education, and advocacy and to facilitate the recovery of rare, threatened, and endangered plants of Georgia and the southeast US. This network not only connects us to the newest science and research, but also to communities, volunteers, and local stewards. As a unit of Public Service and Outreach at the University of Georgia, our mission is two-fold: research and education. We aim to inspire communities to value plants found within their local ecosystems. This dedication to conservation outreach and education has led to the creation of the new Conservation Outreach Coordinator position at the State Botanical Garden. This unique role within a public garden setting signifies an essential shift in conservation, the idea that we can no longer rely entirely on professionally trained botanists, ecologists, or restoration professionals to conserve plants on the scale that is necessary. Education is an undeniably important facet of plant conservation. The role of the Conservation Outreach Coordinator involves managing all aspects of a community outreach relating to native plants, invasive plant management, and rare species stewardship. Through the Learning by Leading, Botanical Guardians, and Certificate in Native Plants programs, we work to enhance connections between local stewards with the formal sciences of botany and ecology. The result is a consortium of empowered, dedicated, and trained volunteers who work locally to removing invasive species, plant more natives, work with local landowners for protection of rare plants on their property and raise support for plant conservation in their communities.