Staff from the Leon Levy Native Plant Preserve recently traveled to Panama for the ‘Botanical Bridges’ conference, hosted by the Caribbean and Central American Botanical Garden Network (CCABGN) and Botanic Gardens Conservation International (BGCI). Over 64 botanical professionals representing 18 countries from across the region attended the conference to discuss the core issues affecting botanic gardens. All sessions were simultaneously translated for English and Spanish speakers.
The meeting opened on September 19, 2016 at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute in Panama City with a welcome address from the Panama City Mayor and a keynote address from Dr. Peter Wyse Jackson, director of Missouri Botanic Garden. Dr. Jackson discussed the challenges facing botanical institutions in the 21st century, and in his talk urged participants to make the connection between their plant conservation mission and the broader issues facing the global community such as climate change, human health and food security.
Throughout the week attendees presented on the specific challenges and successes experienced at their own institutions. Dr. Ethan Freid, botanist at the Levy Preserve, presented on efforts to collect and propagate Bahamian native and endemic plants for conservation at the site. Breakout sessions allowed for smaller groups to share on topics ranging from funding to education and training. Representatives from Missouri Botanic Gardens led a training workshop on best practices for maintaining plant records. The week wrapped up with participants developing an action plan to make the Caribbean and Central American Botanical Garden Network more sustainable with effective partnerships and lasting impact in the region.