The center’s headquarters will be built on land donated to FIU from NTBG, and will be adjacent to The Kampong, the NTGB’s only garden outside of Hawaii. Scientists at the center, which was approved by the Florida Board of Governors this week, will lead efforts to preserve and study tropical plants for future generations. Research will have a strong focus on the economic uses of tropical plants. The center is supported by a $2.5 million gift from the William R. Kenan Jr. Charitable Trust and a matching $2.5 million gift from the Batchelor Foundation.
“The International Center for Tropical Botany will leverage FIU’s global expertise in tropical studies to further our efforts in conservation and sustainability,” said FIU Provost and Executive Vice President Kenneth G. Furton. “Today, our scientists lead the way in our management of tropical plant resources and protecting the biodiversity of our planet. This center serves to further their reach to create greater understandings and stewardship of these resources that we use for food, medicine and so much more.”
The proposed 7,000-square-foot building will be designed to complement The Kampong and Coconut Grove.
“The Kampong, the historical home of economic botanist David Fairchild, is an ideal location for this partnership,” said Peter Gardner, chairman of The Kampong’s Board of Governors. “The ICTB and Kampong will work hand-in-hand to ensure the unique qualities of The Kampong are preserved and enhanced.”
The center will launch with eight FIU faculty members conducting research within The Kampong, FIU and at partner facilities. The ICTB will have strong working relationships with local partners including Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden and the Montgomery Botanical Center.
“The center brings together two great institutions and there is no better location for this work to take place than at The Kampong,” said NTBG Director and CEO Chipper Wichman. “David Fairchild understood the important role that plants have in our daily lives and the economic sustainability of our nation. The importance of his life’s work has been magnified in homes and businesses across America over the past 100 years. In a similar way, the research that will take place in the coming years at the center will have global implications.”
In recent years, botany as an academic discipline has been disappearing from American universities, and recent studies indicate a looming shortage of botanists, who are critical for the management of forests and national parks and ensuring the long-term viability of the crops and plants people rely on. The ICTB will be working with local and global botanic garden partners to develop research and training programs.
“South Florida is a treasure trove when it comes to biodiversity,” said Mike Heithaus, interim dean of FIU’s College of Arts & Sciences. “There’s no better place to establish a facility dedicated to the conservation and research of tropical plants and their habitats than Miami.”