Rare Plant Research


The Omaha's Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium Department for Plant Conservation has mission functions that include:

Conservation Biotechnology: The lab personnel are conducting research critical for ex situ conservation and in-situ conservation. Research focuses on in-vitro micropropagation, tissue culture, and somatic embryogenesis. Technologies have also been developed for seed cryo-storage and large scale micropropagation of threatened plants used in restoration projects in collaboration with the governments of North America, Bermuda and Madagascar. The following are some of the recent accomplishments made by the Department for Plant Conservation:

  • Developed essential protocols for threatened species.
  • Application of advanced tissue culture techniques for ecalcitrant plant species.
  • Developed methods for successful transfer of in vitro propagated plants to restoration projects.
  • Cryogenic methods that have resulted in the long-term seed and spore storage for many endangered plant species.
  • Biotechnology transfer, through training of scientists from the home countries where many of the researched species are endemic (native).

Restoration Ecology: Innovative research is conducted to enhance restoration conservation methods for endangered plant species.

  • Soil science studies.
  • Soil microbe propagation and research for endangered plants that require microbial associations for their survival.
  • Improved recovery methods for rare and threatened plant species.
  • Research on various factors that limit species establishment in their natural habitats.
  • Micropropagation and tissue culture techniques to produce large numbers of threatened species used to support restoration projects with multiple government agencies and univeristies.
  • Direct participation in species restoration projects in North America, Bermuda and Madagascar for many of the species researched by Omaha's Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium Department for Plant Conservation.
  • Field studies of the natural habitat through soil study, precipitation records, microbial soil contents and temperature factors for each of the threatened plants currently researched in order to develop successful stress assessments for re-established species.

Conservation Seed and Spore Science: Research into seed and spore dormancy and germination requirements. The laboratory develops successful methods for seed germination of native plants used in habitat restoration projects in several countries.

  • Determine specific seed and spore dormancy types for difficult species.
  • Research seed storage behavior and longevity through cryogenic techniques for effective seed and spore banking at Omaha's Henry Doorly Zoo.
  • Technology transfer to visiting scientists, for successful propagation and reintroduction methods that are applicable in a species' home country.
Why Plant Conservation is important at Omaha's Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium?

Thousands of square miles of rainforest are destroyed each year. It is estimated that for every plant species that goes extinct 10 to 30 animal species, insect or microbe disappear with it. Worldwide nearly one in eight plant species faces the possible threat of extinction. Yet animals and humans can not survive without the plants that provide their food, shelter, medicine and cover.

The lab is dedicated to expanding our plant conservation efforts so that future generations can enjoy the beneficial products and aesthetic benefits that plants provide and to ensure that these endangered plant species continue to exist on earth.

Organizations that have provided collaborative efforts with the Department for Plant Conservation:
  • US Fish and Wildlife Services (USFWS)
  • Audubon
  • Nature Conservancy
  • Nebraska Game and Parks Commission
  • Minnesota Zoo
  • Como Conservatory, Minneapolis
  • International Plant Genetic Resources Institute at Fort Collins Colorado
  • University of Antananarivo in Madagascar
  • Bermuda Museum of Natural History, Botanic Garden, Aquarium and Zoo (BAMZ)
  • Bermuda's Department of the Environment
  • University of Nebraska Medical Center
  • Grants that have aided in the Plant Research Department:
  • Instititute of Museum and Libary Services, 'Cryopreserving the Imperiled Plant Collection' of Madagascar.
  • Nebraska Department of Roads
  • Iowa Living Heritage Roadway Trust
  • Nebraska Environmental Trust
  • Sherwood Foundation
  • San Diego County Orchid Society Conservation Fund
  • Mid-America Orchid Congress
  • Association of Zoological Horticulture