JARS v64n1 - Announcement of ARS Research Grants

Announcement of ARS Research Grants

Research Grants Awarded in 2009
The Research Committee recommended that the Research Foundation of the American Rhododendron Society provide funding for the following three proposals in 2009:

#09-1 Molecular studies of Rhododendron subgenus Vireya: implications for international programs in conservation collection management and plant development. $4,960

Dr. Susan E. Gardiner/Davis
The New Zealand Institute for Plant and Food Research Limited
Palmerston North, New Zealand

Summary of Proposal
The researchers will use both molecular and conventional taxonomic methods to investigate the diversity of Rhododendron subgenus Vireya (vireyas) in New Zealand and the USA and then examine the diversity in relation to conservation, cultivation and plant development. This project will take two years to complete. The first phase is a survey to build a database and literature review to support taxonomic and molecular research. The second phase will be to use molecular markers, specifically DNA, to examine the broader range of vireyas in the Rhododendron Species Botanical Garden as well as in New Zealand with the goal of determining the value of conserving vireyas that may be endangered of being lost in the wild.

#09-2 Conservation and reintroduction of rare, endemic, and endangered rhododendron species in the Indian Eastern Himalayas. $5,000

Dr. Shaily Menon
Biology Department
Grand Valley State University
Allendale, MI 49401

Summary of Proposal
The proposed work will focus on the Eastern Himalayan Region of Arunachal Pradesh state of India. Rhododendrons are the most dominant of the high-altitude flowering plants ranging in elevations from 1500 m to 4500 m. Approximately 72 Rhododendron species and 19 varieties are known to India. The study involves extensive field surveys of temperate and alpine forests. The goal is to prepare distribution maps of selected endemic and rare or threatened rhododendron species and identify limiting ecological factors limiting their distributions. This is a two year study with the second year to involve predictive models of species distributions and probable sites will be surveyed in the field to validate the accuracy of the models. The research hopes to make significant contributions to building conservation action plans for the management of habitat and biodiversity conservation.

#09-3 Creating new hybrid rhododendrons for improved fragrance, fragrance in yellows, oranges and purples, handsome foliage and heat tolerance. $5,000

Kristi O'Donnell, Director
Meerkerk Rhododendron Gardens
Greenbank, WA 98253

Summary of Proposal
Meerkerk Rhododendron Gardens, founded in 1961, has been involved with hybridizing rhododendrons since the 1970s. The project's objective is to create fragrant hybrid rhododendrons with uniquely pigmented flowers and handsome foliage with a tolerance of drier summer soils. On Whidbey Island, because it is in a rain-shadow, summers are drier than surrounding regions. Some crosses will use R. macrophyllum in the hopes that hybrids will be more tolerant of drier conditions. The public is also often unaware that many rhododendrons are fragrant. If the goal is obtained of developing hybrids with fragrance in colors such as yellow, orange or deep purple, good looking form and foliage as well as tolerance of drier soils, then this would help the broader promotion of rhododendrons.