In November 2012, Drs. Zettler and Steven M. Gardner (Professor of Modern Languages), met with Cuban orchid expert, Dr. Ernesto Mujica, at a conference in Guayaquil, Ecuador. This meeting led to an exciting ongoing collaboration between Illinois College and researchers at Soroa Orchid Garden/University of Pinar del Rio in Cuba. Currently, we are studying the rare Ghost Orchid (Dendrophylax lindenii
) in Guanahacabibes National Park (Cuba), and comparing data to those in the Florida Panther National Wildlife Refuge
By studying this species in both countries and sharing data, we are developing a conservation management plan aimed at this orchid’s long-term survival. In the next decade, we hope to work together to collect and safeguard orchid seed and mycorrhizal fungi from orchids in both countries, and to develop propagation protocols that will involve Illinois College students in both S Florida and Cuba (Soroa). This mutual collaboration was officially recognized during a signing ceremony in Cuba in January 2016
, in the form of a memorandum of understanding (MOU), signed by Illinois College’s President, Dr. Barbara Farley, and her counterpart at the University of Pinar del Rio, Dr. C. Yorki Mayor Hernández. Illinois College was the first college/university from the United States to sign such an agreement with this prestigious Cuban university. Illinois College students who speak some level of Spanish, or are willing to learn Spanish, are encouraged to take part in this exciting research.