Orchid Recovery Program

Illinois College is a leader in orchid conservation efforts worldwide, under the direction of Lawrence Zettler, Professor of Biology.

The Mission of the Orchid Recovery Program at Illinois College is to integrate undergraduate student learning with the conservation of the world’s rarest orchids. The Program seeks to instill in its students an appreciation for our planet’s natural resources, and provide the basic tools for lifelong learning, stewardship, and service.

Current Projects 

Illinois College students practice orchid conservation in both the laboratory and field. Many students carry out research projects in remote natural areas here in North America (e.g., Florida Panther National Wildlife Refuge) and also abroad (e.g., Madagascar). Laboratory-based research projects frequently involve using state-of-the-art molecular techniques in Dr. Laura Corey’s laboratory in the Parker Science Building. Research on a continental level is closely tied (coordinated) with the North American Orchid Conservation Center based at the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center in Maryland.

Current projects include: 

  • Long-term monitoring of rare Ghost Orchid (Dendrophylax lindenii) populations in both south Florida and Cuba; 
  • Seed germination trials involving two U.S. Federally listed orchids (Peristylus holochila in Hawaii, Platanthera integrilabia from the SE USA);  
  • Recovery of mycorrhizal fungi from the U.S. Federally threatened Eastern Prairie Fringed Orchid, Platanthera leucophaea, from Midwestern prairies; 
  • Lab and field-based research in the Andes Mountains in Ecuador in collaboration with the University of Cuenca; 
  • Orchid conservation in the south Pacific (Republic of Palau) with scientists at the Smithsonian Institution and other partners.  

During 2012-2016, orchid conservation in Madagascar was successfully completed in a joint research effort with specialists from the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew (UK) and Kew Madagascar Conservation Centre.

For more information regarding current projects, please visit the Orchid Recovery program page here.

The Lab 

Our laboratory is housed in room 132 of the Parker Science building, built in 2002. The lab is equipped with a sterile hood, microscopes, orchid library, computers, and personal desk space for two undergraduate students. Seedlings grown in vitro on Petri plates are cultivated in our building’s Sterile Room and/or in a climate-controlled growth chamber. Deflasked (ex vitro) seedlings are then transferred to the Parker Science greenhouse on the roof of the building, prior to reintroduction in natural habitats.