World’s largest botany conference: “Care for Plants, Care for our Future”

This past summer, museum botany researchers Dr. Lynn Gillespie, Dr. Geoff Levin and I attended the XIX International Botanical Congress (IBC). It’s the world’s largest gathering of plant scientists, and by far the largest scientific conference I’ve ever attended.

A large wall covered in plants displays the name of a conference: “IBC 2017 XIX International Botanical Congress”

An impressive horticultural display at the XIX International Botanical Congress in Shenzhen, China, July 2017. Image: J.M. Saarela, © Canadian Museum of Nature.

For one week in July, more than 7000 botanists, from 77 countries and all disciplines, met in Shenzhen, China for this once-every-six-year event. The theme of the meeting was “Care for Plants, Care for our Future”. Meetings like this one allow researchers to share the latest advances in their science with their peers, to renew acquaintances with colleagues, to make new connections, and to establish new collaborations that advance the plant sciences.

Before the IBC’s main event, the scientific meeting, Lynn, Geoff and I participated in the five-day Nomenclature Section where we debated and voted on revisions to the International Code of Nomenclature for algae, fungi, and plants. “The Code”, as it’s known, is the set of complicated rules that govern how these organisms are named, and is revised every six years at the IBC.

Four people are presenting to a full auditorium. Conference attendees in the auditorium are voting on questions posed during the presentation by raising their hands.

Delegates of the Nomenclature Section at the International Botanical Congress in Shenzhen, China, in July, 2017, vote on a proposal to amend the International Code of Nomenclature of algae, fungi, and plants. Image: J.M. Saarela © Canadian Museum of Nature.

At the scientific meeting, I co-organized a symposium focused on the systematics and phylogeny of major lineages of grasses (Poaceae), economically the world’s most important family of plants.

Lynn and I each delivered symposium talks on our research about evolutionary relationships in different lineages of temperate grasses, bluegrasses and relatives in her case, and bentgrasses, reedgrasses, oatgrasses and their relatives in mine. Lynn and I also presented two posters on the biodiversity of Arctic plants in Canada.

Geoff, president of the Flora of North America Association, delivered a presentation about The Flora of North America project, a 30-volume work that includes taxonomic treatments of all the native and naturalized plants growing in the region.

IBC_pavilions

Pavilions at the XIX International Botanical Congress in Shenzhen, China, July 2017. Image: J.M. Saarela © Canadian Museum of Nature.

At the close of the conference, The Shenzhen Declaration on Plant Sciences was released. The Declaration is a strategic call to action for the plant sciences in the context of rapid environmental change. It is focused on seven priorities that aim to unite all botanical disciplines in pursuit of a green, sustainable future with plants and people existing in harmony.

Performers dance on a stage in front of large images of plants.

A scene from the spectacular welcome performance at the opening ceremony of the XIX International Botanical Congress in Shenzhen, China, July 2017. The scene depicts flowers of peony (Paeonia, Paeoniaceae), which are native to China and have been cultivated there for centuries. Image: J.M. Saarela © Canadian Museum of Nature.

The museum’s botanical research, outreach and education activities align well with the Declaration’s seven priority areas, and we’ll continue to generate and share knowledge about plant biodiversity.

I’m already looking forward to the XX IBC, which will take place in Rio de Janeiro in 2023.

This entry was posted in Botany, Plants and Algae, Species Discovery and Change and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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