Madagascar | St. Louis Public Radio


The fossa is one of the mammals that scientists are studying in Madagascar.
Fidisoa Rasambainarivo

For nearly three decades, the Whitney R. Harris World Ecology Center at the University of Missouri-St. Louis has bestowed its World Ecology Award on prominent biodiversity-minded individuals ranging from John Denver to E.O. Wilson. But this year the center is instead honoring a pair of world-class local institutions — the Missouri Botanical Garden and the St. Louis Zoo — for their critical research and conservation work in Madagascar.

On Tuesday’s St. Louis on the Air, host Sarah Fenske talked with the center’s interim director, Patty Parker, and with a Malagasy scientist, Fidisoa Rasambainarivo, who is in St. Louis to speak at an upcoming gala where the zoo and garden are being honored.

A rare plant called Dracaena umbraculifera lives in northeastern Madagascar.
Missouri Botanical Garden

DNA technology has helped scientists discover a species of plant in Madagascar that’s long been classified as extinct.

The Missouri Botanical Garden reported Monday in the journal Oryx that researchers found a few populations of the Dracaena umbraculifera. It’s classified as extinct by the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s Red List, but there are specimens living in botanical gardens around the world. Identifying the plant, however, can be tricky because it can only be truly identified by its flowers. It has not flowered in any botanical garden.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, July 8, 2011 - The Earth has more than 300,000 known plant species. With such variety, it's possible to believe that plant conservation is not a priority. But for Porter P. Lowry II, and fellow plant conservation scientists, every one of those different species of plants is crucial for life on Earth.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, May 18, 2011 - Sophie spends much of her day riding piggyback on her mom. This fluffy little coquerel's sifaka lemur is just 4 months old. She is still nursing, but she's beginning to show some curiosity about the food her parents and brother, Titus, 15 months, enjoy. As her confidence grows, she ventures away from mom, but soon leaps back again to her secure seat, wrapping her arms around her mom's neck.

Meeting of botanical minds

Jun 11, 2009

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, June 11, 2009 - "We are saving plants to save ourselves" said Peter Raven. "In an age of global climate change, habitat destruction, population growth, increasing desire for consumption, and rotten technologies throughout the world, institutions like ours have a special responsibility."

"At no other point in history have plants been so important," agreed Stephen D. Hopper, director of the Royal Botanical Gardens at Kew. In a speech at Missouri Botanical Gardens, he equated the movement toward conservation and sustainability with major social transitions such as the abolition of slavery and women's suffrage. Botanical gardens will play a major role in shaping the future, he believes.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, May 11, 2009 - Madagascar. Far-away and exotic. Home of the lemur and the baobab tree. And desperately poor.

"It's a race against the clock," Armand Randrianasolo said when describing Missouri Botanical Garden's research program in Madagascar. Only about 10 percent of Madagascar's original habitat remains intact with more forests being destroyed all the time. As a result, many of the estimated 13,000-14,000 species of native plants may become extinct before they have even been identified.