Botany, Conservation & Research, Education
September 7, 2022

Summer Virtual Lecture Series 2022: Climate Change and Native Plants

Hummingbird Sage, photo/Denise Dewire


This summer, the Garden hosted a series of talks called Summer Virtual Lecture Series. In the series, our team of scientists presented information and research about the twin threats of biodiversity loss and climate disruption as a result of human activities, plus how we are coming to understand them, and what we can do to mitigate them. Each virtual lecture presented a different topic related to biodiversity, climate change and California’s native plants, birds and insects. 

The Summer Virtual Series began in June when our Living Collections Curator, Christina Varnava, gave an insightful overview of the Garden’s plant collection and how it supports our biodiversity and climate change research. As our Living Collections Curator, Christina works to keep track of the plants in our collection through inventories and assessments. Many of the plants and seeds in our collections are accessioned material, like the books in a library. These plants serve as important research tools used to study genetics, biology, and ecology.

July’s talk was by Director of Education Scot Pipkin, who presented “Gardening for B’s” on how to attract pollinators like butterflies, bees, and birds to your home garden. Scot Pipkin was born and raised in San Diego, California. After attending UCLA and receiving a degree in Geography with an emphasis in biogeography, he has spent his career acquiring and sharing an understanding of the natural world that emphasizes the interconnections that surround us.

Hummingbird visiting Columbine, photo/Lynn Watson

In September, Three Garden Researchers Share Their Work  

On Friday, September 16 the series will culminate with a presentation by three garden staff members relating to their research.

Kylie Etter, Garden Conservation Technician, focuses on what insects contribute to the environment, how they are affected by human environmental impacts and climate change (especially their present and future decline), and her current projects at the Garden.

Kylie works with the Conservation Department on various projects focusing on insect-plant interactions, habitat restoration and monitoring, and rare plant conservation research. She earned her bachelor’s degree in ecology and her master’s in biology from the University of California, San Diego. Her field experience is mainly focused on plant-pollinator interactions across the canyons of San Diego, on Santa Catalina Island, and on Santa Cruz Island.

Keith Nevison, the Garden’s Director of Operations and Horticulture, explores the role of native plant cultivars (products of plant breeding) called nativars in an ecological landscape. He shares his master’s research for the genus Phlox and discusses why nativars should or should not be used in ecological landscaping.

Keith recently joined the Garden from Virginia, here he served as the farm & natural resource manager at Bundoran Farm, stewarding 2,300 acres (930 hectares) of pastures, forests, and natural areas for a community association. He previously managed Monticello’s Thomas Jefferson Center for Historic Plants and launched the Monticello Center for Food and Farming, and was the cohost of Virginia Public Media series “Virginia Home Grown”. He obtained his master’s degree in public horticulture through the Longwood Graduate Program at the University of Delaware.

The talk by Zach Phillips, Ph.D., the Garden Terrestrial Invertebrate Conservation Ecologist, focuses on an invasive species that is the subject of his current research, and the relationship between invasion biology and climate change.

Zach studies invertebrate ecology and diversity in California, from the Channel Islands to residential backyards. He explores invertebrate communities associated with plants and those hidden in plain sight, including communities of insects and spiders that live in dead wood, bird nests, beach wrack, and ant colonies. Phillips received his bachelor’s degree in zoology from University of California, Santa Barbara, and his doctorate in integrative biology from University of Texas at Austin.

Tree Rings Scientist Talk on “Climate Change and Drought Extremes” on Friday, August 19

The third talk in the series was given by dendrochronologist (scientist who studies tree rings) Daniel Griffin, Ph.D., Assistant Professor of Geography at the University of Minnesota. His work focuses on the correlation between tree rings and precipitation – going back 1,200 years. In his lecture, Daniel Griffin connected the dots between humans, climate change, extreme drought, and native plants in the Golden State and what has been discovered about our changing climate, not only in the past but into the future.

Registration is open for the final lecture on Friday, September 16, held online from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. The cost for the public is $12 and $10 for Garden members. Once registered, participants receive an email with Zoom link. To register, click the button below.

Grey squirrel, Redwood Section, photo/Denise Dewire

Stream Past Talks

Gardening for B’s | Director of Education Scot Pipkin

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