Christina Varnava

“The wise man is one who never sets himself apart from other living things, whether they have speech or not, and in later years he strove long to learn what can be learned, in silence, from the eyes of animals, the flight of birds, the great slow gestures of trees.”
— Ursula K. Le Guin, “A Wizard of Earthsea”

Christina Varnava is the Living Collections curator at Santa Barbara Botanic Garden. She helps make decisions about the plants that are added to the Living Collection and manages nearly 100 years of records for the thousands of plants that are part of the Collection. The information in these records is vital to the Garden’s mission. It allows staff to make informed decisions about new acquisitions, propagation, and plantings — and allows the Living Collection to be used as a tool for conservation and research.

Christina studied botany and received a master’s degree from Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden and Claremont Graduate University. For her master’s research, she worked on a floristic study of the upper Sespe Creek watershed in the Los Padres National Forest in Ventura County, allowing her lots of hands-on experience with the diverse plants of the western Transverse Ranges. Prior to that, she attended California State Polytechnic University, Pomona, and received a bachelor’s degree in biology with a concentration in botany. Christina has a strong connection to natural history collections. Prior to graduate school she worked in the herbarium at RSA-POM, which is one of the largest herbaria in the country.

Christina is passionate about almost everything that photosynthesizes and even a few things that don’t. She loves the varied and beautiful landscapes of California and is an advocate for conservation of chaparral, one of the most misunderstood and under-appreciated habitats in California. Additionally, she is passionate about fighting human-caused climate change and addressing its devastating effects.

When not at the Garden, Christina enjoys many activities including getting lost in a good book, playing tabletop games, baking, and going camping with her dog, Hollyhock.


Living Collections Curator
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