What’s Happening at the K.C. Irving Environmental Science Centre: Seeds for the future

What’s Happening at the K.C. Irving Environmental Science Centre: Seeds for the future
Robin Browne, Propagation Specialist

The K.C. Irving Environmental Science Centre at Acadia University not only houses a collection of dried plant specimens within the Irving Biodiversity Collection’s E. C. Smith Herbarium, it is also home to a seed bank of native plant species from the Acadian Forest Region. The storage of seed is considered an important conservation strategy for preserving biodiversity and protecting our native plants for the future well-being of the planet. Factors like human population increase, habitat loss, disease outbreaks, competition from invasive species, and climate change continue to threaten native plant species around the world, with an ever-increasing number becoming at risk of extinction. Seed banks help to provide a long term, stable source of plants for research, restoration, or reintroduction as needed.

In 2013, research activity began at the K.C. Irving Environmental Science Centre to expand the seed bank program for the Irving Biodiversity Collection, in keeping with global initiatives for conservation of plant species. Since then, more than 45 species have been added to the program, several of which are currently considered rare or endangered. Because seed from many temperate region species can tolerate drying and exposure to low temperatures, it is possible to store them for long periods without significant loss of viability. Ongoing research and testing will continue to develop methods for effective storage, germination and regeneration from an increasing number of our native plant species in the maritimes.

April Muirhead joined our conservation team in August 2017 as the Environment Canada seed bank intern, and will be responsible for research, education, and communication activity over this period. April is well-qualified for this role, with a degree in environmental science from MUN, and an education degree from Acadia University. Other members of the Acadia seed bank team include; Dr. Allison Walker, Dr. Rodger Evans, Dr. Dave Kristie, students Jacqueline Bradbury, Tyler D’Entremont, Riley Scanlon, Ryann Jinks, Stephanie Tanner, and Rachel Murray, as well as the Friends of the Acadian Forest volunteers.