New College of Florida and Marie Selby Botanical Gardens have established a formal collaboration between the education and research departments with a focus on plant science, conservation and public outreach.
The agreement, finalized in November, sets a path for sharing research facilities, providing international internship opportunities to students and adjunct positions for staff to work for both organizations.

Bruce Holst, director of botany at Selby Gardens, and New College student Elena Meyer categorize fern specimens from Belize.

“Working with Selby Gardens’ international group of plant scientists will enhance New College’s biological sciences program,” said Dr. Donal O’Shea, president of New College. “Plant biology is a vast, rapidly changing area with new discoveries that are transforming our knowledge of the world, and botanical research greatly impacts global and local conservation and sustainability efforts.”
The agreement also assists Selby Gardens by offering opportunities for project collaboration – an area key to scientific funding.
“By working with a national leading college with a focus on earth and life sciences, Selby Gardens can share its 40 years of scientific study with a larger, more diverse audience,” said Jennifer O. Rominiecki, president and CEO of Selby Gardens. “Collaboration is valued in all academic and scientific circles, and we’re excited to be able to formalize this agreement.”
Students of New College will have the opportunity to meet professional scientists visiting Selby Gardens each year to conduct research and collaborate with other botanists. Students will also have the opportunity to apply for internship positions with Selby Gardens. Selby Gardens staff will co-supervise undergraduate research students. The two institutions will also allow access to the laboratory, museum, library and field research facilities for staff from both organizations.
The partnership will be overseen by Dr. Brad Oberle, assistant professor of biology at New College, and Bruce K. Holst, director of botany at Selby Gardens.
Concurrent with this agreement is the announcement of the $25,000 annual Calusa Prize, to be awarded by Selby Gardens via an anonymous donor to students in degree programs at New College in the area of horticulture or botany, public garden management, research, collection management, preservation or documentation including art and photography. The prize will be awarded annually to multiple students who will also complete an internship with Selby Gardens.
“The Calusa Prize will give aspiring students the opportunity to pursue critical research, management and creative paths enabling higher visibility to programs at both the Gardens and the College and emphasizing the strength of the relationship between our organizations,” Rominiecki said.
Selby Gardens’ scientific staff are considered world-leading authorities in the study of epiphytic plants. Its botanists carry out research in a Sarasota laboratory and greenhouses, and travel throughout the tropics and subtropics of the Americas to study plants. They have discovered or described more than 2,000 plant species previously unknown to science.
The Gardens’ botany department specializes in botanical inventory, classification (of Bromeliaceae, Gesneriaceae and Orchidaceae using morphology and molecular biology), and conservation with emphasis on New World epiphytes and their forest canopy habitats. Selby Botanical Gardens Press has published Selbyana, a peer-reviewed research journal, since 1975.

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