Jess is a qualified ecologist who works as a Technical Officer for the Terrestrial Orchid Conservation Project at the Australian PlantBank. This project requires the establishment of experiments to better understand how to effectively germinate threatened orchid species that are notoriously difficult to germinate ex situ.
Jess’ role is both field based and laboratory based. In the field, Jess assists with collection of seed, pollinia, soil mycorrhizae and vouchers from wild plants. Since some target orchid species have reduced population sizes, cross-pollination is also attempted to increase the genetic diversity of collections. Days in the field are often long and several kilometres may be trekked through rugged terrain, before suitable candidate plants are located!
In the PlantBank laboratory, Jess is responsible for processing and packaging orchid seed collections and establishing germination trials, primarily through soil baiting. Since terrestrial orchid seeds require an association with mycorrhizal fungi to germinate, the role also includes working in the tissue culture lab to isolate fungal cultures from pelotons contained within live orchid tissue.
Current experiments are focused on seed surface sterilization techniques, optimising growing media, and methods for sowing seeds in situ.
Wilmott L., Schlunke J., Renner M., Wait J., and Sommerville K.D. (2019) Hand-pollination increases seed set in the critically endangered orchid Thelymitra kangaloonica.Cunninghamia 19:091-095, doi:10.7751/cunninghamia.2019.19.007