Diversity Lost: Using Herbarium specimens to investigate diversity in now extinct populations of Eastern Fringed Prairie Orchid (Platanthera luecophaea)
Habitat fragmentation of Midwestern prairies has lead to the loss of large tracks of once contiguous prairies. Orchids species have been particularly impacted by the loss of their habitat, which is the reason they often considered bio-indicators of high quality ecosystems and are of special conservation concern. Platanthera leucophaea (The Eastern Fringed Prairie Orchid) was once common, but due to a population decline of over 70% was listed as Federally Threatened in 1989. One reason for the disappearance of these orchids is that they are very charismatic species and have been collected for over 100 years. Thankfully some of these specimens have been deposited in herbarium, and they represent the last representative of a lost population. By extracting their DNA and genotyping these herbarium specimens we can comparie them to living samples, to determine if hold diversity which has now been lost.
This internship focus will be investigating the genetic impact range lost. Preserved DNA samples from Herbarium specimens from over 100 years old and new leaf samples will be analyzed using microsatellites. Additional opportunities exist for gaining experience, collecting demographic data, working with volunteers, and outreach through the US Fish and Wildlife Service. This work will directly assist in the recovery of P. leucophaea, informing the species conservation status.