UNION — Piedmont Physic Garden (PPG) welcomes Clemson Ph.D student Michael Cope as a summer intern.
Cope, along with Clemson student Hannah Spencer, is spending the summer in Union. He is a second-year Ph.D student involved with several research projects in spatial and computational ecology, specializing in geospatial analyses using advanced geographic information systems (GIS).
“We are tremendously pleased to have an intern of Michael’s calibre,” said PPG Founder Toccoa Switzer. “He’s a real asset and is contributing in so many creative ways.”
Cope’s dissertation research is focused on Cloud-based technologies and mapping platforms to create interactive, photographic plant and soil inventories. He hopes to derive practical methods that will increase the quantity and quality of ecological information available to educators, researchers, and the general public.
He is a summa cum laude of Brevard College with a bachelor of science in environmental studies. In college, he conducted a research project investigating differences in nutrient pollution between forested and urban watersheds on the upper French Broad River. He was named Outstanding Senior in the department of environmental studies in 2015, and currently carries a 4.0 grade point average at Clemson.
Cope is currently the lead author or co-author of several research articles planned for publication within the next year. Topics include quantifying and comparing soil properties with GIS and predicting water quality on the Savannah River.
He is originally from Brevard, North Carolina.
Conservation And Research
By Michael Cope
Botanical gardens need an image update. Sadly, many have the mistaken reputation of housing plants with unpronounceable names on labels we can barely read.
In reality, botanical gardens are global treasures devoted to the culture, study and exhibition of documented collections of living plants. Such is the Piedmont Physic Garden (PPG) in Union, one of only approximately 2,000 botanic gardens worldwide.
The first botanic gardens in the western hemisphere were established in the 16th Century to collect, preserve, and propagate plants with medicinal uses or properties. Their value for scientific research and innovation was quickly realized, as influential scientists like Carl Linnaeus and Gregor Mendel performed some of their most famous work in botanic gardens.
From their discoveries and many others came new foods, fibers, and chemicals that have helped shape the modern world. Today, botanic gardens are increasingly recognized not only for scientific research, but also for species conservation and education on environmental issues. Simply put, botanic gardens are scholarly places for the research and conservation of plants.
There are three types of research that may be conducted at botanic gardens. First, botanic gardens collect taxonomic information on their collections, as well as information on the utility of species for various purposes. Botanic gardens also engage in applied research of propagating and managing living plant specimens. Lastly some botanic gardens are directly involved with research on plant species and their diversity.
Research and conservation is critical. Botanists have identified more than 400,000 species of plants worldwide, and approximately 34,000 are threatened.
Two-thirds of the world’s plant species are in danger of extinction during the 21st Century.
Approximately 50 percent of our medicines are derived from plants, and 25 percent of prescription drugs from tropical forest.
It’s common for garden curators to preserve locally rare or endangered species directly, through the propagation of new plants, or indirectly through methods such as seed-banking (collecting and storing seeds).
In addition to plant research and conservation, PPG, like many gardens, embraces its role as a center for public education. We invite you to visit and participate in our programs, and look forward to sharing our collection with you.
The Piedmont Physic Garden is a 501 (c) (3) organization whose mission is horticultural and environmental education for children, teens and adults in Union County and the surrounding Piedmont region of South Carolina.
Michael Cope is a Ph.D student at Clemson University, and a summer intern at PPG.