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MoBot symposium focuses on Caucasus region

By Anna Vitale

St. Louis – For countries in the former Soviet Union, a collaboration with the Missouri Botanical Garden may lead to greater protections for endangered species in Eurasia. Researchers and scientists from countries such as Russia and Georgia will be gathering this week at the garden to discuss a comprehensive list of endangered species in the Caucasus Mountain range.

This is the first time many of these researchers will set foot in the United States. Research in the Caucasus was restricted under Communist rule, and the region has been the scene of violent territorial clashes since the fall of the Soviet Union.

"Plants do not recognize political borders, they grow everywhere," said Tatiana Shulkina, a Russian researcher and the project's associate curator. She called the symposium critical to saving plant life in the region.

"It is very important for Caucasian people to make decisions together about these plants."

Researchers say that the comprehensive list of species they've compiled will help enact legislation to protect endangered species in the Caucasus.

Many of the researchers say they look at the Missouri garden as an example of what to strive for in botanical research and science.

"Many of them have never been to the United States before so this is our opportunity to show them in person the institution that we are, the city where we're located, and the area that surrounds us," said James Solomon, the garden's herbarium curator.