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Science

Science at RBG

Science is the process of discovery! Since its early days in the 1940s, Royal Botanical Gardens has been part of exciting discoveries in botany, ecology, and related fields, and many outside researchers have undertaken research at RBG too. Just like botanical gardens around the world, RBG works to generate new knowledgeOur staff use science to support the management of our natural areas, gardens and horticultural collections and to enrich our many educational and outreach activities for our visitors and the public.  

Royal Botanical Gardens’ Science Department brings together many unique and rich information resources for the rest of RBG and for outside specialists and the public. Our goal is to generate new knowledge about plants, ecology, RBG’s own history and landscape, and the history of gardening and horticulture in Canada. In addition to science staff, we rely heavily upon the assistance and expertise of a range of volunteers 

The programs and collections of the department are the library and archives, Centre for Canadian Historical Horticultural Studies, field botany and herbarium, plant taxonomy and research, and botanical conservation information. In addition, the department has important roles in building and maintaining relationships, including as liaison with universities and external researchers, and with Indigenous communities, and serving as the Secretariat of the Cootes to Escarpment EcoPark System. From this page you can learn more about what happens in the science department, how to make use of our collections and other resources, and if you are a researcher, how to work with us and apply for permission to undertake your own projects at RBG. 

Science Projects & Departments

Herbarium & Field Botany

An herbarium is a collection of dried plant specimens carefully preserved, labelled, and arranged for reference. Today, RBG’s Herbarium (known internationally as HAM) houses approximately 60, 000 vascular plant specimens, and is quite unique as it includes both wild and cultivated plants. Over 1,500 genera, from 230 families, are represented within the collection. The herbarium is like an index or dictionary for the plant biodiversity at Royal Botanical Gardens! The herbarium is the base for our field botany program, the on-going documentation of plant species at RBG, a natural biodiversity hotspot!  

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Library & Archives

RBG’s library includes about 12,000 books and 1,700 serials titles. Our archival collections are divided into two major sections. These include the corporate archive, the record of RBG’s own history and activities, and the collections of the Centre for Canadian Historical Horticultural Studies, which help tell the story of the development of gardens and horticulture in Canada.

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Plant Taxonomy and Research

Botanical and ecological research at Royal Botanical Gardens began in the 1950s. Our longest research program is in the taxonomy of the Gentian family, a large and diverse group of flowering plants. In the past RBG staff have also been involved in breeding new plant cultivars, managing extensive horticultural plant registries such as that for Lilacs (genus Syringa), studying the diversity of plant species, and researching the recovery of endangered plants like Red Mulberry (Morus rubra) and few-flowered club rush (Trichophorum planifolium), growing naturally on RBG’s own properties.

For Visiting Researchers

From archaeology to zoology, visiting researchers have been making discoveries about the plants, land, history, ecology, and cultural heritage of Royal Botanical Gardens for many decades. Royal Botanical Gardens welcomes visiting researchers. We do require that visiting researchers work with us to obtain approval of any project. We do make sure that anything that’s being done by researchers (including classroom groups from tertiary educational institutions) outside of what’s normal for recreational use of the trails, gardens, or waters of RBG will be safe and respectful of the people here, and the biological, and cultural resources we steward.

Building Bridges for Biodiversity

The natural lands at Royal Botanical Gardens are among the richest in all of Canada for plant species diversity, and a wide range of wildlife call them home too. Starting in the 1980s RBG has been part of efforts to apply the many capabilities of botanical gardens to the challenges of conserving biodiversity, especially in Canada. Botanical gardens around the world have been working on these challenges for many decades, and applying a variety of programs to help preserve and use sustainably the world’s plant species richness.

Resources

Select the links below to download documents (PDF format for Adobe Acrobat Reader):

Support Science at RBG

These projects are possible thanks to the generous support of RBG Members and donors. With a donation to Growing up Green, you can ensure an active, vibrant and healthy future for the children of today and tomorrow through our horticultural and conservation projects.

Read More from the Science Team

Read more about the thoughts and projects of RBG’s dedicated Science team! Find more interesting articles and announcements at rbg.ca/blog

Periurban Biodiversity – Why does it Matter?

May 20, 2021

By Dr. David Galbraith, Head of Science, Royal Botanical Gardens. Saturday 22 May is International Day for Biological Diversity 2021, and it’s a great time ...

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Happy Birthday Aleksander Tamsalu!

April 26, 2021

By Dr. David Galbraith, Head of Science, Royal Botanical Gardens Wednesday 28 April 2021 is the 130th birthday of Aleksander Tamsalu, Royal Botanical Gardens’ first ...

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What’s in the Water at Cootes Paradise Marsh

April 23, 2021

By Tys Theysmeyer, Head of Natural Lands, Royal Botanical Gardens. What’s in the water? The answer is an ever-changing array of things. That said, most ...

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Heating Degrees and Phenology

April 17, 2021

By Dr. David Galbraith, Head of Science, Royal Botanical Gardens. Flowers are coming out weeks early this year, and there’s a hot reason why. All ...

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The Rise and Fall of our Wetlands

March 29, 2021

By Tys Theysmeyer, Head of Natural Lands, Royal Botanical Gardens. Lots of people are wondering what happened to all the water in Cootes Paradise Marsh this ...

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Botanicult Fiction: The Secret Sounds of Spores

March 10, 2021

By Alex Henderson, Curator of Living Collections, Royal Botanical Gardens Header image: Secret Sounds of Spores, Inspace, installation view screen capture. The Secret Sounds of Spores ...

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Growing a Community: Seed Sharing

March 5, 2021

By Erin Aults, Library and Archives Specialist, Royal Botanical Gardens. If you are like me, you are eagerly awaiting the new, seemingly delicate green that ...

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In Search of the First Flower

February 10, 2021

By Dr. David Galbraith, Head of Science, Royal Botanical Gardens. Flowers are everywhere in our world today. The majestic Magnolias, Lilacs, and Roses are all ...

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World Environment Day: “Celebrate Biodiversity”

June 5, 2020

By Dr. David Galbraith, Head of Science, Royal Botanical Gardens Every year on June 5 is World Environment Day, and in 2020 the theme is ...

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Royal Botanical Gardens as a Museum of the Land

May 15, 2020

By Dr. David Galbraith, Head of Science, Royal Botanical Gardens Monday May 18, 2020 is International Museum Day. Museums today are much more exciting and ...

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