The Chicago Botanic Garden and Northwestern University announced a doctorate program in plant biology and conservation, in response to the urgent need to train scientists who will embark on a far-reaching course to address pressing conservation issues.

“We are in a global extinction crisis. Biodiversity is facing more threats than it ever has,” said Dr. Kayri Havens, director of plant science and conservation at the Chicago Botanic Garden. “There is great need for a graduate program that will bring more scientists into the field of studying plant diversity, since this is the foundation of all ecosystems.”

According to the World Conservation Union, 30 percent of the world’s plants are threatened with extinction by 2050. Students will have the opportunity to gain experience, skills, and knowledge to become scholars, leaders and practitioners, in the effort to stem the loss of plant life worldwide.

“This is an effort to find global solutions. With the creation of the doctorate program, the Garden will be a national home to far-reaching education and research programs, able to train professionals in a variety of plant science disciplines, which are critical to the Garden’s mission to save the plants and save the planet,” said Sophia Siskel, president and CEO of the Chicago Botanic Garden.

The program begins in fall 2009 and will be housed in the Daniel F. and Ada L. Rice Plant Conservation Science Center at the Chicago Botanic Garden. Ground was broken on the Rice Science Center in June of 2008.

When completed in the fall of 2009, the 38,000 square-foot Rice Science Center will serve as an international center for plant conservation research providing a world-class teaching and state-of-the-art laboratory facility designed specifically to meet the needs of students and teachers.

In 2005, the Garden partnered with Northwestern University to create a Master’s degree program in plant biology and conservation. Since the program’s inception, twenty-one students have enrolled; five have graduated and are currently pursuing careers in the fields of plant conservation or are attending doctorate programs.

“The resources of Northwestern University and the Chicago Botanic Garden complement one another to create a learning environment that could not be duplicated by either one alone,” said Northwestern University Provost Daniel Linzer.

The doctorate program will provide a foundation in plant ecology, evolution and biology and in applied plant conservation theory and methods. The program offers advanced courses taught by distinguished faculty members and scientists from the Chicago Botanic Garden and Northwestern University. The program includes over 15 teaching and research faculty from Chicago Botanic Garden and Northwestern in fields such as ecology, population genetics, restoration ecology, invasive plant biology, pollination biology, plant evolution, taxonomy, paleontology and climate change. The doctorate program will offer a comprehensive scholastic program that contributes to the field of plant biology. Students typically should complete the degree in five years.