5 January 2010
Dear GRC and Selby Supporters and Friends,
It is with great reservation and a degree of sadness that I must inform you of my resignation as Director of the Gesneriad Research Center and Head of Molecular Programs at Selby Gardens. My decision to leave was a difficult one, owing to my long history with Selby and my fondness for its mission and staff. On February 1st, I begin my new position as Senior Plant Ecologist for the Catalina Island Conservancy in California (www.catalinaconservancy.org).
While at Selby and even before, my intention was to advance the mission of the Gardens and The Gesneriad Society, ideally at the same time. The goal was to build institutional capacity at Selby beyond a specific project or even a specific plant group. Rather, research at Selby would be modeled after other successful botanical garden research programs where scholarship through research and graduate-level training fuel continued advancements. With financial backing from members and supporters of The Gesneriad Society and the Institute of Museum and Library Services, we were able to make great headway in this regard. I was able to forge a solid research program at Selby complete with the first ever molecular research laboratory in the Gardens' history.
I also made great advances in establishing collaborative ties with regional and international institutions, ties that would be vital to establishing a graduate-level training program at the Gardens. Also in the vein of collaboration and education, we held the World Gesneriad Research Conference 2010 at Selby Gardens this last October which I had the honor of chairing. One of the greatest highlights of my career to date, WGRC 2010 was a resounding success with excellent participation of scientists, students, and enthusiasts from around the world. We accomplished much over the last two and a half years and I am proud to say that I was a part of it.
Despite my leaving Selby Gardens, I remain a supporter and proponent of Selby as an institution of learning and scholarship. Selby has always had great potential and I am continually amazed at the breadth and quality of research (and botanists) that Selby has produced over the last 35 years. This legacy has never been attached to an individual or even a group of people. It is the product of a founding wisdom and a collective realization that there is something profound tucked away on the Bay in Sarasota. Now more than ever, Selby Gardens needs your support. I encourage all of you to take a more active role in the future of the Marie Selby Botanical Gardens.
The Gesneriad Society also needs our allegiance. TGS, as much or more so than any other lay plant society, supports research both financially and intellectually. I am a direct product of this support: from my early days curating the Wiehler collections at Selby, to my graduate research involving expeditions around the world, to the GRC and gesneriad research at Selby Gardens, TGS has been there. Please consider what you can do to help keep The Gesneriad Society strong and viable well into the 21st Century. Current and future students of Gesneriaceae are depending on it.
As for me, it is difficult to leave behind the GRC and Selby Gardens, but I am thrilled to embark on this new endeavor with the Conservancy. My role as Senior Plant Ecologist will be multifaceted and allow me the opportunity to utilize my various skills in support of the Conservancy's mission in conservation and sustainability. I also will be continuing my role as a member of the Board of Directors for The Gesneriad Society and will remain the program coordinator for the Gesneriad Conservation Alliance. The next several years promise to be very busy but incredibly rewarding.
I wish to personally thank Selby Gardens, The Gesneriad Society, and all the individuals who have supported me as I have grown as a scientist and researcher. I hope to see many of you often at gesneriad meetings and events as well as scientific conferences and the like. Of course, you are all invited to visit Catalina whenever you want to see firsthand what the next chapter in my life is all about.
John R. Clark