Opportunities in Science

Rare Plant RaMP Program

Applications are now open through Friday, March 15

Content Detail

The Rare Plant RaMP (Research and Mentoring for Post-Baccalaureates in Biological Sciences) program is a one-year research experience intended for individuals who have completed a bachelor’s degree, but who were not able to participate intensively in research. Those interested in gaining research and professional development experience in botany, plant science, or conservation are encouraged to apply.

This program encourages applications from individuals from demographic groups that have historically been excluded from STEM, first generation scholars, and those from under-resourced institutions.

This specific Rare Plant RaMP program will be dispersed across four separate botanic gardens in the continental United States: The Morton Arboretum, Atlanta Botanic Garden, California Botanic Garden, and San Diego Botanic Garden.

Mentees in this geographically distributed, research-focused program will have direct guidance from a mentor and co-mentors as they establish their research in the area of rare plant science and conservation. This RaMP will allow mentees to perform and lead both independent and collaborative research and to strengthen their ability to communicate science to other researchers, to policymakers, and to the general public.

Program dates: August 2024 through July 2025

Application deadline: Friday, March 15, 2024

Access the application >


Partner Institutions

Four public gardens collaborate to diversify the STEM workforce through the Rare Plant RaMP program.

Atlanta Botanic Garden

California Botanic Garden

The Morton Arboretum

San Diego Botanic Garden

Application Requirements

Complete the online ETAP application, including two reference letters, a recent resume or CV, and a cover letter. In your resume or CV, highlight any previous research and work experience. The cover letter should describe your career goals related to plant conservation and research interests in greater detail, how this program will influence your professional development in research, and indicate your preference regarding botanic gardens, mentors, or specific projects. This is the best way to show us what you have accomplished that has been interesting to you, and how that may translate into this research experience.

Program contact: Melissa Natividade, mnatividade@atlantabg.org


Individuals who are from groups historically excluded from STEM, first-generation college students, and students from low-income households are highly encouraged to apply.

Individuals cannot be currently enrolled or accepted into a graduate program or beyond.

Participants must have completed a baccalaureate college degree before participating in the program. Applicants must also apply to the program within four years of completing a bachelor’s degree, with extensions allowed for family, medical leave, or military service.

Applicants must be US citizens, US nationals, or permanent residents of the United States.

Program Offerings

Research experience: Actively engage in a yearlong intensive research program under the guidance of a mentor and co-mentors around the theme of rare plant research.

Networkwide meetings: Every other week, mentees and their peers will lead discussion sessions focusing on reading primary literature, research skills and ethics, science communication, professional development, and career trajectories.

Exchange visits and workshops: Mentees will visit other academic, government, or industry labs to further their professional goals and attend relevant workshops.

Annual program symposium: Yearly, the Rare Plant RaMP Network will meet at one of the participating gardens to engage in a weeklong scientific conference-style symposium. Mentees will participate in field work, workshops, and panel discussions, and they will present their research to their peers and mentors.

Center for Plant Conservation (CPC) conference: All mentees and their mentors will attend the annual CPC Conference. Mentees will present their research, while also networking with other experts in their fields of interest.

Science communication: Mentees will lead a science communication project around a topic of their choice.

Yearly stipend: $40,000 salary with benefits; specific benefits will vary at each botanic garden. A $1,000 moving stipend will be also provided at the start of the position to assist with relocation expenses. In addition, participants will access a $10,000 research stipend to complete their research project. All travel expenses for conferences, symposia, workshops, and exchange visits will be covered by the program.

Example Mentee Projects

The Morton Arboretum, Lisle, Illinois

Mentors: Dr. Silvia Alvarez-Clare, is the director of the Global Tree Conservation Program at The Morton Arboretum. Kate Good is a research assistant II and species prioritization officer in the program.

Description: The Global Tree Conservation Program (GTCP) team at The Morton Arboretum focuses on preventing extinction of threatened tree species with particular focus on oak ecosystems (genus Quercus). They work with local partners to conduct demographic studies, population surveys, ecological field experiments, seedling propagation trials, and spatial distribution models that inform needed conservation actions (e.g., ecological niche models, potential distribution models). Participants will collaborate with the GTCP team by developing their research projects within the context of one of our existing projects:

  • Incorporating threatened and rare oaks in restoration plantings in California
  • Creating conservation groves for threatened oaks in the Southeastern United States
  • Safeguarding threatened oak ecosystems in Mesoamerican cloud forests, or
  • Integrated conservation of the critically endangered shrub Guaiacum unijugum in Baja California Sur, Mexico. 

Although the participant will be based at The Morton Arboretum, they will travel to field locations to gather data and work with in situ partners. Arboretum field sites are in Southern California, Mexico, and Costa Rica. In addition to research, the student will learn about how to prioritize species for conservation action, conservation action planning, and communicating science to a broad audience.

Mentor: Sean Hoban, PhD, is a tree conservation biologist at The Morton Arboretum. His research focuses on gathering the knowledge about genetics, geography, and ecology of plants, to help foster species’ resilience in times of change.

Description: Hoban’s team develops knowledge to help better conserve plants in the wild and in botanic gardens, using the fields of genetics, biogeography, population biology, and computational biology. They work to understand how past environmental change has impacted species distributions and genetic diversity, and develop advice for botanic gardens and guidance for conservation policy to help foster species’ adaptive capacity. Mentee projects could include 

  • Use simulations or analysis of genomic data to determine how to best sample seed from populations of rare plants to conserve them in botanic gardens (as in Rosenberger et al 2021 and Backs et al 2020).
  • Use DNA analysis to understand hybridization among species in order to evaluate whether hybridization can help or hinder species survival (as in Hoban et al 2012).
  • Gather data from diverse sources to better understand genetic diversity using demographic and geographic data, to help prioritize species most in need of conservation interventions (as in Mastretta-Yanes et al 2023). 

This is the right lab for you if you have interests in genetic conservation, geography, data science, computer science, or species’ threat assessments. This group also has a strong emphasis on teamwork and science communication.

Atlanta Botanical Garden, Atlanta, Georgia

Mentor: Lauren Eserman, PhD, is a research scientist in the Conservation and Research Department at Atlanta Botanical Garden. Her research focuses on phylogenetics and population genetics of rare plants of the Southeastern United States and the crop wild relatives of sweet potato.

Description: In the Conservation Genetics Lab at Atlanta Botanical Garden, the main focus is population genomic and phylogenomic studies of rare and endangered species. Many of these plants are threatened with extinction if proper management and safeguarding does not occur. Information on genetic diversity and population structure is critical for understanding whether species will be resilient in the face of future pressures such as habitat destruction or climate change. This group works closely with conservation practitioners to address questions about species with the most urgent needs. One specific project that a RaMP scholar could focus on is the North American carnivorous pitcher plant group, the Sarracenia rubra complex. Most taxa in this group are in need of conservation intervention, but species boundaries are unclear. This project will integrate population genetics and morphology to better understand species and subspecies boundaries to enhance conservation efforts in the Southeastern United States.

Mentor: Emily Coffey, PhD, is the vice president for conservation and research at the Atlanta Botanical Garden where she provides guiding strategies for ongoing conservation efforts. She is also an adjunct assistant professor at Emory University and at Georgia Institute of Technology.

Description: Applied conservation of threatened species in the southeastern United States.

This project will have three foci including community ecology, seed banking dynamics, and conservation horticulture of several southeastern endangered species including Isotria medeoloides, Rhododendron chapmanii, Spiraea virginiana, Sarracenia alabamensis, Hudsonia montana, and Torreya taxifolia. Learning opportunities for the three foci will include understanding how to plan and conduct population and demographic surveys for rare plants, hands-on experience in mapping the distribution of rare plant populations using state-of-the-art global positioning tools, data management of rare plant collections, experimental horticultural trials, germination and propagation protocol development, seed processing, and experimental germination and desiccation tolerance trials. Mentees will be exposed to project planning, experimental design, fieldwork, lab work processing samples collected while in the field, data analysis, and reporting.

California Botanic Garden, Claremont, California

Mentors: Naomi Fraga, PhD, is the director of conservation programs at California Botanic Garden and a research assistant professor at Claremont Graduate University; Carrie Kiel, PhD, is a conservation geneticist at California Botanic Garden and a research assistant professor at Claremont Graduate University; Travis Columbus, PhD, is a research scientist at California Botanic Garden and professor of botany at Claremont Graduate University. 

Description: At the California Botanic Garden, research groups investigate the diversification of plants from a number of different angles including phylogenetics, population genetics, biogeography, floristics, rare plant demography, and morphological studies. The work of the research groups focuses on a number of flowering plant lineages that are especially rich in western North America including Eriogonum (Polygonaceae), monkeyflowers (Phrymaceae), Astragalus (Fabaceae), Agave (Asparagaceae), and Cactaceae. Example projects a mentee could work on at California Botanic Garden include: 

  • Use genetic and morphological data to examine hybridization between widespread (Eriogonum wrightii var. subscaposum) and narrowly endemic (Eriogonum kennedyi var. austromontanum) buckwheats. 
  • Conduct a population genetic study to develop tools to aid in the protection of succulent plants that are being targeted by poachers. 
  • Use genetic data and distribution modeling to compare sister species of narrowly endemic and widespread monkeyflower species to evaluate drivers of range size and rarity. 

San Diego Botanic Garden: San Diego, California

Mentors: Colin Khoury, PhD, is the senior director of science and conservation at the San Diego Botanic Garden. His core interests include conservation science, crop diversity, food security, plant genetic resources, and crop wild relatives. Ari Novy, PhD, is president and CEO of San Diego Botanic Garden and an adjunct associate professor at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies working at the intersection between institutional leadership, public policy, and on-the-ground plant conservation. Todd Michael, PhD, is a research associate at the San Diego Botanic Garden and is a research professor at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies, where his group focuses on the sequencing and analysis of plant genomes. 

Description: San Diego Botanic Garden seeks mentees who are interested in multidisciplinary and multifaceted project experiences across one or more special rare plant project areas. Mentees will have the opportunity to engage in field botany; ex situ conservation; conservation horticulture; lab-based genetic, genomic, and chemical analysis; and design of rare plant monitoring and management with the overriding goal of developing skill sets to move the needle on conservation efficacy. Mentees will integrate public education and communication in their projects through San Diego Botanic Garden’s public outreach programs.

  • Conservation, genomic analysis, and propagation of rare California plants: Conservation of rare plants requires detailed methods for seed processing, viability testing, cold storage, and propagation. These methods are generally species-specific and in many cases insufficiently developed. Conservation includes monitoring of the species’ status in the wild, including their genetic and evolutionary trajectories. Projects will be conducted to develop or improve methods for the conservation and propagation of rare California plants. Mentees will learn and use a combination of horticultural, laboratory, bioinformatic, field botanical, and natural lands management skills to determine threats to rare plants and then design and test conservation interventions. Example projects in this area include:
    • linking genomes to environmental traits for the federally threatened Encinitas baccharis (Baccharis vanessae)
    • testing seed multiplication methods for rare California taxa such as Otay tarplant (Deinandra conjugens
    • differentiating rare California native Asteraceae based on morphological and genetic information. 
  • Conservation of rare wild relatives of food crops: The wild cousins of food crops are increasingly being used in plant breeding to improve the sustainability, climate resilience, and nutritional quality of the world’s food crops. But habitat destruction, invasive species, climate change, and other threats are quickly leading to their disappearance from their natural habitats. Mentees will learn and use a combination of botany, ecology, biogeography, and genetics methods to contribute to a better understanding of the identity, distribution, and conservation status of these crop wild relatives. Example projects include wild beans (Phaseolus), walnuts (Juglans), plums (Prunus), and several other fruit and nut tree species native to California. 
  • Conservation of rare medicinal plants: San Diego Botanic Garden is creating a living collection of medicinal plants that can simultaneously serve conservation and human therapeutic goals. This work involves deep collaboration across the knowledge-holding and innovation pipeline from Indigenous ethnobotanists to drug commercialization entrepreneurs. This collection includes rare plants, primarily of the Southwestern United States, that are used for or have potential for human therapeutics. Mentees will help build and catalog this collection and learn modern standards for ethical plant collecting and dissemination. Mentees may engage on projects to evaluate the genetics and metabolic production of plants under different growing conditions and geographies. Example projects include analysis of Yerba Santa (Eriodictyon) for neurodegenerative diseases and Artemisia for antimalarial compounds.