Three Writhlington Students aged twelve and thirteen have won a £600 research grant from the Whitley Wildlife Conservation Trust (WWCT) for their project studying the laboratory conservation of the common spotted orchid.
Emily Therle, aged thirteen, explained, “We are working to isolate and grow the particular mycorrhizal fungus associated with common spotted orchids growing in the gardens of Ammerdown House, near School and then using this fungus to germinate seed collected from the same plants. We are hoping to find that this approach will select and grow plants that are best added for local conditions and therefore more successful when used for introduction into nearby habitats for conservation.”
Chloe, aged twelve, added: “The techniques we are using in the laboratory are quite complicated but we have carried out a lot of research and are very excited with the way our work is going so far. We collected root samples from orchids in the lawns at Ammerdown House and have isolated several fungal isolates which we are now testing with orchid seed to see if we get germination.”
The grant from WWCT allows the girls to buy the specialist scientific equipment they need for the work and to scale up their production for ‘full field’ trials at Writhlington and at Ammerdown House.
Rosie, aged 13, hopes that the work will help others to try out similar techniques. “We are looking forward to publishing our findings and hope to win a place at the finals of the UK National Science competition in March which will give us a chance to present our work to more of the public so they become aware of our native spiceies.”
Asked what the girls have learnt so far their answer was unanimous “Mycorrhizal fungus is really cool.”
The girls’ progress can be followed on the Writhlington School Orchid Project website www.wsbeorchids.org