Botanical Research Institute of Texas

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The Botanical Research Institute of Texas (BRIT) is a global botanical research institute and learning center located in downtown Fort Worth, Texas. BRIT moved to a new 70,000-square-foot (6,500 m2) facility next to the Fort Worth Botanic Garden in spring 2011.

BRIT was established in 1987 to hold in public trust the herbarium and botanical library collections amassed by Dr. Lloyd Shinners at Southern Methodist University. It is a 501(c)(3) private, non-profit organization governed by a Board of Trustees.

Focused on conservation and knowledge sharing, BRIT serves as a plant information center for scientists and professionals, and an interpretation center for people wanting to learn more about the plant world and how they can help conserve earth's natural heritage for future generations. BRIT is dedicated to supporting science and increasing its collections by discovering and documenting plant diversity both regionally and globally, and by teaching conservation science through public education.

BRIT's International Award of Excellence in Conservation is presented annually to an individual or organization that exemplifies ideals expressed in BRIT's mission.

Mission and Purpose[edit]

BRIT's mission is to conserve our natural heritage by deepening our knowledge of the plant world and achieving public understanding of the value that plants bring to life.

BRIT's New Building in the Fort Worth Cultural District[edit]

In spring 2011, BRIT moved into a new 70,000-square-foot (6,500 m2) facility designed by Hugh Hardy of H3 Hardy Collaboration Architecture. The building is one of only six buildings in Texas to earn a LEED-NC Platinum Rating from the U.S. Green Building Council. The building's ingenuity and efficiency is supported by sustainable design and organized into two parts: an Archives Block and a Think Block.

The Archives Block houses BRIT's herbarium in a two-story, 20,000-square-foot (1,900 m2), climate-controlled space, with the remaining 5,000 square feet (460 m2) for research and BRIT's library. This space is constructed of tilt-up concrete and partially topped with a solar-paneled roof. The 44,000-square-foot (4,100 m2) Think Block for BRIT's education, exhibit and administrative areas is filled with natural light through floor-to-ceiling glass on the north façade. The design allows for future expansion of 15,000 square feet (1,400 m2). A Living Roof will cover the Think Block. The new BRIT will be located at 1700 University Drive, next to the Fort Worth Botanic Garden (southwest corner of University Drive and Harley Avenue).

The BRIT building, seen from the parking lot. The Archives Block is on the left, Think Block on the right.

BRIT Collections and Programs[edit]

BRIT offers a world-class collection of plants and books; lectures, workshops, programs and publications; and is distinguished by an educated staff committed to conserving earth's natural heritage through research, discoveries and education.

Herbarium[edit]

BRIT's herbarium represents much of the earth's diversity and is among the largest in the United States with more than one million dried plant specimens, some dating back to the late 1700s. BRIT is the custodian of two large herbaria: the Lloyd H. Shinners Collection in Systematic Botany, formerly housed at Southern Methodist University (SMU Herbarium), and the Vanderbilt University Collection (VDB Herbarium). In addition to these two well-known collections, BRIT also houses a number of smaller collections from various individuals and institutions. Additions of orphaned herbaria and new collections have brought the number of specimens housed at the institute to approximately one million, representing most of the Earth's plant families. BRIT-SMU-VDB Herbarium is the largest independent herbarium in the Southern United States.

Library[edit]

BRIT offers one of the best botanical libraries in the world, with more than 125,000 books, journals and periodicals in all the world's major languages from more than 100 countries. The nucleus of the BRIT library focuses on research in systematic botany, supplemented by a comprehensive collection of books and publications on other plant-related subjects. In 1997, BRIT received the Burke Children's Library, a private collection of 2,500 children's books on botany and natural history.

Research

BRIT has conducted extensive botanical research in Texas and in tropical rainforests in the Philippines, Costa Rica, and currently in Peru and Papua New Guinea. In the last 10 years, BRIT is credited with more than 80 new plant species discoveries. BRIT research is divided into three programs: Floras, Plants and Peoples, and Landscape Ecology. Floras encompasses the discovery, classification, and characterization of plants and vegetation. Plants and Peoples explores the relationship people have developed with plants over millennia. Landscape Ecology investigates plants and the environment.

BRIT botanists are engaged in floristic and systematic research and have detailed taxonomic expertise in a number of families. BRIT staff and research associates are currently involved in a number of floristic inventories and summaries in Texas and the southeastern United States, as well as the larger North American region, and also internationally. A secondary component of the Floras program includes activity by BRIT's research associates, some of whom work on contracts for professional services to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, The Nature Conservancy, and Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. The Illustrated Texas Floras Project The Flora of North America (FNA) Asteraceae Project The Andes to Amazon Botany Program (AABP)

Publications[edit]

BRIT's nationally recognized publications bring new discoveries in plant science to the world and increase public understanding of nature's diversity. In 1999, BRIT published Shinners & Mahler's Illustrated Flora of North Central Texas. Written in collaboration with the Biology Department and Center for Environmental Studies at Austin College, this is the most comprehensive guide to a large portion of diverse Texas plant life, including 2,223 fully illustrated species.

BRIT also publishes two scientific periodicals: Journal of the Botanical Research Institute of Texas (formerly called Sida, Contributions to Botany) and Botanical Miscellany, as well as a newsletter, IRIDOS, which is distributed to Friends of BRIT throughout the world. The journal is a series of peer-reviewed scientific papers and is a source of information about current research in botany worldwide. Botanical Miscellany is published as an occasional series of monographs in which each edition is devoted entirely to a comprehensive study of one topic.

Education[edit]

BRIT's education program emphasizes the interdependence among all living things and the critical role plants play via lectures, workshops and classes. BRIT's new facility will include a teacher's learning center for educators to learn how to teach their students about conservation and nature. The teacher learning center is endowed by The Rainwater Charitable Foundation.

BRIT's plant collections and educational programs are open to the public, to help everyone understand the value that plants bring to life. The Distinguished Lecturer series serves as an information forum on current plant-related topics as a public service to the community, drawing its audience from the North Central Texas region and Austin, Texas. The T.M. Barkley Plant Science and Ecology Seminar, in collaboration with Texas Christian University, provides a forum for faculty and university students to present current research. The Schools program offers inquiry based, TEKS correlated Discovery Programs for K-12 students on life science and environmental topics. BRIT's Environmental Science Program for middle school and high school students provides high quality classroom resources and professional development opportunities that highlight Texas major ecosystems and local, regional, and global environmental and conservation issues.

BRIT also provides consulting and resource services to research scientists, students, teachers, gardeners, ranchers, lawyers, museums, hospitals and many others.

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