Cycad 2015: Moving Cycad Science Forward!

Over 100 cycad experts from 21 different countries met this past week in Medellin, Colombia, for CYCAD 2015: The 10th International Conference on Cycad Biology.

Conference Chair Dr. Cristina Lopez-Gallego, Academic Chair Michael Calonje, and Treasurer Patrick Griffith organized the activities and program, which centered on 8 plenary lectures, 55 contributed talks and 10 posters, addressing conservation, systematics, anatomy, ecology, horticulture and ethnobotany.

The weeklong gathering began and ended with exceptional food and live entertainment, featuring the wonderful cuisine and music of Colombia, and also featured a field trip to Parque Arvi, in the mountains above Medellin. Cristina also introduced a nice new feature to the group, a special “cycad forum,” with specific topics encouraging discussion and networking to address major problems in cycad work.

One very exciting development of Cycad 2015 was the official founding of the Sociedad Colombiana Cícadas (Colombian Cycad Society), launched by the “DECLARATION BY THE PARTICIPANTS OF CYCAD 2015,” which states:

Cycad 2015 - Medellin, ColombiaDesde hace años en Colombia se vienen adelantando acciones de conservación para tratar de salvar a las Zamias de la extinción. Estas acciones incluyen investigación de sus poblaciones remanentes, esfuerzos para proteger su hábitat natural y programas para rescatar y propagar plantas para ayudar a las poblaciones empobrecidas . . . Es fundamental que más actores de la sociedad se unan y apoyen nuestros esfuerzos de conservación para salvar nuestras Zamias de la extinción.

Since years ago, conservation actions have been carried out in Colombia to try to save the Zamias from extinction. These actions include research in remnant populations, efforts to protect their natural habitat, and programs to rescue and propagate plants to help impoverished populations . . . It is imperative that more people from our society join us and support our conservation efforts to save our Zamias from extinction.

A special recognition was given to Dr. Dennis Stevenson – who participated in all 10 conferences, beginning in 1987 – for his longtime support for these gatherings, his contributions to cycad science, and his commitment to training students. The Cycad d’Or, “Golden Cycad” was presented to Dennis by Patrick, Cristina, Michael, Alan Meerow, and Angelica Cibrian Jaramillo. Dennis cited his mentors and friends from years past as sharing the honor.

The IUCN Species Survival Commission Cycad Specialist Group also met for two days prior to the main conference to complete a Red Listing project. With so much recent activity in cycad discovery and taxonomy, quite a bit of conservation assessment was needed! The CSG assessed 18 newly described Critically Endangered species, and reviewed a large number of other cycads.

The meeting, a joint effort of Universidad de Antioquia and Montgomery Botanical Center, in partnership with The New York Botanical Garden, Jardin Botanico Medellin, and the IUCN SSC Cycad Specialist Group, was supported by generous sponsorships from the Mohamed bin Zayed Species Conservation Fund, Martin-Rami Fund, and Instituto de Investigationes Alexander von Humboldt.

We are especially grateful for our educational sponsors, The Cycad Society and Cycad Society of South Africa, which funded student travel and participation in the conference – helping to develop the next generation of cycad experts!