Also, Stromberg and Yost agree that too much conservation attention is focused on issues such as invasive species. They argue that endangered species as well as dominant plants that do most of the work” in ecosystems should have more of the botanical limelight.

“It’s easy to point the finger at certain plant species and say they are the cause of adverse changes, when instead, they might simply be a reflection of broader environmental changes such as climate shifts or increasing urbanization,” Stromberg said. “It’s time to move beyond eradicating so-called ‘bad’ plants and preserving ‘good’ ones. We need to recognize the value of all plant species and embrace the complexity of the ecological relationship between plants and people.”

Yost specializes in endangered plant species. She hopes that with the knowledge she gains from the new master’s degree, she will be able to help maintain these life-forms that selflessly provide for us and help cultivate greater attention to the fact that we must work harder to conserve these valuable resources.

“I think it goes back to that awareness and where our priorities are,” said Yost. “Even with all our technology, when it comes down to it, as a species we need certain things to survive. Food, water, medicine. Plants are a part of all that. We have to keep that in mind.”

McCue agrees.

“We can do all the great science in the world, but if the greater public doesn’t know why it’s important or how amazing these plants are, they won’t care. And if they don’t care, you’re not going to get anywhere,” McCue said. “Our partnership with ASU is a major component of that, and I’m just thrilled by it.”

Written by Devin Phillips

For more stories like this one, see the ASU School of LIfe Sciences Magazine.