article / 9 January 2024

Cutting edge plant conservation

A game-changing new tool is helping conservationists working with critically endangered cliff plants 

Aloha WildLabs Community,


I'm Ben Nyberg, a botanist and drone specialist working in Hawaii.

Hawaii has an incredible rate of plant endemism and also plant extinction.

The vertical cliff terrain where we work makes some areas impossible to access. Previously botanists used ropes to rappel to plants from above and make critical conservation collections.

In 2016, we started using drones to survey these extreme cliff environments and quickly realized how effective this method would be. Finding the plants was just the first step....

We have been working closely with @Gcharron at Outreach Robotics in the development and testing of a  new drone-based sampling manipulator for collecting plant material from remote vertical habitats. 

Our work was featured in this beautifully illustrated article, and I thought the community would enjoy learning a little more about the project: 

Shout out to the Reuters Graphic Team!!   And all of our collaborators/funders that make this work possible.


Ben Nyberg 

GIS and Drone Program Coordinator 

National Tropical Botanical Garden 

Great work!  Although even the expanded numbers of individual plants are still concerningly tiny, it is reassuring to know that nature can keep more secret holdouts than we previously thought.

That Reuters article is also excellently done.  I wish more investment went into that sort of journalism, re. the beautiful artistry and layout.  In general, but especially around conservation.  It surely reaches a much larger audience than a traditional dry column.

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