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Behind the Science: Armand Randrianasolo

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Behind the Science: Armand Randrianasolo

Dr. Armand Randrianasolo had taken a basic botany class during his first year at the University of Antananarivo in Madagascar, but it hadn’t spiked his interest like biochemistry had. His plans didn’t include going out into the Malagasy forests and identifying plants, but that all changed in 1989 when the biochemistry program was suddenly cut. It was then that he heard that American botanists were looking for student volunteers to help with plant collection in the forest. He met the Garden’s Dr. James Miller and went on a 15-day expedition in the forest. He didn’t speak English, but he learned what he could from Dr. Miller—now Senior Vice President of Science and Conservation—who spoke to him in French and encouraged him to continue to learn. Today, Dr. Randrianasolo continues to study plants while working closely with communities in Madagascar to preserve what’s left of the country’s rich ora and developing conservation and ethnobotany programs that deepen the understanding of the relationship between plants and people.

How did you start working in conservation?

AR: In 2002, I was asked to develop the Madagascar conservation program. We started at Mahabo, and the approach we wanted to use was community-based conservation. [Assistant Curator] Chris Birkinshaw and I worked together to choose the site and worked with the community. When researching community- based conservation, I knew I didn’t want this to just be a project that a er it’s done, we leave. I wanted to do something more solid than that. Even though I didn’t know about anything about conservation at that time, I knew that it’s basically all about science combined with socio-economic development.

Why do plants matter?

AR: Plants are the basis of life. e relationship between people and plants is so tight—everywhere you look, it’s always there. In Madagascar in particular, where we are still behind in terms of technology, plants are still what people rely on. at’s why I put all of my effort to contribute to this mission to save plants in Madagascar. And to be able to do that, we have to study and save; those two things always have to go together. Plus, I like plants because they’re friendly. They don’t want to hurt us; they just want to be part of this planet. 

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