All it took was a tour of what’s known in Fort Collins as the National Seed Storage Lab for Amy Vogt to formulate her career goal: I want to work there.
And so she does, even before completing her Associate of Applied Science degree in Horticulture and Landscape Technology at Front Range Community College.
What’s the National Seed Storage Lab?
Officially, it’s the National Center for Genetic Resources Preservation, and it’s located on the campus of Colorado State University. For 55 years, it has been storing, maintaining, monitoring, testing, and distributing hundreds of thousands of seeds. The storage vaults can store 1.5 million samples. Yes, about half are stored cryogenically.
Why store seeds? For the future, and for the present. “It has to do with diversity,” Amy says. “If you save seeds, you have them for the future. It’s a small, convenient, economical way to store plants for the future.”
Seeds of Success
Amy works on the Seeds of Success (SOS) program. It’s a good example of future and present needs for seed preservation.
Seeds of Success supports and coordinates seed collection from native plant populations in the United States for land rehabilitation, restoration, and stabilization. Several federal agencies are involved. The seed lab stores backup samples for Seeds of Success.
Think of the need to restore Colorado landscapes damaged in recent forest fires, for example. The plant life may have been burned, but the genetic diversity can be restored, thanks to storage.
Amy evaluates collections of seeds that are sent to the lab. She examines seeds under a microscope and consults notebooks that contain the technical protocol for storage. Seeds are cleaned, their family, genus and species verified – that’s the fun part, Amy says – and their viability tested. Once stored, seeds from a sample are tested for germination every 10 years.
An Early Interest in Horticulture
Amy fell in love with horticulture growing up in Aberdeen, S.D. “My grandmother had a huge garden,” she says. “All I knew was I loved plants. The minute I started working with them, I knew.”
Upon moving to northern Colorado, Amy spent about 20 years “working for every nursery in town.”
Horticulture and Landscape Technology at FRCC
Amy reached a point where she wanted to return to school. At first, she thought a medical field would be a good choice. She started at Aims Community College, but when talking with an instructor, she said she still loved horticulture. “Then go to school for it,” the instructor told Amy.
So Amy enrolled at FRCC. She has earned certificates in Horticulture and Nursery and Greenhouse Management. She is a candidate for an Associate of Applied Science in Horticulture and Landscape Technology in May 2014.
It was during an introductory horticulture class that she and her classmates toured the seed lab.
“I bugged the person who now is my boss for a job,” Amy said. “I was very persistent.”
It worked. Her work schedule allows her to finish her degree at FRCC. She plans to continue her education at Colorado State University as she works at the seed lab, a place where she has planted the seed for a career.
“I find this is a nice niche in the plant industry,” she says.