New Director of Conservation & Research Brings Passion for Native Plants
Hockessin, De. (January 4, 2022) – Mt. Cuba Center welcomes entomologist Dr. Ellen Lake as the new Director of Conservation & Research. In her role, Dr. Lake will lead the Mid-Atlantic botanic garden’s conservation, research, and collections management programs, as well as oversee operations of the Trial Garden, greenhouse, and natural lands.
Dr. Lake brings a passion for protecting native plants and habitats to her new role. A nationally sought-after speaker, she has published 45 peer-reviewed papers on topics related to invasive and native plants and habitat management through biological controls. Additionally, she directed a team of researchers at the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Agricultural Research Service Invasive Plant Research Laboratory since 2012.
“I find Mt. Cuba’s unique focus and mission very intriguing and am impressed with how the organization has championed research, education, and partnerships tied to native plant conservation,” Lake said. “I am thrilled to join a team with such a commendable track record.”
Several of the key initiatives Dr. Lake will oversee at Mt. Cuba include the renowned native plant trials from the Trial Garden, which will release its latest report, Wild Hydrangea for the Mid-Atlantic Region, later this month. The role also encompasses stewardship of over 1,000 acres of natural lands where several scientific studies and reforestation projects are underway, as well as ongoing field botany assessments of rare and threatened plant species throughout the region. Looking ahead, Mt. Cuba will open a new state-of-the-art, net-zero greenhouse where Dr. Lake will expand upon plant propagation and related research efforts. Also on the horizon is the development of a regional plant conservation alliance for the Mid-Atlantic.
“With her diverse conservation and research experience and impressive record of accomplishments, we’re excited to welcome Dr. Lake to Mt. Cuba,” said Jeff Downing, Mt. Cuba’s executive director. “As our native plant research and conservation initiatives grow and evolve, her leadership will enhance the impact of our science and support the work of our conservation team.”
Dr. Lake has extensive experience in invasive plant management, which is inextricably linked to creating healthy habitats where native plants can thrive. While completing her master’s degree in Entomology (2008) and Ph.D. in Entomology and Wildlife Ecology (2011) at the University of Delaware, she researched biological control of mile-a-minute weed and integrating weed management techniques to restore native plant communities. Her scientific expertise in these areas will be invaluable to carrying out Mt. Cuba’s mission to protect native plants and the habitats that sustain them.
She was first introduced to invasive plants while battling thickets of multiflora rose in southeastern Pennsylvania while working in a variety of roles for the Brandywine Red Clay Alliance from 1990 to 2004. Returning to her roots in the Brandywine Valley for a position where she can work doing what she enjoys is very exciting for Dr. Lake.
“I’m imprinted on the Brandywine and Red Clay Valleys. This is where I first learned about native plants and the negative impacts of invasive species and was inspired to take this career path,” Lake said. “Having the opportunity to protect native habitats in a place I call home is incredibly gratifying.”
About Mt. Cuba Center
Mt. Cuba Center is a botanic garden that highlights the beauty and value of native plants to inspire conservation. Once the private estate of Pamela and Lammot du Pont Copeland, the public garden opened for general admission in 2013 and now spans more than 1,000 acres. It features captivating blooms along garden pathways in formal and woodland settings, picturesque meadows and ponds with stunning vistas, and more than two miles of scenic trails throughout its natural lands. Mt. Cuba is recognized as a leader in native plant research and open space preservation, having protected more than 13,000 acres in the mid-Atlantic region. In 2021, it was voted one of the top five best botanical gardens in North America by USA Today readers. Additionally, it was awarded The News Journal’s Top Workplaces 2021 and Delaware Today’s Best of Delaware for “Best Place to Experience Nature” and “Best Workshops” for its gardening, conservation, art, and wellness classes. Learn more at mtcubacenter.org.