Luther-BSI Scholar Arrives at Selby with Eyes on the Sky for Epiphyte Research

June 27, 2016


SARASOTA, FLA. – June 27, 2016: Marie Selby Botanical Gardens would like to welcome the newest recipient of the Harry Luther Bromeliad Society International Scholar program, Matthew Lehmitz, as he begins his work with the Botany department this week.

Studying Botany and Computer Science at the University of Wyoming, Lehmitz is an advanced undergraduate student working with Dr. Gregory Brown, a long-time bromeliad researcher. For 10 days, Lehmitz will be evaluating and establishing protocols for the use of drone technology for epiphyte inventories, as well as other areas of above-ground sensing.

During his time here at the Gardens, Lehmitz will work to inventory the giant wild pine, known as the giant airplant or Tillandsia utriculata, and then compare the results with ground-based surveys conducted in the past two years by staff member Liz Gandy.

“We are excited about his visit to learn more about the possible use of drones for conducting epiphyte studies, especially for our programs of conservation and inventory,” said Bruce Holst, Director of Botany at Selby Gardens.

The limits goal for this academic stay is to learn more about the best way to apply UAV systems as remote sensing platforms for treetop epiphyte research. And Selby, Lehmitz noted, was a perfect place to gather this information.

“Working at Selby in particular will give me access to many impressive epiphyte specimens and allow me to practice and gather data in a good analog environment for field work,” said Lehmitz.

Lehmitz’s research at Selby is especially crucial, as the giant wild pine is threatened in Florida by the presence of the destructive Mexican weevil. In response to this, Selby Gardens is working with a number of local and state entities to protect the giant wild pine and other native Florida bromeliads.

After graduating from university, Lehmitz would like to continue to develop new technologies to better improve UAV robotic systems and work in a field that can combine both his passion for plants and robots.


About Marie Selby Botanical Gardens

Marie Selby Botanical Gardens is the only botanical garden in the world dedicated to the display and study of orchids, bromeliads, gesneriads, epiphytes and tropical plants with a focus on botany, horticulture and environmental education. For more information, please visit Marie Selby Botanical Gardens, 900 S. Palm Ave., Sarasota, open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily except Christmas, regular admission $19 (ages 12 and up), ages 4-11 $6, Members and children 3 and under enter free. Contact us at (941) 366-5731 or  Get social at or