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Department ofBotany


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A video introduction and tour of the BDG Program is available on YouTube.


The Biological Diversity of the Guiana Shield (BDG, formerly Biological Diversity of the Guianas) is a field-oriented program of the Department of Botany, National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution, that has been operating since 1983. The goal of the BDG is to study, document and preserve the biological diversity of the Guiana Shield region. Originally the program was confined to botany; it has since expanded to include faunal studies with entomologists and zoologists regularly participating in expeditions.

map of the Guiana Shield

The Guiana Shield region of South America is little known and extremely rich biologically. Unlike other areas of South America, over 70% of the natural habitat remains pristine. Since these areas are now threatened by increased resource extraction, it is important that we gain an understanding of the flora and fauna so that decisions can be made on critical areas that have high priority for conservation.

    View from Mt. Ayanganna
View from Mt. Ayanganna, Photo T. Henkel Because of the urgency of sampling specimens from critical areas, the BDG has at times maintained a resident collector based in Georgetown, Guyana to organize expeditions and assist in the field work of scientists. Each year four to six interdisciplinary multinational expeditions explore remote areas. Each field trip includes at least one counterpart from the host country and usually involves highly skilled Amerindian assistants. Material collected on these expeditions is distributed all over the world for identification and research. In addition to collecting, the BDG Program is active in training local scientists and assisting them in setting up and/or maintaining collections in their respective countries.

Information from all of our collections is maintained in a database that can be used for education and conservation as well as research. Recently the BDG produced a list of all known plants of Kaieteur Falls National Park (Guyana) for use by those visiting the Park or seeking to conserve the park area.

Other current projects include the first comprehensive checklist of all vascular plants and bryophytes of the Guianas; a vegetation map of Guyana; checklists of the reptiles and amphibians, the birds, and the mammals; and taxonomic treatments of the grasses, euphorbs, legumes and mosses.

In the future the BDG hopes to further expand its field work and investigations of historical collections to the entire Guiana Shield area, which includes southern Venezuela and a small part of northern Brazil and southern Colombia. This comprises an essentially discrete floristic and faunistic province, and therefore the data collected can be more readily used for evolutionary studies.

We believe that the Smithsonian's Biological Diversity of the Guiana Shield Program fulfills the goals of the Institution in that it gathers new information and distributes it to those who use it to produce flora and faunal studies of a relatively unknown area, participates in training of local scientists and provides data for the identification and preservation of biologically diverse areas.

BDG Newsletter head

The BDG Newsletter, published June 2005, provides brief bios on all staff, students, scientists, and other collegues who have been a part of the BDG Program. (pdf)

2003 BDG Progress Report [400 KB]
2004 BDG Progress Report [500 KB]
2005 BDG Progress Report [650 KB]
2006 BDG Progress Report [650 KB]
2007 BDG Progress Report [300 KB]
2008 BDG Progress Report [500 KB]
2009 BDG Progress Report [1.2 MB]

BDG Program Review Document (2010) with Appendices 1-4 [1.38 MB]
BDG Program Review Document (2010): Appendix 7 [large file: 4 MB]
This document and its appendices cover the 20+ years
of the Biological Diversity of the Guiana Shield Program
External Referee Reviews (BDG Program Review, 2010)
Panel Summary (BDG Program Review, 2010)

2012 BDG Progress Report [70 KB]

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