We have a diverse workforce here at the NCDA&CS that focuses on consumer protection, food safety, agricultural marketing, accuracy of weights and measures, plant conservation, livestock protection…and more. Once a month, we’ll talk to one of our employees and hopefully provide a behind-the-scenes look at what they do to serve North Carolina.
Ask Laura Gadd if she’s ever been bitten by a Venus flytrap, and she’ll laugh and remind you that those infamous man-eating flytraps are products of urban legends and Saturday morning cartoons. As a botanist with the NCDA&CS, however, she does work closely with the (much smaller) native flytraps that pepper the southeastern border of North and South Carolina, the only places in the world the plants grow naturally.
The carnivorous plant is just one of the 160 protected plants in North Carolina Gadd helps to identify, locate and protect. She also helps to replant illegally harvested plants, mark protected plants with dye to detect illegal harvests, work on prescribed burns of wooded areas to promote plant growth, maintain a database of ginseng harvests and more. Her work has landed her in several local and national publications–including a 2008 article in Audubon Magazine–and drawn attention to the need for plant protection programs.
Plant conservation remains an important endeavor even in uncertain economic times because it is too late to do anything once rare and protected species decline to the brink of extinction or are lost entirely. The number of endangered plants constantly changes as plant populations decline or rebound and new plants are identified for protection.
Check out this video interview with Laura to learn how she first became interested in botany, her educational background (Bachelors degree in biology from Meredith College, master’s degree in botany from N.C. State University), and what she enjoys most about her job.