Cheryl LeBlanc's fascination with plants was sparked when she was introduced to her first orchid as a 9-year-old living in Massachusetts. That first meeting ignited a love affair with one of the world's most beautiful plant families.
As a college student, she cared for a variety of plants while working in greenhouses, and she has been the curator of Ball State's Wheeler-Thanhauser Orchid Collection and Species Bank (WOCSB) since 1993.
"It is fun to come to work every day here because I am working with beautiful specimens," she says. "Plants are just as exciting as warm, fuzzy creatures. You just have to open your eyes a little bit."
LeBlanc admits she is very lucky to be working with the collection, which is nestled in a greenhouse in Christy Woods. Surrounded by a lush green landscape and teeming with squirrels, rabbits, and the occasional deer, the collection has developed a reputation for being one of the nation's most diverse.
Each day, she works to maintain the health of the 2,000-orchid collection, occasionally fighting off water problems or battling potential bug infestations. While the collection is used by Ball State faculty and students for educational and research purposes, LeBlanc also provides nearly 1,000 visitors annually with a guided tour of the warm environment.
As people walk through the greenhouse, she educates them on how healthy plants and other wildlife fit into the planet's well-being.
"Orchids are just one platform to educate people about our ecology," LeBlanc says. "I love what I do and love sharing that with my visitors. I want to broaden their scope of understanding."