Plant Science Bulletin archive

Issue: 2023-v69-2Actions

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155 Years of Botany at Emporia State 

University: A Case Study of College 

Botany in the U.S.... p. 92

Meet the new student representative,  

Josh Felton! ... p. 141 


Travels in Tanzania with North  

American Undergraduates: A Botanical 

Safari...p. 114

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                                             Summer 2023 Volume 69 Number 2



It’s summer in Omaha, which means college baseball games, afternoon 

thunderstorms, and incoming undergraduate advising. At my institution, at least, 

it is rare to find a first-year student who knows they want to pursue a career in 

botany. It can be a struggle to recruit and develop potential young botanists and 

the landscape for botanical education has certainly undergone significant changes. 

In this issue, you will find a case study of Botany as a discipline at Emporia State 

University that discusses some of these challenges and changes, both historical and 

recent. We also include an article describing a travel course which seeks to introduce 

botany to students who are more focused on zoology. In this summer issue, you will 

also find resources that may be helpful for navigating Botany 2023.

 I hope to see many of you there!


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Botanical Society of America’s Award Winners (Part 1) .........................................................................68 

2022–2023 Congressional Visits Day Remarks     .....................................................................................80 

Publications Corner   ....................................................................................................................................................84


155 Years of Botany at Emporia State University: A Case Study of College Botany  

in the United States ......................................................................................................................................................92

Travels in Tanzania with North American Undergraduates: A Botanical Wildlife Safari ....114


Membership News .....................................................................................................................................................128

BSA Legacy Society .................................................................................................................................................129

BSA Spotlight Series ................................................................................................................................................129

BSA Professional Highlights ................................................................................................................................130

BSA Student Chapter Update .............................................................................................................................131

BSA Gift Memberships ............................................................................................................................................132


PlantingScience Updates! ......................................................................................................................................134

BSA 2022-2023 Master Plant Science Team Members ......................................................................134

PlantingScience Needs Your Help! ...................................................................................................................135

See You in Boise! ........................................................................................................................................................135


Student-Centered Events ......................................................................................................................................137

Student Section ...........................................................................................................................................................137

General Conference Tips .......................................................................................................................................139

Getting to Know Your New Student Representative ..............................................................................141


AJ Harris  1979–2023 ............................................................................................................................................144

Robert L. Wilbur  1925–2022 ..............................................................................................................................148 

Nancy G. Slack  1930–2022  ...............................................................................................................................150



Logo designed by Johanne Stogran 

Background image credit: Xiao-Xue Mo and Lian-Bin Tao

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BSA Emerging Leader Award 

The Emerging Leader Award of the Botanical Society of America is given annually in recognition 

of creative and influential scholarship as well as impact in any area of botany reflecting the breadth 

of BSA. Awardees have outstanding accomplishments and also have demonstrated exceptional 

promise for future accomplishments in basic research, education, public policy, exceptional service 

to the professional botanical community, or a combination of these categories. 

Botanical Society of America’s 

Award Winners (Part 1)



Dr. Joyce Onyenedum is currently 

Assistant Professor of Plant Evolution in 

the Liberty Hyde Bailey Hortorium at 

Cornell University. She earned a bachelor’s 

degree in plant sciences from Cornell and 

a doctorate in integrative biology from 

the University of California, Berkeley. The 

fundamental question driving her research is 

understanding how plants climb. She studies 

patterns through classical plant anatomy, 

morphology, molecular systematics, 

and statistical phylogenetic comparative 

methods; she complements these findings 

with an understanding of the developmental, 

cell, and molecular processes that shape 

the climbing habit in disparate lineages. 

This integrative approach allows her to link 

macroevolutionary patterns to fine-scale 

mechanistic processes, thus uncovering the 

evolution of development (evo-devo) of 

climbing plants.

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Charles Edwin Bessey Teaching Award

(BSA in association with the Teaching Section and Education Committee)

Dr. Cynthia Jones, University of Connecticut 

Dr. Eddie Watkins, Colgate University

Donald R. Kaplan Memorial Lecture 

This award was created to promote research in plant comparative morphology, the Kaplan family 

has established an endowed fund, administered through the Botanical Society of America, to 

support the Ph.D. research of graduate students in this area.

Erika Edwards, Yale University

The Grady L. and Barbara D. Webster Structural Botany 

Publication Award

This award was established in 2006 by Dr. Barbara D. Webster, Grady’s wife, and Dr. Susan V. 

Webster, his daughter, to honor the life and work of Dr. Grady L. Webster. After Barbara’s passing 

in 2018, the award was renamed to recognize her contributions to this field of study. The American 

Society of Plant Taxonomists and the Botanical Society of America are pleased to join together in 

honoring both Grady and Barbara Webster. In odd years, the BSA gives out this award and in even 

years, the award is provided by the ASPT.

Alberto Echeverría, Emilio Petrone-Mendoza, Alí Segovia-Rivas, Víctor A. Figueroa-

Abundiz, and Mark E. Olson 

The vessel wall thickness–vessel diameter relationship across woody angiosperms 

American Journal of Botany, April 2022 109: 856-873

The BSA Developing Nations Travel Grants

Rafael Acuña-Castillo, Universidad de Costa Rica, Costa Rica

Tami C. Cacossi, UNICAMP, Brazil

Idowu Obisesan, Bowen University Iwo, Nigeria

Malka Saba, Quaid-i-Azam University, Islamabad, Pakistan

Jayani Wathukarage, Department of Agriculture, Sri Lanka and University of the Philippines, 


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The BSA Professional Member Travel Grants

Ana Andruchow-Colombo, University of Kansas

Nina Baghai-Riding, Delta State University

Israel L. Cunha Neto, Cornell University

Jessamine Finch, Native Plant Trust & Framingham State University

Julia Gerasimova, Senckenberg Research Institute and Natural History Museum Frankfurt

Margaret Hanes, Eastern Michigan University

Adriana I. Hernandez, California Academy of Sciences

Pankaj Kumar Ph.D., FLS, Texas Tech University, Department of Plant and Soil Science

Francesco Martini, Trinity College Dublin

Elizabeth McCarthy, SUNY Cortland

BSA Public Policy Award

The Public Policy Award was established in 2012 to support the development of tomorrow’s leaders 

and a better understanding of this critical area.

Katherine T. Charton, University of Wisconsin-Madison

Lauren M. Orton, Sauk Valley Community College

Botanical Advocacy and Service Grant

This award organized by the Environmental and Public Policy Committees of BSA and ASPT 

aims to support local efforts that contribute to shaping public policy on issues relevant to plant 

sciences. To learn more about the winning projects, go to


Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Inc State of Hawaii/New Mexico State Social Action Coordinator: 

Maya L. Shamsid-Deen 

For the proposal: Zeta Day at City Council: Social Action for Integrative Botanical Education, 

Access to Land, & Food Sovereignty

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Samuel Noel Postlethwait Award (Teaching Section)

The Samuel Noel Postlethwait Award is given for outstanding service to the BSA Teaching Section.

Janelle M. Burke, Howard University


AJB Synthesis Papers and Prize

The AJB Synthesis Prize is intended to showcase early-career scientists and to highlight their unique 

perspectives on a research area or question, summarizing recent work and providing new insights 

that advance the field. The Prize comes with a $2000 award and recognition at the BSA Awards Cer-

emony at the Botany Conference. This is the first year of this award.

Dr. Liming Cai, University of Texas at Austin, for her article “Rethinking convergence in 

plant parasitism through the lens of molecular and population genetic processes,” 2023, AJB 

110: e16174. (To read more about Dr. Cai, see the Publications Corner article in this issue.)


Donald R. Kaplan Dissertation Award in  

Comparative Morphology

This award was created to promote research in plant comparative morphology, the Kaplan family 

has established an endowed fund, administered through the Botanical Society of America, to 

support the Ph.D. research of graduate students in this area.

Haylee Nedblake, University of Kansas 

For the Proposal: Evolution of bee-exclusionary corolla width differences in Penstemon

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Graduate Student Dissertation Award in Phylogenetic 

Comparative Plant Biology

This award supports the Ph.D. research of graduate students in the area of comparative plant 

biology, broadly speaking, from genome to whole organism. To learn more about this award click 


Zachary Muscavitch, University of Connecticut 

For the Proposal: The evolutionary dynamics of fog lichen symbionts: going global

The BSA Graduate Student Research Award including the 

J. S. Karling Award

The BSA Graduate Student Research Awards support graduate student research and are made 

on the basis of research proposals and letters of recommendations. Within the award group is 

the Karling Graduate Student Research Award. This award was instituted by the Society in 1997 

with funds derived through a generous gift from the estate of the eminent mycologist, John Sidney 

Karling (1897-1994), and supports and promotes graduate student research in the botanical sciences.

The J. S. Karling Graduate Student Research Award

Jordan Argrett, University of Georgia 

For the Proposal: Stealing from the rich to give to the poor: Are hemiparasitic plants the 

“Robinhood” of sub-alpine communities?

The BSA Graduate Student Research Awards

Anna Becker, University of Florida 

For the Proposal: The evolution of Hawaiian blueberries

Akriti Bhattarai, University of Connecticut 

For the Proposal: Exploring the genetic mechanisms of white pine blister rust disease 

resistance in whitebark pine (Pinus albicaulis) and Siberian pine (P. sibirica)

Ryan Carlson, University of Minnesota Duluth 

For the Proposal: Resolving euphrasia taxonomy in Minnesota

Brendan Connolly, Northwestern University and The Chicago Botanic Garden 

For the Proposal: Not all pollinators are created equal: The effects of differences in pollination 

efficiency on plant genetic diversity and reproductive success

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Alexander Damian-Parizaca, University of Wisconsin-Madison 

For the Proposal: Evolution, Taxonomy and pollination of New World Vanilla (Orchidaceae)

Anthony Dant, University of Arizona 

For the Proposal: Beyond sidewalks: using a dynamic urban classification system to study the 

evolution of an invasive plant

Melissa Duda, Northwestern University 

For the Proposal: Using reproductive biology and ecological niche models to predict the 

potential impact of hybridization in rare species

Caroline Edwards, Indiana University 

For the Proposal: The spatial scale and environmental drivers of local adaptation in Viola 


Emma Fetterly, Northwestern University and the Chicago Botanic Garden 

For the Proposal: Understanding biotic and abiotic drivers of floral color polymorphism in 

Castilleja coccinea to inform restoration in a changing climate

Clayton W. Hale, University of Georgia 

For the Proposal: Left in the shade: understanding the impacts of phenological mismatch 

between overstory leaf out and understory herbs

Brooke Kern, University of Minnesota 

For the Proposal:  Is low hybrid fitness driving selection for increased reproductive isolation 

between Clarkia xantiana subspecies?

Ashmita Khanal, Texas Tech University 

For the Proposal:  Unravelling the genetic basis of sex chromosome evolution in Black 

Willows (Salix nigra Marshall)

Izai Kikuchi, University of British Columbia 

For the Proposal:  Reconstructing the evolution of mycoheterotrophy in Gentianaceae and 

Dioscoreales using nuclear phylogenomics

G Young Kim, University of Connecticut 

For the Proposal:  Facultative CAM (Crassulacean Acid Metabolism) photosynthesis in 

Native Hawaiian Peperomia

Kira Lindelof, North Carolina State University 

For the Proposal:  Applied conservation genetics: GBS and building a genetic inventory for 

the recovery of Houstonia montana, an imperiled high-elevation, southern Appalachian 


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Amee Maurice, University of Connecticut 

For the Proposal: Molecular mechanisms of white pine blister rust disease resistance among 

the threatened whitebark pines

Hannah McConnell, University of Washington 

For the Proposal:  Using the model fern Ceratopteris richardii to investigate genes regulated 

by LEAFY orthologs

María de Jesús Méndez Aguilar, Autonomous University of Yucatan 

For the Proposal:  Populational structure of the traditional Chaya (Cnidoscolus aconitifolius

Euphorbiaceae) used by Mayan communities in the Yucatan Peninsula, Mexico

Thomas H. Murphy, University of Florida 

For the Proposal: Linking morphological and niche evolution in a ubiquitous neotropical 


Rodrigo Nicolao, Universidade Federal de Pelotas 

For the Proposal: The role of hybridization in the evolution of the Southeastern South 

American wild potatoes (Solanum ser. Commersoniana, Solanaceae)

Diego Paredes-Burneo, Louisiana State University 

For the Proposal:  The role of the Amotape-Huancabamba zone on the diversification of the 

high-Andean flora: a case study of the genus Brachyotum (Melastomataceae)

Seth J. Raynor, University of Colorado Boulder 

For the Proposal:  Lichens of the Indian Peaks Wilderness, towards a complete state inventory

Senna Robeson, University of Chicago 

For the Proposal:  Seeking the source of geographic range shifts in tarflowers (Bejaria, Ericaceae)

Katie Kobara Sanbonmatsu, Texas A&M University 

For the Proposal: Phylogenetics and biogeography of Macromitrioideae (Orthotrichaceae): A 

diverse but understudied group of mosses

Parikrama Sapkota (Pari), University of Texas at El Paso 

For the Proposal: Unraveling above-belowground interactions that support restoration of 

dryland plants communities

Rory Schiafo, Northwestern University and Chicago Botanic Garden 

For the Proposal:  Understanding the role of light availability and species’ characteristics for 

driving priority effects in oak woodland plant communities

Rachel Tageant, Claremont Graduate University 

For the Proposal:  A floristic inventory of the Owens River Headwater Area, Mono County, CA

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Rina Talaba, Northwestern University 

For the Proposal:  Investigating the differences of Cirsium pitcheri’s floral scent according to 

the predation of novel weevil, Larinus planus

Daniel Tucker, University of Victoria 

For the Proposal:  Magic carpets of the canopy: the role of epiphytic bryophyte functional 

structure in driving hydrologic ecosystem processes in a tropical montane cloud forest

Selena Vengco, Claremont Graduate University 

For the Proposal: Conservation genetics and the maintenance of flower color polymorphisms 

in a non-model system of Erythranthe discolor (Phrymaceae)

Mari Wilson, University of British Columbia 

For the Proposal: Comparative transcriptomic analysis of mycoheterotrophy in fern 


 The BSA Undergraduate Student Research Awards

The BSA Undergraduate Student Research Awards support undergraduate student research and 

are made on the basis of research proposals and letters of recommendation.

Melanie Beaudin, Carleton University 

For the Proposal: Genetic diversity and population structure of a disjunct Opuntia fragilis 


Max Gray, University of British Columbia 

For the Proposal: Testing the pervasiveness of MITE-induced apomixis in Asteraceae

Kaitlin Henry, Bucknell University 

For the Proposal: Chemical analysis of extrafloral nectar in western Australian Solanum 

tudununggae (Solanaceae) to explore possible ant-plant relationships

Jonathan Le, University of California, Irvine 

For the Proposal: Mapping nutrient localization throughout Drosera capensis digestion using 


Samuel Monger, Auburn University in Montgomery 

For the Proposal: Identification of kudzu-associated soil microbes - a first step towards 

developing more successful restoration techniques

Zach Smith, University of Wisconsin-Madison 

For the Proposal: Morphological and physiological adaptation in an ancient plant lineage

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The BSA Young Botanist Awards

The purpose of these awards is to offer individual recognition to outstanding graduating seniors 

in the plant sciences and to encourage their participation in the Botanical Society of America.

Fae Bramblepelt, The University of Alabama, Advisor: Michael McKain

Gurleen Chana, University of Guelph, Advisor: Christina Caruso

Sam Fuss, Connecticut College, Advisor: Rachel Spicer

Erin Grady, Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo, Advisor: Natalie Love

Wolfgang Graff, Miami University, Advisor: Richard Moore

William Gregor, Miami University, Advisor: Richard Moore

Hanna Hickey, University of Guelph, Advisor: Christina Caruso

Ellie Hollo, Connecticut College, Advisor: Rachel Spicer

Megan Keyser, Miami University, Advisor: Richard Moore

Henry Lagasse, Trinity College, Advisor: Nikisha Patel

Claire Marino, Bucknell University, Advisor: Chris Martine and Tanisha Williams

Taylor Michael, Pittsburg State University, Advisor: Neil Snow

Aadia Moseley-McCloud, Howard University, Advisor: Janelle Burke

Celina Patiño, Weber State University, Advisor: James Cohen

Sam Pelletier, Connecticut College, Advisor: Rachel Spicer

Dominique Pham, University of Richmond, Advisor: Carrie Wu

Sierra Sattler, South Dakota State University, Advisor: Maribeth Latvis

Rachel Savage, South Dakota State University, Advisor: Maribeth Latvis

Madeline Wickers, Bucknell University, Advisor: Chris Martine and Tanisha Williams

Matthew Yamamoto, Connecticut College, Advisor: Rachel Spicer

Noah Yawn, Auburn University, Advisor: Robert Boyd
Diamanda Zizis, Bucknell University, Advisor: Chris Martine and Tanisha Williams

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The BSA Student and PostDoc Travel Awards

Winners were selected by lottery

Sevyn Brothers

Claudenice H. Dalastra

Melissa A. Lehrer

Isabela Lima Borges

Carlos A. Maya-Lastra

Vernon I. Cheadle Student Travel Awards

(BSA in association with the Developmental and Structural Section) 

This award was named in honor of the memory and work of Dr. Vernon I. Cheadle.

Arthur Leung, University of Toronto, Advisor: Rowan Sage 

For the Presentation: Ultrastructural modifications facilitated the initial steps in the evolution 

of C4 photosynthesis in Tribulus (Zygophyllaceae)

Oluwatobi Adekunle Oso, Yale University, Advisor: Professor Erika Edwards 

For the Presentation: Origin and distribution of leaf teeth in temperate woody angiosperm flora.


Southeastern Section Student Presentation Awards

The following winners were selected from the Association of Southeastern Biologists meeting that 

took place at the end of March, 2023.

Southeastern Section Paper Presentation Award

Ben Brewer, Appalachian State University

Southeastern Section Poster Presentation Award

Elizabeth Companion, University of North Carolina Asheville

Mason McNair

Erika R. Moore-Pollard

Megan Nibbelink

Zach Smith

Tengxiang Wang

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Developmental & Structural Section Student Travel Awards

Yesenia Madrigal B., Universidad de Antioquia (Colombia), Advisor: Natalia Pabón-Mora 

For the Presentation: Assessment of the flowering genetic regulatory network in tropical 

orchids with different lifeforms.

Deannah Neupert, Miami University, Advisor: Richard Moore 

For the Presentation: The alteration to vegetative growth and gene expression supports the use 

of a novel aerial bulbil in Mimulus gemmiparus for reproduction. 

Ecological Section Student Travel Awards

Annie E. Meeder, California Polytechnic University, Advisor: Dr. Jenn Yost, For the 

Presentation: Post-eradication transitions and dynamics of Santa Cruz Island vegetation 


Charlotte Miranda, San Jose State University, Advisor: Benjamin Carter 

For the Presentation: Soil generalist Erysimum capitatum shows differential adaptation to 

serpentine soil of origin across a California latitudinal gradient

Shan Wong, Texas Tech University, Advisor: Jyotsna Sharma 

For the Presentation: Disjunct populations of a hemi-epiphytic orchid (Vanilla trigonocarpa) 

show segregation of mycorrhizal niches.

Genetics Section Student Travel Awards

Samantha Drewry, University of Memphis, Advisor: Jennifer Mandel 

For the Presentation: Conservation genetics in the endangered whorled sunflower Helianthus 

verticillatus (Asteraceae).

Elizabeth Uzezi Okinedo, University of Massachusetts Boston, Advisor: Brook Moyers 

For the Presentation: Pleiotropy and adaptation in the silverleaf sunflower, Helianthus 


Primarily Undergraduate Institution (PUI) Faculty and  

Future Faculty Conference Awards

Sarah E. Allen, Penn State Altoona

Chloe Pak Drummond, Mount Holyoke College

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Elizabeth McCarthy, SUNY Cortland

Angela McDonnell, St. Cloud State University

Angela Walczyk, Gustavus Adolphus College

Phytochemical Section Student Travel Awards

Abigail McCoy, State University of New York at Cortland, Advisor: Dr. Elizabeth McCarthy 

For the Proposal: Relaxed purifying selection is observed in genes at the branches of the 

flavonoid biosynthetic pathway in Nicotiana species that do not produce anthocyanin 

compared to those that do. Co-authors: Jacob Landis, Elizabeth McCarthy

Pteridological Section & American Fern Society  

Student Travel Awards

Lacey E. Benson, San Jose State University, Advisor: Dr. Susan Lambrecht 

For the Presentation: A morphometric analysis of western sword fern (Polystichum munitum

pinnae and pinnae scales across the coast redwood forest ecological gradient.

You-Wun Hwang, National Tsing Hua University, Advisor: Li-Yaung Kuo 

For the Presentation: Frond dimorphism in Tectaria ferns: trends of their foliar characteristics 

and spore investment



Torrey Botanical Society


Field trips

held in the 

NY/NJ/CT area

Journal of the Torrey 

Botanical Society

free to publish

low open-access fees

Virtual lectures

watch our past 

lectures on YouTube


graduate, and early 

career fellowships

application deadline: 

January 15

Since our founding in New York City in 1867, the
goals  of  the  Torrey  Botanical  Society  have
remained  the  same:  to  promote  an  interest  in
botany,  and  to  collect  and  diffuse  information
on all topics relating to botany. 

Staten Island, 1914

upstate NY, 2012

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Eric Puetz 

South Dakota State University

Biological life has always fascinated me for 

as long as I can remember. At a young age I 

was exposed to Native tallgrass prairie species 

of Eastern South Dakota. This landscape of 

rolling prairie is home to the “Coteau des 

Prairie” or “Prairie Coteau,” as described by 

French explorers and the homeland of the 

Lakota Sioux. This region is located within 

one of the most endangered ecosystems on 

the planet, Northern Tallgrass prairie, with 

an estimated 2–14% of Native Tallgrass 

prairie remaining. Conservation policy is 

often intertwined with economic interests, 

and this is especially true in South Dakota, 

where tourism is a significant industry due to 

its many natural beauties, including the Black 

Hills, Badlands, and Missouri River. I am a 

strong believer that biological conservation 

of private and public lands is a matter of 

national security, and this is linked directly 

to public policy. As the impacts of climate 

change, geopolitical instability, hunger, 

and loss of ecosystem services threaten our 

world’s growing population, conserving and 

investing in our “biodiversity infrastructure” 

will preserve our nation’s ability to provide 

resources for future generations. To quote 

the late author and naturalist Aldo Leopold, 

“A thing is right when it tends to preserve 

the integrity, stability, and beauty of the 

biotic community. It is wrong when it tends 

otherwise.” Preserving ecosystem services 

in the face of climate change will require 

substantial investment in scientific research, 

public education, and advocacy. 

In April 2022 I was a recipient of the 2022 

Congressional Visits Day (CVD) Award and 

had the honor of representing the Botanical 

Society of America (BSA) and American 

Society of Plant Taxonomists (ASPT). 

Drawing on past hands-on experience and 

ongoing research training at South Dakota 

State University, I used my platform to 

advocate for $11 billion in appropriations 

for the National Science Foundation (NSF) 

in support of scientific research, public 

2022—2023 Congressional Visits 

Day Remarks


Each year, the BSA Public Policy Committee awards two early-career botanists the opportunity to 

attend the American Institute of Biological Sciences’ Congressional Visits Day. This event is hosted 

by the Biological and Ecological Sciences Coalition, and recipients obtain first-hand experience 

at the interface of science and public policy. The first day includes a half-day training session 

on science funding and how to effectively communicate with policymakers provided by AIBS. 

Participants then meet with their Congressional policymakers, during which they will advocate 

for federal support of scientific research. This article details the experiences of this year’s recipients.

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education, and ecological conservation, using 

a practical, no-nonsense approach valued in 

South Dakota and the Midwest. The NSF’s FY 

2023 budget request consisted of six themes: 

climate and clean energy research, equity 

for underserved communities, discovery 

engine, emerging industries, research 

infrastructure, and organizational excellence 

agency operations/award management. This 

experience introduced me to the world of 

public policy and allowed me to develop 

communication and advocacy skills necessary 

for communicating with lawmakers. Despite 

the challenge of the COVID-19 pandemic and 

communicating virtually, this event opened 

my eyes to the advancements NSF funding 

provides in medicine, engineering, biological 

sciences, and technology we use every day. 

This event, which began with a two-day 

communication bootcamp, allowed me to 

further build my communication skills and 

emphasized the importance of incorporating 

my personal story in advocating for increased 

NSF funding. Following the communications 

bootcamp, three constituents and I met with 

personnel from the offices of lawmakers from 

South Dakota: Rep. Johnson, Sen. Rounds, 

Sen. Thune; Montana: Rep. Rosendale, 

Sen. Daines, Sen. Tester; and Minnesota: 

Rep. Philips, Sen. Smith. Following the 

communication bootcamp, my team members 

and I formed a discussion plan of talking 

points in relation to our personal stories, 

which helped to form relationships during the 

short meetings with lawmakers’ staff. Several 

memorable moments from these interactions 

include briefly speaking with Rep. Johnson, 

who had a few moments to listen to our 

message despite a busy schedule, and the 

breakthrough moments with lawmakers’ staff 

where our message was truly being absorbed 

and the spark of a true connection was evident. 

Bipartisan cooperation during times of stark 

partisan political divide is vital to achieving 

legislative success. My team and I experienced 

strong bipartisan support from Democrat and 

Republican lawmakers alike, and during the 

fiscal year 2023 NSF funding was increased 

by 12% to $9.9 billion. I cherish the memories 

from this event, and having the opportunity 

to use my voice to advocate for scientific 

advancement was a profound experience. 


Sauk Valley Community College

I am honored to be selected as a recipient of 

the 2023 Botanical Society of America’s Public 

Policy Award. As an early-career Professor of 

Biology at Sauk Valley Community College 

in Dixon, Illinois, one of my passions is to 

advocate for STEM programs across the 

higher educational spectrum. The trip to 

Washington, DC, was an amazing opportunity 

to express the importance of science, not only 

from a research perspective, but also from 

the unique perspective of community college 

education. When we think of projects funded 

by the National Science Foundation (NSF), 

we can easily identify needs at research-

based universities, independent and non-

profit research organizations, and medical 

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institutions. However, community colleges 

and their diverse student bodies also benefit 

greatly from NSF-funded programs that 

provide research opportunities for 2- and 

4-year undergraduate level students (Research 

Experience for Undergraduate student 


After arriving in our nation’s capitol, I had some 

time to sightsee across the National Mall (one 

of my favorite places). Advocacy, throughout 

history, has found its voice on the Mall, and it 

is a great source of inspiration. The following 

day, our science communication bootcamp, 

hosted by the American Institute for Biological 

Sciences (AIBS), began at Southwestern 

Universities Research Association’s downtown 

DC conference facility. Dr. Jyotsna Pandey of 

AIBS provided a wonderful bootcamp, and 

we began by learning about the pillars of 

communication and how to effectively share 

our message. Often, scientists are perceived 

as out of touch, and it can be a struggle to 

express a technical message in ways that 

resonate with our audience. Therefore, having 

Jyotsna’s expertise in communicating with 

our lawmakers was an invaluable learning 

opportunity for me. With the tools we learned 

during the day, we were able to begin crafting 

a message that would be both informative 

and persuasive while presenting the needs 

of the scientific community through specific 

examples in support of our positions. 

Additionally, a panel of public policy experts 

joined us to speak about their careers on The 

Hill and with various federal organizations 

dedicated to crafting public policy. Their 

experience and advice were encouraging to 

those of us seeking to expand our involvement 

in science public policy. 

That afternoon and continuing into the 

morning of the second day, we learned about 

the complexities of the federal budgeting 

process. Already having an understanding 

of organizational and municipal budgeting, I 

was amazed by the funding challenges that the 

federal government grapples with each fiscal 

year. Discretionary funding, which includes 

the NSF, is where we tend to hear of the 

sweeping cuts in favor of increasing funding 

in other areas. There is never an easy solution 

when it comes to the budgeting process. 

With this knowledge in hand, I began to 

understand the approach to advocating for 

funding of the NSF, and how to go about 

effectively providing that information to 

our lawmakers. That second afternoon we 

worked with our assigned regional groups. As 

a Midwest resident, I was partnered with my 

fellow BSA Public Policy Awardee, Katherine 

Charton from the University of Wisconsin, 

Madison, and Dr. Rebecca Kauten of the Iowa 

Lakeside Laboratory and University of Iowa. 

I am so grateful to have been partnered with 

Katherine and Rebecca, who are not only 

wonderful colleagues, but passionate policy 

advocates as well! We worked together to 

craft a clear and concise message, and request 

funding of the NSF at or above the current 

level of $11.9 billion. Each team member 

spoke to their own strengths and elaborated 

on how NSF funding has positively impacted 

their careers. Whether it was discussing the 

concrete funding numbers and effect on 

STEM workforce percentages, speaking to 

the impact of NSF funding on the ability for 

small and university-independent research 

organizations to collect crucial data, or 

advocating for educational opportunities made 

possible by the NSF for underrepresented 

student groups and community college science 

programs, we devised a clear message for our 

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lawmakers. This message was that the NSF is 

the primary funding body for science, and 

each of us has seen or personally experienced 

the positive impact it provides—the NSF 

needs your support!

The Congressional Visits Day was an absolute 

whirlwind! Starting early in the morning, our 

Midwest team traveled to Capitol Hill where 

we had for our first meeting in Senator Ron 

Johnson’s (R-WI) Hart Senate Building office. 

With Jyotsna present to lend her expertise, 

we spoke with members of Senator Johnson’s 

staff and provided materials from AIBS to 

support our request to fund the NSF at $11.9 

billion. Although the meeting was brief, it 

was informative and upbeat; also, despite 

the busy schedules of the congressional staff 

members, we were well received everywhere 

we went. We bounced back and forth between 

the Dirksen Senate Office Building, the 

Longworth House Office Building and the 

Hart Senate Office Building, meeting with 

staff of Senator Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), 

Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA), Senator Joni 

Ernst (R-IA), Representative Mark Pocan 

(D-WI), Representative Ashley Hinson (R-

IA), and Representative Lauren Underwood 

(D-IL). To conclude the day, I met with staff 

members of Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) 

and Senator Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) from 

my home state of Illinois. Julie Palakovich 

Carr, a current member of the Maryland 

state legislature, former congressional staff 

member, and AIBS associate, joined me to 

provide her expertise on NSF funding. It was a 

pleasure to speak with her regarding her time 

on The Hill and her passion for meaningful 

legislation as an elected official. 

Overall, my experience was an unforgettable 

one. It was a remarkable opportunity to not 

only learn about the ins-and-outs of federal 

funding and budgeting, but also lend my 

voice in support of funding an organization 

that is paramount in the scientific community 

for financial backing of research. Both 

large and small projects, undergraduate 

and graduate student thesis research, non-

profit and independent research facility 

projects, opportunities for students outside of 

traditional research-based higher education 

institutions, and so much more fall under the 

purview of the NSF’s funding. Meeting with 

our representatives keeps them informed of 

what their constituency values and wants to 

see supported. I hope more people engage 

in public policy and speak up for positive 

change. As a professor, one thing that was 

particularly impactful from this opportunity 

was sharing the experience with my students, 

in real-time, thanks to social media. I was able 

to update students of my journey by posting 

to my educational social media channel and 

engaging them in the civic process. It is my 

hope that, through my example of advocacy, 

they will find their voices and become involved 

in the issues that matter most to them.  

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It is with great pleasure that we mark the first 

10 years of publication for Applications in Plant 

Sciences. APPS was launched as an open access 

journal in January 2013 with the intention of 

being “a new source for sharing exciting and 

innovative applications of new technologies 

that have the potential to propel plant research 

forward into the future,” according to the 

journal’s first Editor-in-Chief, Dr. Theresa 

Culley. The journal covers all areas of the plant 

sciences, publishing novel protocols, software 

notes, reviews, and application and genomic 

resource articles, under the leadership of 

current Editor-in-Chief, Dr. Briana Gross, and 

Managing Editor Beth Parada, along with the 

APPS editorial board.

We will be marking this milestone and 

highlighting some of the remarkable papers 

published over the past 10 years, including 

several special themed issues, which have 

helped to bring in talented early-career 

and experienced researchers working 

together as editors, reviewers, and authors. 

Congratulations to all the dedicated people 

who contribute to the journal and benefit 

from reading the papers published!

Celebrating 10 Years of Publication 


Applications in Plant Sciences




We are delighted to announce that Dr. 

Liming Cai, of the University of Texas 

at Austin, is the winner of the first AJB 

Synthesis Prize  (


ajb-synthesis-papers-and-prize.html) for 

her article “Rethinking convergence in plant 

parasitism through the lens of molecular 

and population genetic processes,” AJB 2023, 

110:  e16174. The Synthesis competition was 

intended to showcase early-career scientists 

and to highlight their unique perspectives on a 

research area or question, summarizing recent 

work and providing new insights that advance 

the field. The Prize comes with a $2000 award 

and recognition at the BSA Awards Ceremony 

at the Botany Conference. 

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Dr. Cai is currently a Stengl-Wyer Postdoctoral 

Research Fellow at the University of Texas at 

Austin focusing on the evolutionary genomics 

and physiology of parasitic plants. She 

received her doctoral degree in evolutionary 

plant biology at Harvard University, and 

her bachelor’s degree, with Honors, in Life 

Sciences from Fudan University in Shanghai, 

China. Her research combines natural history 

and cutting-edge molecular methods to 

gain a mechanistic understanding of how 

plants live and evolve. She is exploring 

how plant parasitism impacts the integrity 

of mitochondrial function and mito-nuclear 

interaction using genome sequencing, 

respiratory physiology, and herbarium-

based approaches. Dr. Cai is a member of 

the BSA’s Early Career Advisory Board and 

has served on the Reviewing Editor Board 

for  Applications in Plant Sciences. She has 

published numerous papers in peer-reviewed 

journals  and  received  much  recognition  and 

many awards for her scholarship. 

Dr. Cai was one of six early-career scientists 

whose  Synthesis papers were published in 




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The June issue of the American Journal of 

Botany explores the theme of “Pollen as 

the Link Between Floral Phenotype and 

Fitness.” Guest editors Øystein H. Opedal, 

Rocío Pérez-Barrales, Vinícius L. G. Brito, 

Nathan Muchhala, Miquel Capó, and 

Agnes Dellinger worked with contributors 

to highlight research that provides new 

insights into the relationships between pollen 

production, presentation, flower morphology, 

and pollination performance (e.g., pollen 

deposition onto stigmas), the role of pollinators 

in pollen transfer, and the consequences of 

heterospecific pollen deposition. Several of 

the studies demonstrate exciting experimental 

and analytical approaches that should pave 

the way for continued work addressing the 

intriguing role of pollen in linking plant 

phenotypes to reproductive fitness. A paper 

in Applications in Plant Sciences forms part of 

the current special issue and presents a new 

pollen quantification technique that evaluates 

the use of high-energy violet light for pollen 

grain classification.

The May–June issue of Applications in Plant 

Sciences explores “Emerging Methods in 

Botanical DNA/RNA Extraction.” Guest 

editors Richard Hodel, Ed McAssey, and 

Nora Mitchell have curated a diverse group 

of papers highlighting the current state 

of knowledge in nucleic acid extractions, 

including both the key challenges and creative 

innovations that have been developed to 

circumvent these challenges to address a 

variety of exciting botanical questions. This 

special issue provides a valuable resource 

that will help readers to improve their own 

protocols, expand their toolkits, and consider 

additional research frontiers enabled by 

nucleic acid data. 



See the full issue at:


See the full issue at:


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Do you aspire to lead a 
horticultural institution  
or business? 
Are you passionate about 
using your career to make  
a positive global impact?

Your Path

to Leadership

Applications for the 2024–2025 cohort are  
open through July 31. Learn more and apply  


to our graduating 


Longwood Fellows 

Cohort. From top 

left: Danny Cox, 

Amanda Hannah,  

Rae Vassar, Rama 


Anamari Mena, and 

Ryan Gott, Ph.D.


The Fellows Program develops tomorrow’s leaders, 
preparing them to successfully navigate pressing 
challenges, develop thoughtful strategies, and lead 
organizations that are equitable and sustainable. 
During the fully funded, cohort-based residency, 
Fellows engage in project-based learning that 
allows them to hone their professional skills while 
delving into issues relevant to the horticulture 
industry today.

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PSB 69 (2) 2023


Jacquelyn Gill is an associate professor of paleoecology at the University of Maine’s Climate 

Change Institute. She is a paleoecologist and biogeographer, bringing the perspectives of 

space and time to bear on questions in ecology and global change science. Her work takes 

a community ecology approach to help understand how species and their interactions 

have responded to interacting drivers (like climate change and extinction) through time.  


She directs the BEAST Lab, which investigates 1) the legacies “biotic upheavals” like the 

extinction of Pleistocene megafauna on vegetation, 2) biotic interactions and drivers of 

landscape change on large spatiotemporal scales, 3) plant range dynamics and vulnerability to 

climate change, and 4) what paleoecology, Indigenous archaeology, and Traditional Ecological 

Knowledges can tell us about human-environment interactions in the past.

She is a co-host of the podcast Warm Regards and author of the blog “The Contemplative 

Mammoth”, welcoming conversations and advice on science, early career academia, and 

diversity in STEM. She is a co-founder of the March for Science and a 2020 recipient of NCSE’s 

Friend of the Planet award.


BOTANY 2023 


SUNDAY, JULY 23 7:30 PM 


Register now - 

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Botany 2023 Featured Speakers!




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PSB 69 (2) 2023


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PSB 69 (2) 2023




Plant Study has been an integral part of the 

college curriculum in the U.S. since before 

the founding of the nation. In colonial times, 

botany was studied primarily as a necessary 

component of medical education and the 

earliest botanists were physicians. By the 

founding of the republic, however, botany 

found its place in the field of natural history 

at a growing number of institutions and the 

teaching of botany was one of the leading 

developments in what would become the 

standard scientific curriculum. By the 1850s, 

botany was one of the premier disciplines 

represented in the American Association 

155 Years of Botany at Emporia 

State University: A Case Study of 

College Botany in the United States








By Marshall D. Sundberg 

Roe R Cross Distinguished Professor of Biology – 

Emeritus, Emporia State University,  

Emporia, KS 


for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). 

Already in 1875 Huxley and Martin had 

published their elementary biology textbook 

and with the founding of Johns Hopkins 

University, academic biology became closely 

connected with medicine. In 1882 the Natural 

History Section of the AAAS split into four 

subdivisions, including biology, but botanists 

argued, “Upon even a casual examination 

these courses, in almost every case, turn out 

not to be courses in biology at all, but courses 

in Zoölogy masquerading under an attractive 

but deceptive name.” (Macmillan, 1893) This 

argument was pivotal in establishing the 

Botanical Society of America (Sundberg, 2014). 

Nevertheless, by the 1920s biology overtook 

botany in the high school curriculum. At the 

college level, a 1931 survey of 202 U.S. colleges 

and universities demonstrated that botany 

remained the most taught introductory course 

(59%) while zoology (51%) and biology (42%) 

trailed (Schaefer, 1932); by 1937, biology had 

replaced botany and zoology in the general 

education requirements of more than 60% 

of colleges. To address this problem, the BSA 

Education Committee obtained NSF funding 

for a series of summer institutes (1956-1969) 

for small college, and some high school, 


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teachers to update concepts in modern botany. 

Yet, by 1969 it was also clear that botany 

departments were being merged into biology 

departments and in biology departments, 

botany courses were being deleted (Stern). 

This trend, documented in a series of Plant 

Science Bulletin articles, continues into the 

2020s (Sundberg, 2011, 2012, 2014, 2016; 

Jones, 2020). For the past 125 years, botany 

in the curriculum of today’s Emporia State 

University, has followed a remarkable similar 




The State of Kansas was admitted to the 

Union in 1861, and in 1863 three institutions 

of higher education were established: The 

State Agricultural College in Manhattan, the 

State Normal School in Emporia, and the 

State University in Lawrence. This order of 

legislation is an indicator of the legislators’ 

(many of them rural farmers) attitudes toward 

education. The Ag School will be critical to 

developing the state’s (and their) economies, 

and the Normal school will provide teachers 

to the schools being opened in many rural 

communities. Then comes the university. 

The Normal School was finally opened after 

the Civil War ended in 1865, and Lyman 

Kellogg was appointed as principal. The 

following year Dr. Henry B. Norton, who 

trained as a science teacher at the Illinois 

State Normal School, was hired to teach the 

natural sciences, including botany. The first 

classes were taught on the second floor of the 

Emporia Public School, and the college had 

no equipment, books, or maps of their own. 

The following year, the first college building 

was completed and the 1868 catalog listed 

anatomy and physiology, botany, and zoology 

as the available natural science classes. In 1874 

Norton left to accept a position at San Jose 

Normal School in California and S. C. Delap, 

Graduate of Millersville State Normal School, 

PA, was hired as a replacement. Unfortunately, 

the Normal School burned in 1878 and all the 

equipment and school records were lost. With 

the facility completely destroyed, the faculty 

resigned en masse (anonymous, 1889; Prentis, 


A new building was completed in 1880 (Figure 

1), and Holmes Sadler was hired as the school 

librarian and Natural Science and Elocution 

instructor. The natural history classroom 

and laboratory were in the basement; on the 

first floor was a natural history museum and 

recitation room. It is unclear if Sadler had 

input into the design of the building, but he was 

clearly in the vanguard of science education 

theory. As Charles E. Bessey wrote in 1877, 

“A college which proposes to keep up with the 

current must provide botanical and zoological 

laboratories ... A botanical laboratory is just as 

necessary for the proper teaching of botany, as 

is a chemical laboratory for chemistry” (Bessey, 

1877). The 1880-81 catalogue states, “This 

Figure 1. Kansas State Normal School, 

1880.  Botany  was  taught  in  the  basement, 

on the far west (left) side of the building.

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subject [botany] is taught more thoroughly 

than any other branch of natural science, 

from the fact that the methods of scientific 

research do not materially differ in the various 

branches, and the materials for extensive 

and exhaustive research on this subject are 

more readily accessible to our students” 

(Catalog, 1880, p. 35). Indeed, both geology 

and zoology were scheduled for one 10-week 

term whereas botany consisted of 20 weeks of 

study and included field and laboratory work. 

In the 1881-82 through 1883-84 catalogs, 

Sadler provides course descriptions. Students 

should be able to describe the similarities and 

differences between 40 genera, along with the 

distinguishing characters of each, and describe 

general principles of classification. They 

would also consider the evolution (history) 

and physiology of plants. The 1884-85 catalog 

specifies Kellerman’s Elements of Botany as 

the textbook (1883). This newly published 

book was reviewed in Science as being “a 

little bit more comprehensive…than books of 

this grade usually are…unsatisfactory in its 

execution in many respects, it comes nearer to 

filling a serious gap in botanical literature than 

any other thus far published…” (Science, 1884). 

It is unknown what texts were originally used, 

but the University library did subscribe to 

Science so it is possible this review influenced 

Sadler’s choice. However, Kellerman, the 

author, was the new Professor of Botany at 

Kansas State Agricultural College, so this 

also may have influenced Sadler’s textbook 


It is interesting that for the first time, 

components of the laboratory course are 

individually specified in the Catalog. Students 

were responsible for making a herbarium of 

50 species with full descriptions. Each student 

also had a compound microscope and was 

responsible for making microscopic drawings 

of cells and tissues of fungi, algae, and a variety 

of land plants. Thus, the Normal School 

in Emporia should have been included in 

Arthur and Bessey’s lists of colleges adopting 

“The New Botany” and requiring use of the 

compound microscope in the laboratory 

(Sundberg, 2012). In lab, students would also 

do experiments with artificial soils (Catalog, 

1884-85, p. 37).

In 1885 the regents organized a Department 

of Natural History, and Dorman Kelly was 

hired as Professor of Natural History to 

replace Sadler, who left education and moved 

to Memphis. Catalog course descriptions in 

1885 were the same as the previous year except 

the textbook would be Gray’s School and Field 

Book of Botany (1880). The following year, 

Kelly devised a new format for the course. At 

the beginning of the term, the class would be 

divided into two sections. The top half of the 

students, in the first section, would receive 

more rapid, compressed instruction for the 

first 10 weeks. If they received a score of at 

least 80%, they would pass the course and be 

able to move on to another course. If not, they 

would join the second section for the second 

10 weeks of normal instruction. Except for a 

change in textbook in 1887, Gray’s Lessons and 

Manual of Botany, the structure of the course 

remained the same for a decade until Kelly 

was replaced by Lyman Wooster in 1897. 

Wooster was primarily a geologist; as a result, 

few changes were made in the botany offering. 

The previous year, Bergen (1896) published 

Elements of Botany, a somewhat briefer 

book than Gray, which Wooster adopted to 

complement Gray’s Field, Forest and Garden 

Botany (1895) in the Botany course. Some 

of the features that may have influenced 

Wooster in adopting Bergen were end of 

chapter summaries and, for some chapters, 

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PSB 69 (2) 2023


review questions to guide student study. Most 

of Wooster’s students were future teachers, so 

this provided practice. In 1902 he hired one 

of his graduates, Elizabeth Crary, to assist 

in teaching the natural history laboratory 


In anticipation of a request to upgrade 

the status of the school, the faculty of the 

science departments—Biology and Geology, 

Chemistry and Physics, Political Geography 

and Physiography—compiled a booklet 

detailing the course offerings and organization 

of each department. It also included sections 

on the Methods of Study. Botany continued 

to be a 20-week course. During the first 

section, which focused on morphology and 

taxonomy, students were required to make 

80 to 90 “judgements” (detailed descriptions 

of characters) for each of 40 to 50 plants. But 

first the student must make accurate labelled 

drawings of the “plant for the day.”  The 

judgements for a given day must be prepared 

ahead of time as the class time was spent 

“verifying” the judgements (compare today’s 

flipped classroom approach). “The knowledge 

of the plants thus obtained by observation, 

by the expression of judgements and by the 

criticism of these judgements is still further 

tested and corrected by requiring pupils 

during the class hour to affirm or deny the 

truthfulness of the statements made in several 

keys…in so far as they apply to the plants at 

hand” (Anonymous, 1904). In the laboratory, 

morphological details were sketched and 

labelled using water mounts and compound 

microscopes. During the second section the 

focus is on performing the 40 experiments 

described in Bergen (1901) and “from the 

personal experience of class members and 

class reference books.” Plant anatomy involved 

hand sectioning and observations with 

the compound microscope, supplemented 

with enlarged photographs of tissues, and 

correlating structure with function. An 

even richer understanding was obtained by 

considering the ecology of the plants under 


Beyond these specifics, the booklet went on 

to explain some additional objectives of the 

curriculum. First, the primary objective is 

not to make “finished botanists” but rather 

“growing botanists.” The second objective is to 

develop students’ observational skills. Third is 

to develop students’ power of forming valid 

conclusions about what they have seen, felt, 

or heard. “Most students in secondary schools 

and colleges are weak in the ability to form 

judgements about what their senses report, for 

most school studies give them small occasion 

to use their powers in this direction.” A final 

objective is for students to acquire such a 

knowledge of plants and love of botany that 

they may successfully teach botany in the 

elementary and secondary schools of the state 

(Anonymous, 1904; Catalog 1905, p. 231). 

In 1905 the school was authorized both to offer 

bachelor’s degrees and to begin construction 

of a new science building. The Department of 

Natural Sciences now became the Department 

of Biology and Geology, following a national 

trend of combining botany and geology. 

Biology programs first began to be offered 

in U.S. colleges in the late 1880s as an 

alternative to separate botany and zoology 

programs. By 1911 about 30% of colleges 

had biology departments (Sundberg, 2012, 

2014). Emporia’s approach was a compromise. 

General Biology was added as a 4-credit (cr.) 

prerequisite for incoming students who had 

not had a full year of high school botany or 

zoology. The course taught the common 

basic concepts required for both the botany 

and zoology programs. A full curriculum of 

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science courses was now required, and Crary 

was promoted to instructor with primary 

responsibility for the botany program. Norton 

Science Hall was dedicated in November 

1907 (Figure 2). A botany laboratory and two 

classrooms were on the west end of the first 

floor, and another laboratory and the Natural 

History Museum were on the west end of the 

second floor. 

The following year, the curriculum was 

expanded and another former student, Alban 

Stewart, was hired as an additional instructor. 

After one year Stewart decided to move on for 

an advanced degree, and Frank U.G. Agrelius 

was hired in 1911 to teach Bacteriology as 

well as Botany (Figure 3). By this time Crary 

had also completed some graduate work at 

the University of Chicago and was promoted 

to Professor. The botany curriculum now 

consisted of 12 courses under the credit hour 

system. Freshman Botany remained 4 cr., 

Advanced Field Botany was a 3 cr. summer 

course, and the remaining courses were 

single-semester, 2 cr. courses:  Algae, Fungi, 

Mosses and Ferns; Plant Physiology; Plant 

Anatomy; History of Botany (summer only); 

Economic Botany; Botanical Microtechnique 

(summer only); and Nature Study. In 1913 the 

Algae and Fungi courses were combined into 

a single course and a new Botany in the High 

School was added. Lab fees were also added 

for some courses: Freshman Botany ($1.25), 

Plant Physiology ($3.00), Plant Anatomy 

($2.00), and Plant Microtechnique ($2.50) 

(Catalog 1913).

According to the 1913-14 catalogue, a B.A. in 

biology required 11 cr. in Bacteriology, 11 cr. 

in Botany, 8 cr. in Zoology, 2 cr. of Plant Nature 

Study, and 2 cr. of Evolution of Plant and 

Animal Form; however, the botany offerings 

were much reduced after Crary left in 1914. 

For the next three decades Frank Agrelius 

was the botanist (and bacteriologist) in the 

department and the only regularly scheduled 

botany courses were: Freshman Botany, Plant 

Anatomy, Plant Physiology,  Nature Study, 

and Systematic Botany—each offered once 

a year and occasionally also in summer. In 

1916 the Freshman Botany was divided into 

two separate courses, the first focusing on 

development of spore plants and the second 

on development of seed plants. 

Figure 2.  Norton Science Hall. Botany lec-

ture rooms and laboratories, 2


 and 3



are on the west (left) side of building.

Figure 3. Frank Agrelius, who taught plant 

taxonomy for 45 years.

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In 1923 the Normal School became 

Kansas State Teachers College in Emporia. 

Although there were some major changes 

to the biology department, losing several 

zoology and microbiology courses to newly 

formed Department of Agriculture and 

Health Education, botany was unscathed. 

Agrelius, who had now completed a master’s, 

was promoted to Associate Professor. In 

1929 the department hired a new head, 

John Breukelman, who initially focused 

on advanced courses as the regents now 

authorized master’s degrees for the college. 

In 1930, 2-4 cr. of research was added to 

each of the sub disciplines, including botany. 

The following year three graduate-level 

courses were added: Forest Botany, Special 

Morphology of Algae, and Special Morphology 

of Fungi. Breukelman’s reorganization of the 

department was completed in 1935 when 

the Department of Agriculture was merged 

with the Department of Biology and Geology 

to become the Department of Biological 

Sciences. With Wooster now retired, geology 

was split out to join with chemistry and 

physics in a Department of Physical Sciences. 

Breukelman, a charter member of the 

National Association of Biology Teachers, 

also instituted a Bachelor of Arts in Education 

degree for prospective secondary teachers and 

a biology minor for the master’s program. 

There were no further significant botanical 

changes to the department until after the war 

(Catalogs, 1931-1935; Breukelman, 1963).

In 1946 the department was approved to 

offer a graduate major in biology, and Merle 

Brooks received the initial graduate teaching 

fellowship. He completed his master’s the 

following year and was immediately hired as an 

instructor in biology while spending summers 

at the University of Colorado pursuing a 

doctorate in botany. Initially he taught only the 

introductory botany and secondary education 

courses, although when Agrelius retired in 

1950, Brooks picked up the rest of the botany 

courses, except plant systematics, which 

Agrelius continued to teach until 1956 when 

Brooks completed his doctorate (Breukelman, 

1950, p. 190; Menhusen, 1959, p. 27).

Homer A. Stephens, an instructor–extension 

agent hired part-time between 1951 and 

1955, partially filled the systematics void, but 

the Agrelius position was not replaced until 

1955 when Gilbert Leisman, a paleobotanist 

from Minnesota, was hired (Figure 4). He 

changed Systematic Botany into a modern 

plant taxonomy course and added Plants of 

Kansas. But several courses were also deleted, 

including Forest Botany, Spore Plants, Seed 

Plants, and Elementary Biological Science. 

In 1957 Joseph D. Novak, also with a botany 

Ph.D. from Minnesota, arrived to teach 

Figure 4. Gilbert Leisman in his Norton Sci-

ence  Hall  office.  Leisman  was  a  long-time 

member of the BSA and served as chairman of 

the Paleobotanical Section in 1967. He was 

awarded several NSF grants to study Kansas 

Coal Balls, Permian shale outcroppings at the 

Ross Natural History Area, and the late Car-

boniferous Hamilton Quarry Lagerstätte.

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Introductory Botany and Science Education, 

but left after only one year for a position at 

Purdue University and ultimately at Cornell 

University. The following year Brooks also 

left, leaving Leisman the only botanist 

in the department, along with Clarence 

Glandfelter, who was hired in 1930 by the 

Agriculture Department to teach agriculture 

and conservation courses, but since the 

department merger brought over Forestry and 

Horticulture to biological sciences (Catalogs, 

1951-1955, 1957; Bruekelman, 1963). 


The entire country experienced a boom in 

higher education following World War II, 

with returning soldiers given incentives to 

pursue education through the G.I. Bill. It is 

interesting that before 1890, most high school 

graduates went on to college, but this was 

less than 4% of 18- to 21-year-olds (Hurd, 

1961; Rudolph, 1977). After WWII, with the 

dramatic rise in births and the realization 

that upward mobility in the lower and middle 

classes depended more and more on a college 

degree, citizens and legislators put a priority 

on expanding access to higher education. 

Ironically, even with this general push toward 

a college degree, “Scientific illiteracy became a 

characteristic of college-educated Americans 

some time toward the middle of the twentieth 

century if not before” (Rudolph, 1977, p. 255). 

Science, then, was a special case that required 

additional culturing. 

In my experience, as a low-level administrator 

at two institutions, three things determine 

the success you will have in reaching higher 

goals for the unit: support from the top, a 

person or core of people on the cutting edge 

of innovation, and money–external grant 

support. The Department of Biology in the 

late 1950s and 1960s was fortunate to have 

all three of these components come together 

at the same time general support for higher 

education was rising. In 1953 the College 

inaugurated a new President, John E. King, 

who was a strong supporter of the liberal 

arts and sciences and in full agreement with 

Bruekelman’s philosophy: “To prepare good 

teachers you’ve got to first prepare them 

intellectually” (Prophet, 1998). A new science 

building for the physical sciences was begun 

in 1956 and complete in 1959. Although 

biology remained in Norton Science Hall, it 

expanded to fill the building (Figure 5). In 

1963, Brighton Lecture Hall was added to the 

science building, and a new biology wing (now 

Bruekelman Hall) was begun in 1966 (the last 

year of King’s tenure) and completed in 1970. 

In addition to these improvements in physical 

infrastructure on campus, in 1958 the College 

received an option to lease 1040 acres of prairie 

on the edge of the Flint Hills, 14 miles west of 

Emporia, for a natural history reservation to 

be named after the benefactors, the late F.B. 

Ross and Rena G. Ross. Breukelman, a field 

Figure 5. Original  Botany  Laboratory,  2



floor, Norton Science Hall, now dedicated to 

structural studies after plant physiology moved 

into a wet laboratory vacated by Chemistry’s 

move to the new Science building.

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biologist, was persuasive and the college took 

the lease. Three years later the estate gifted the 

southwestern 200 acres of the F.B. Ross and 

Rena G. Ross Natural History Reservation 

to the College, a gift accepted by the State 

Board of Regents and Legislature. This facility 

would turn out to be very important in the 

department’s growth during the next decade. 

In 1953 Bruekelman was well-aware of the state 

of biology education in the country, having 

recently completed 11 years as Editor of the 

American Biology Teacher. The time was ripe 

for change and post-war enrollment increases 

were anticipated. In the fall of 1952, there were 

5 faculty members serving 236 undergraduate 

majors and 10 graduate students; ten years 

later there would be 13 faculty serving more 

than 705 undergrads and more than 60 grad 

students. Graduate summer registration rose 

from 15 to more than 100. In 1958 Breukelman 

retired as chair, but he had been grooming his 

replacement, Ted Andrews, for 10 years and 

Andrews hit the ground running. Andrews 

graduated from Emporia in 1940 and went on 

for a master’s from Iowa, 3 years in the Naval 

Reserve, and Ph.D. from Ohio State in 1948. 

He immediately accepted a faculty position 

in the biology department. Like Bruekelman, 

Andrews was very active in NABT and both 

served as President of the organization. 

Major external grants at Emporia began 

with the 1953-1959 Summer Conservation 

Workshops, supported by the National Wildlife 

Federation and led by Bruekelman. The Initial 

NSF Summer Institute for Secondary Science 

Teachers at Kansas State Teachers College 

was received in 1957 and co-directed by 

Merle Brooks, along with a physicist and a 

mathematician. This program supported about 

120 high school teachers, mostly from Kansas 

and adjacent states, to complete two summer 

courses in either biology, physical sciences, or 

mathematics (about 40 in each). This grant 

subsidized tuition and provided room and 

board for the participant (and spouse and 

family) and a small stipend. It was renewed 

annually from 1957 to 1968. The grant also 

supported a seminar series by distinguished 

scientists who would come to campus for a few 

days to a week during the session. Among the 

botanists presenting over the duration of the 

program were:  Henry Andrews, Washington 

University, Paleobotany; Leslie John Audus, 

University of London, plant hormones; 

George W. Beadle, Cal Tech, genes and 

enzymes; John Dodd, Iowa State, Algology; 

Harry J. Fuller, Illinois, economic botany; 

Arthur Galston, Yale, photosynthesis and 

plant metabolism; Richard Keeling, Purdue, 

anatomy; Samuel Postlethwait, Purdue, 

science education; Peter Raven, Stanford, 

ecology, evolution; Paul Sears, Yale, plant 

ecology; Bruce Stowe, Yale, plant physiology; 

Ian Sussex, Yale, plant development; and 

Billie Turner, Texas, systematics.  Brooks also 

coordinated the second year of the program 

before leaving Emporia in 1959 for a position 

at the University of Nebraska, Omaha. 

Ted Andrews, who had just become head of 

the department, took over leading the Summer 

Institute while searching to replace Brooks 

and add additional faculty positions to the 

Department. Emily Hartman, with a Ph.D. in 

plant taxonomy from Kansas, was hired from 

California State Polytechnic College to replace 

Brooks in 1958, taking over both his botany 

and microbiology courses. However, in 1960 

she returned to a position in California. For two 

summers (1959 and 1960), Vincent Weber, a 

plant anatomist from Minnesota, had a visiting 

appointment specifically for the summer 

institutes. Another short time hire, Gilbert 

Hughes, replaced Weber in the summers of 

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1961 and 1962, but also taught Microbiology 

and Mycology during the academic year, 

filling some of Brooks’ former role. A tenure-

track plant taxonomist, James Wilson was also 

hired in 1959 specifically to replace Agrelius 

and take over systematics. When Hughes left 

in 1962, two new botanists were hired, Jack 

Carter and Donald Ahshapanek. Carter was 

an alumus (B.S. ’51, M.S. ’53) who went on 

for a Ph.D. from Iowa. Although trained in 

taxonomy, Carter was hired primarily to teach 

the plant organismal courses and to take over 

as Coordinator of the NSF Summer Institutes.  

Like Andrews, Carter was already involved 

in NABT, so he was a natural to take over the 

grant programs. Ahshapanek, with a PhD in 

Plant Physiology from Oklahoma, returned 

to Kansas, where he did undergraduate work 

at the Haskell Institute (now Haskell Indian 

Nations University). The following year 

Richard Keeling was hired specifically to teach 

Microbiology and Mycology. Between 1960 

and 1965 the number of biology faculty grew 

from 13 to 23; botanists grew from three to 

five (plus one part-time). 

Realizing the potential for generating master’s 

degrees, Andrews evolved the summer 

institute program into a sequential institute so 

that a student making satisfactory progress the 

first summer could be supported to return the 

following two summers. Under this format, 

approximately 40 more biology majors could 

be added to the graduate program for up to 

8 years (Table 1). Furthermore, a diversity of 

upper level / graduate courses could be offered 

on a regular basis, with fieldwork, class, and 

research, based at the Ross Reservation (Table 2).

Andrews was also PI on two additional NSF 

Grants. Research Participation for High 

School Teachers in Biology at Kansas State 

Teachers College ran from 1961 to 1968 and 

selected 5-8 teachers to spend the summer 

taking a research course under the direction 

of one of the faculty members. Carter also 

coordinated this grant during his tenure at 


The Academic Year Institute for High School 

Teachers in Biology at Kansas State Teachers 

College, which ran from 1962 to 1964, was 

also a team project with Andrews as P.I. and 

Carter coordinating implementation of the 

grant. Its purpose was to broaden teachers’ 

scientific knowledge and to improve their 

ability to motivate their students to consider 

STEM careers. The focus was specifically on 

the subject matter rather than the methods 

of teaching. Thirty teachers were chosen each 

year to participate in a full load of graduate 

courses and research with the option of partial 

support the following summer to complete 

the master’s. The program also included 

optional spring break field trips. The first 

involved caravanning through Tamaulipas, 

San Luis Potosi, and Nuevo Leon, Mexico; 

subsequent years involved backpacking trips 

Table 1. Biology Participants in NSF Summer Institutes and Number of Master’s Graduates 











































(NSF, 1957-1968) 



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in the Rockies. Twenty-two of the first 30 

participants completed their master’s by 1964, 

and 5 went on for a Ph.D. Approximately 400 

students participated in the Summer Institutes 

and/or the Academic Year Institutes between 

1957 and 1968, and of these 282 received an 

M.S. and 11 received an Ed.S. (NSF, 1957-

1968; Prophet, 1998).

In 1964 Andrews took a leave of absence to 

become Associate Director of the Biological 

Science Curriculum Study (BSCS) in Boulder, 

Colorado. Andrews did not return in 1965 and 

instead recruited Carter to take over for him 

at BSCS in 1966; after leaving Emporia, Carter 

directed BSCS for two years before moving to 

the faculty at Colorado College and Andrews 

moved on to become Associate Director 

of the Commission on Undergraduate 

Education in the Biological Sciences (CUEBS) 

in Washington, D.C. The year Andrews took 

leave, another former alum, Bernadette 

Menhusen (M.S., 1959) was hired to teach 

non-vascular plants and natural history for 

education majors. Meanwhile, botany was well 

represented in the NSF Research Participation 

Program. Of the eight year-long participants 

in 1965, two worked with Ahshapanek in 

plant physiology, two worked with Leisman in 

paleobotany, two worked with Wilson in plant 

taxonomy, and one worked with Keeling in 


A new plant physiologist, Robert Parenti, who, 

like Ahshapanek had a PhD in plant physiology 

from Oklahoma, was hired in 1966 to replace 

Carter. Bruekelman accepted the position of 

acting chair so the department could do its first 

national search for a new chair. Edwin Kurtz, 

a plant physiologist and science educator 

from the University of Arizona, was hired in 

1968. This marked a high point for botany at 

Emporia with 6 botanists and a mycologist out 

of 19 tenure-track faculty members (Archives, 

Box 1, staff meeting notes 1964-1966, Biology 

minutes 1965-1968). It was also a high point 

for the university with enrollment reflecting 

the height of the baby boom generation. 

A new president, John Visser, was hired in 

1967 and he immediately began the work 

Table 2.  Botany Courses Offered, and Enrollments, during NSF Summer Institute Years. 











Gen Botany 









Pl Taxonomy 









Pl Morphology 









Pl Anatomy 












Farm Crops 







Bot for Teach 





Pl Physiology 






















Pl Kingdom 
















UG Proj 




Grad Proj 





Grad Res 









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to seek university status for the college. He 

hired a mycologist, John Peterson (trained by 

Constantine Alexopolis at Michigan State in 

1953, 10 years before Alexopolis was elected 

President of BSA) to be professor of Biology 

and Dean of Liberal Arts and Sciences in 1971. 

The reorganization plan was finally approved 

in 1974 and the name was changed to Emporia 

Kansas State College and then, in 1977, to 

Emporia State University (ESU). Peterson 

continued as Dean of the new College of Liberal 

Arts and Sciences for the next 12 years. With 

the reorganization, the Biology Department 

became the Division of Biological Sciences 

with five areas of concentration available 

for specialization: general biology, botany, 

environmental biology, microbial and cellular 

biology, or zoology. Biology courses were 

renumbered with prefixes reflecting the area of 

concentration. The botany emphasis required: 

15 hours of physical sciences, the Biology Core 

consisting of GB 100 (Introductory Biology), 

MC 150 (Introductory Microbiology), BO 

212-213 (Biology of Plants and Lab) ZO 214-

215 (Biology of Animals and Lab), MC 216 or 

MC 346 (Cell Biology or Molecular Biology), 

EB 220 (Ecology) and at least 8 additional 

botany courses from the following: BO 338-339 

(Trees and Shrubs and lab), BO 409 (Botany 

Projects), 450 (Special Topics in Botany), 

BO 542-543 (Plant Taxonomy and Lab), BO 

552-553 (Plant Kingdom and Lab), BO575-

576 (Paleobotany and Lab), BO 752-753 

(Plant Anatomy and Lab), BO 755-756 (Plant 

Physiology and Lab), and BO 865 (Grasses 

and Lab). Separate courses in Bryology, 

Morphology and Paleobotany of Vascular 

Plants, and Phycology were combined into BO 

552 (Plant Kingdom). This curriculum would 

remain basically unchanged until 2021-2022. 



Unfortunately, Kurtz and Peterson arrived 

at the end of high times. The last successful 

summer institute grant had just been awarded 

for 1968, and the 1969 submission for an 

academic year institute in 1970 would be the 

last successful submission for that program. 

Menhusen was successful in obtaining 3 years 

of support (1970-1973) for an NSF Cooperative 

College/School science program, and she 

teamed with science educator John Ransom 

on an NSF Implementation Projects for 

High School and Elementary School Science 

Program, but only two other external projects 

were funded in the department during the 

1970s. University enrollment began to level off 

in 1967 and peaked at 7150 in 1969, declining 

thereafter. Ten years later, enrollment was 

less than 5850 and still going down. This 

decrease was the result of two major factors: 

the increase in the number of community 

colleges throughout the state and the entrance 

of Wichita University into the state system. 

The result was college-wide loss of 70 faculty, 

mostly through retirements or resignations. 

During this decade, biology continued to 

graduate more undergraduates and graduate 

students than any other department in the 

college, but tenure-track lines decreased by 

4 to 15 by 1980. Four botanists resigned. In 

1971 Don Ahshapanek, who also advised pre-

dental, pre-mortician, and pre-optometry, left 

to accept a position at his alma mater; Haskell 

Institute had just been redesignated Haskell 

Indian Junior College. In 1972, Chair Edwin 

Kurtz left to chair the biology department at 

the University of Texas Permian Basin. In 1974 

Menhusen left to teach at other universities, 

and in 1980 Parenti left for a position in the 

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

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There were certainly some unpleasant 

dynamics occurring among the biology 

faculty at this time, which may be related to 

more than one of these faculty losses. The 

staff meeting minutes of 17 February 1971, 

says there was a straw poll among the faculty 

to consider an evaluation of the department 

chair (Kurtz) – 11 in favor, 5 against, which 

was sent to the President. The President’s reply 

on 4 March was “…to wait until fall when the 

new Dean [Peterson] takes over.” On January 

3, 1972, Kurtz distributed most of his duties 

as chair among 5 faculty members, and 3 

days later a letter from Dean Peterson to the 

faculty states he “intends to back the chair 

– whatever!”  Nevertheless, Kurtz left at the 

end of Spring semester (Archives, Box 24, 

Staff Meeting Minutes; Box 6, Biology Faculty 

Memos 1970-1971). 

There are some intriguing clues as to what 

was going on in the department. In addition 

to being a very productive botanist, Kurtz was 

a nationally known science educator and the 

October 11, 1971 KSTC Round Table noted 

that the previous summer Kurtz had spoken 

in Virginia on “Accountable learning systems: 

Results from a college classroom” and later in 

Oklahoma on “Designing instruction based 

on behavioral objectives.”  Furthermore, that 

year he required all faculty members to turn 

in a copy of their complete syllabus for every 

course and a full CV!  Coincidently, Emporia 

State has been requiring this of faculty for the 

past decade, and it has not been popular. I 

suspect that the biology department in 1971 

felt the same way about these requirements 

from their chair who obviously had an agenda 

for curriculum re-design and assessment 

(Archives, Box 10, Biology Faculty Memos 

4-71 to 4-72; Table 3; Figure 6). 

University enrollment continued to decline 

and in 1978 the administration sent down 

guidelines to the departments for contingency 

planning. Among other things, departments 

should “reorganize, consolidate, and prune 

programs wherever possible”; at the graduate 

level, classes of fewer than seven students 

should be offered “only under exceptional 

circumstances.” (11/3/1978). On March 2, 

1979, the Biology Executive Committee 

considered 14 items in the Department’s 

contingency plan; no. 13 specifically addressed 

the botany concentration. “What courses 

do we keep, in light of enrollment?  How 

many botanists?  What about Wilson?”  On 

January 9, 1980, Parenti resigned, leaving the 

department in the lurch. To partially fill the 

gap in botanists, Tom Eddy, an entomologist/

conservationist, took on teaching plant 

taxonomy in the spring of 1980 to allow 

Wilson to focus on economic botany and trees 

and shrubs. That fall, a search for a “field-

oriented plant scientist” was approved and 

James Mayo, was hired the following spring. 

Figure 6. Doodle by Don Ashapanek from 

19 August 1971 Biology Faculty Memos (Ar-

chives, Box 10).

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A specific qualification in the job description 

was to “develop a course concerned with the 

ecological and physiological intersection 

between soils and plants.” Eddy continued to 

teach plant taxonomy, but Mayo taught plant 

ecology and plant physiology, and eventually 

a new course in soils was approved in 1984. 

(Archives, Box 6, Faculty Memo’s 7/1/1981–

1984; Box 9, Faculty Meeting Minutes 1-1-79 

through 6-30-82).

By fall of 1981, biology undergraduate 

enrollment was down to 240 majors, the 

lowest since 1952—yet it was still one of 

the largest departments on campus. Wilson 

retired in 1982 and was not replaced, although 

Peterson resigned as dean the following year 

and moved to the department to assist in 

teaching introductory courses. In 1984 the 

Kansas Board of Regents proposed dropping 

all master’s degrees in the College of Arts and 

Sciences because of low enrollments. Upon 

completing their review, the Regents were 

surprised to discover that the ESU Biology 

department awarded more M.S. degrees in 

the previous 5 years than any other biology 

program in the state, except for Kansas 

University. This threat was overcome, but a 

number of other departments did lose their 

master’s programs and the regents formulated a 

Table 3. Textbooks Used for Botany Courses in 1971 (from Faculty Syllabi). 









How to Know the Mosses and Liverworts 





Processes of Organic Evolution 





Grass Systematics 


Morphology and   


Comparative Morphology of Vascular Plants 

Paleobotany of  

& Gifford   

Vascular Plants  






Alexopolis    Introduction to Mycology, 2







Freshwater Algae of the United States 


Plant Anatomy 


Plant Anatomy, 2








Anatomy of Seed Plants (summer course) 






Laboratory Guide in Plant Anatomy, 2




Plant Kingdom 

Scagel et al.   An Evolutionary Survey of the Plant Kingdom 





Morphology of Plants, 2







Morphology of Plants Laboratory Manual. 


Plant Physiology 


Plant Physiology 


Plant Taxonomy 


Taxonomy of Flowering Plants 





How to Know the Fall (or Spring) Flowers 





How to Know the Weeds 


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new policy of 5-year reviews of all departments 

in all system universities. ESU Biology 

was back in the spotlight for an intensive 

review in 1986, which included two external 

reviewers. Undergraduate enrollments had 

leveled off at about 235 and graduate at 32 

with about 28 and 10 graduates per year, 

respectively. Four of 15 faculty members were 

botanists. The reviewers labelled the programs 

“exemplary” but noted the lack of state-of-

the-art equipment in the teaching labs and 

recommended greater financial support from 

the university. The dean made a commitment 

of $90,000 for equipment over five years and 

leveraged permission for the department to 

borrow against this amount from a special 

state fund with payback deferred over 5 years.

In addition to dealing with Parenti’s 

departure, and in an effort to increase 

graduate enrollment, the department voted 

to delete the GRE requirement for admission 

to the program. They also decided to offer 

only one section of the core organismal 

courses, including Biology of Plants, and their 

corresponding labs. Wilson retired in the 

spring of 1982 because of health problems, 

and that fall the department decided to save 

his position by offering it to Dean Peterson the 

following year when he was stepping down as dean. 

In January 1983, there was a proposal to 

combine majors and non-majors into a 

combined investigative style lab, but this 

was not passed. Ironically, this would have 

incorporated many of the CUEBS principles 

developed the previous decade and involved 

some former department members (Sundberg, 

1991). Peterson also retired from teaching in 

1986 and that position was not replaced. In 

the spring of 1988, John Parrish, a science 

educator who had been teaching the Field and 

Laboratory Course required for elementary 

and middle school certification, left to become 

a chair in South Carolina, and Gil Leisman 

and another zoologist were planning to retire 

the following year. The department decided 

they could hire a botanist if that person would 

split between botany and the Field and Lab 

course. The following year Laurie Robbins, 

a plant systematist with a science education 

background, was hired to replace Leisman. 

This maintained 3 botanists among the 14 

full time faculty members, and Paleobotany 

was deleted from the program. Although 

Robbins was a trained systematist, and had 

post-doc’d at the Missouri Botanical Garden, 

Eddy continued to teach Plant Taxonomy and 

Lab; he now had many years of experience, 

although his training was entomology and 

natural history. Robbins focused on Biology of 

Plants and Lab and the Field and Lab course, 

occasionally teaching Economic Botany 

(Archives, Faculty Minutes, 1984-1988, 1988-1989).



In 1995 the administration convinced a 

distinguished alumnus of the Department, 

Dr. Terry Johnson, a Dean at Kansas State 

University, to do an external review of 

the Biology Department. With budgetary 

constraints throughout the university, the 

faculty situation was precarious. One faculty 

member had just retired, leaving 13, and 

four more retirements were imminent in the 

next few years. The department was having 

difficulty replacing a microbiologist, with two 

unsuccessful hires, and none of the senior 

faculty members were interested in taking on 

the chairmanship. Among the undergraduates, 

there were only 8 Botany majors, one of whom 

was to graduate that year along with 3 botany 

graduate students. Johnson reported that the 

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department was doing remarkably well with 

minimal support but that they should conduct 

an external search for a new chair. This search 

was conducted the following year; there were 

44 applicants but none of the top four accepted 

the position. The position description was 

immediately recycled and sent out to begin 

in spring 1997. Meanwhile, in the fall of 1996, 

“ESU had a significant drop in enrollment 

which has put us out of the funding corridor 

(Biology dropped from 325 to 260).” (Oct. 22, 1996). 

That fall, while attending the Education 

Committee breakout during the AIBS Board 

Meeting, I discussed this position with 

two of my colleagues. Jack Carter, who in 

1990 was selected as the ESU Distinguished 

Alumnus, was extremely encouraging 

that I apply for the chair position; Gordon 

Uno cautioned me that I might find it very 

difficult to effect curriculum changes with an 

outspoken traditionalist entrenched as the 

science educator in the department. During 

my interview visit in January, I was very 

encouraged that Dean Lendley Black, Provost 

David Payne, and President Robert Glennen 

were all excited about my ideas of employing 

formative assessment strategies to facilitate 

curriculum change. I accepted the position 

and arranged to visit the department again 

in April during spring break. I did not know 

that in March the department was told to 

prepare for another $10,000 to $17,500 cut in 

the 1997 department budget, nor that both the 

President Glennon and Provost Payne were 

moving on and presidential candidates were 

already being interviewed (Archives, Biology 

Minutes, 1994-1997). The dean continued 

to be supportive, however, and spearheaded 

a $320,000 grant from a local foundation 

to remodel and re-outfit two microbiology 

laboratories and the associated supplies/

media room along with an instrumental water 

chemistry laboratory. 

In the late 1960s, Kurtz recognized that there 

was need to re-evaluate the department’s 

curriculum and to employ more active-

learning pedagogy, yet the core curriculum 

was virtually unchanged from the 1950s. I 

charged the curriculum committee to survey 

and evaluate introductory courses and core 

curricula at other institutions and come up 

with a proposal to modify ours. I also assigned 

myself to teach in the non-majors courses 

and implemented an assessment strategy in 

the majors and non-majors courses similar 

to what we had done at LSU (Sundberg and 

Dini, 1993; Sundberg et al., 1994). During 

the previous decade nearly 40 students/year 

were enrolled “on paper,” but fewer than half 

completed their degree and the average time 

to completion was 9 semesters. I charged 

the graduate committee to strengthen the 

program by increasing the graduation rate 

and decreasing the time to completion. In 

the fall of 1999, I began teaching an Honors 

Biology alternative to the Majors Biology but 

which was open as a general education course 

for both majors and non-science majors, 

including lecture and laboratory and taught in 

inquiry mode. 

In 1998 we received a $32,000 NSF equipment 

grant for microscopy and in 2000 a $156,000 

3-year NSF Research Experiences for 

Undergraduate site grant with 2 new hires 

as co-PIs and a $180,000 U.S. Army Corps of 

Engineers grant to study invasive Lespedeza

with a new hire and a senior faculty member 

as co-PIs. By this time the graduate committee 

recommended that we strengthen the 

application requirements to (1) require the 

GRE, (2) require that applicants indicate up 

to three faculty members they would like to 

work with, (3) require that the faculty member 

accept the applicant, (4) require that Research 

Design and Analysis be taken the first 

semester, and Scientific Writing the second 

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semester and (5) require a thesis proposal 

for MS students be approved by the end of 

second semester. They also recommended 

that students choosing a non-thesis option 

receive an MA, not the MS. These changes 

were approved by a narrow majority of the 

graduate faculty. The curriculum committee 

had not been as successful and were not yet 

ready to make any recommendation.

In 2001 Jim Mayo retired and the department 

was not allowed to replace the position. In 

the spring of 2003, Lori Robbins also retired 

and it became necessary to hire a new person 

to primarily teach the Field and Laboratory 

Biology courses (and hopefully Biology of 

Plants). Karrie Rathbone, an ESU alum who 

had just completed her Ph.D. at the University 

of Kansas, accepted this position to begin in 

the fall. By this time some of the freshmen 

from 1997 were graduating and I was able 

to start using the freshman pre- and post-

course assessment as an informal exit exam 

for graduating seniors. I presented these data 

to the department in an effort to jump-start 

the curriculum committee, but we were never 

able to achieve a majority vote to implement 

any program changes. Some of the results were 

published later that year (Sundberg, 2003).

 By 2004 we were beginning to see positive 

results in the graduate program. The average 

time to graduate was down to 6 semesters 

and the graduation rate was over 80%. The 

problem was that total graduate enrollment 

dropped from about 40 to about 20, and two 

years earlier our supportive dean left and 

was replaced by a new dean who was more 

concerned with immediate headcount. I was 

told to convince the department to undo the 

more rigorous graduate requirements we had 

implemented, or turn in my resignation as 

chair. The following semester we had a new 

chair from within the department. The faculty 

was now down to 11, but there were still 3 

botanists. The next year Dr. Rathbone, who 

had been teaching Biology of Plants as well as 

Field and Laboratory Biology, left for a position 

at another university, but we were allowed to 

hire Brenda Koerner (A.B.D.) as a full-time 

instructor for the Field and Laboratory course. 

In 2006 the department lost an ecologist and 

Koerner picked up Ecology and Field Ecology. 

Upon completing her PhD in 2007, she was 

promoted to tenure track and began teaching 

the Soil Science and lab formerly taught by 

Mayo. We maintained three botanists in the 


In 2014 Tom Eddy announced he would 

retire the following year and immediately the 

department requested to replace him. Luckily 

our previous chair, a herpetologist, had just 

been promoted to dean and he realized that 

Plant Taxonomy was not only important 

for the Botany Emphasis (which did not 

carry much weight), but also the fisheries 

and wildlife program, which is strong in the 

department. We were thus given permission 

to search for a botanist qualified to teach 

Plant Taxonomy. David McKenzie, who was 

completing a teaching Post-doc with Gordon 

Uno, was hired and we maintained three 

botanists on the faculty. 

The curriculum of the department, including 

the Botany Emphasis, remained virtually 

unchanged since 1977. Botany course 

enrollments also remained stable (but low 

relative to other concentrations) until the 

COVID-19 pandemic—when the department, 

like the entire university, experienced a 

massive enrollment drop (Table 4). The timing 

of the pandemic was particularly unfortunate. 

Koerner had just been elected second vice-

president of the Faculty Senate, and because 

of the 3-year heavy service commitment this 

entailed, she decided not to bring any new 

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PSB 69 (2) 2023


graduate students to her lab. At the same time, 

the University President left in the summer 

of 2021 and was succeeded by two interim 

Presidents, until the second, Ken Hush, was 

named President in June of 2022. (Hush has 

a terminal Bachelor’s degree in Business from 

ESU, but a long career as an administrator 

in Kansas’ Koch Industries). Koerner’s time 

was consumed by the administrative and 

budgetary turmoil throughout her term 

on the Senate Administrative committee. 

In addition, in the spring of 2021 the 

biology department voted to change its core 

curriculum to be more in-line with the other 

Kansas regents’ universities. The Principles 

of Biology, Biology of Plants, Biology of 

Animals and Microbiology requirements, first 

instituted in the 1970s, were dropped in favor 

of a two-semester biology sequence of cell/

molecular and organismal/ecology/evolution. 

Introductory Botany would be grandfathered 

for three more semesters to allow current 

students to complete their original program of 

study, but it would no longer be offered after 

Fall 2022. The Teachers College also dropped 

the elementary/middle school requirement 

for Field and Laboratory Biology in the fall 

of 2021. Koerner’s teaching load dropped 

immediately from 4 sections to 0 sections of 

that course. 

One we changed the core, I decided that I 

would retire at the end of fall semester 2022, 

after which Introductory Botany would no 

longer be offered. We knew that I would not 

be replaced, but between them Koerner and 

McKenzie would be able to pick up some 

of the upper division courses I had been 

teaching. On September 15, 2022 Koerner was 

one of 33 Faculty members (mostly tenured) 

to receive a letter from the President stating 

that their faculty appointments were ending 

effective the last day of spring semester, 2023. 

The university was forced to make this decision 

because of the “extreme financial pressures… low 

enrollments … and restructuring of programs.” 

The Teachers College’s curriculum restructuring 

already eliminated Koerner’s major teaching 

responsibility, and the Biology Department 

was now restructured, eliminating the Botany 

and Physiology emphasis areas. (The letters to 

Koerner and the other terminated biologist 

were how the department was informed it had 

been restructured.) It was only because of my 

already announced retirement that I did not 

receive a similar letter. McKenzie is the sole 

botanist remaining. His major responsibility 

is team-teaching the new organismal 

introductory course. Presumably he will be 

able to continue teaching Plant Taxonomy; it 

has had an annual enrollment of 10-20 students 

for decades and is a popular course for wildlife 

biology students interested in working for state 

agencies. An ironic unintended consequence 

of the administration’s decision to drop the 

botany emphasis in the department, as I noted 

in a supporting letter for Koerner’s appeal, 

is that although one of the stated reasons 

for restructuring biology is to strengthen 

the wildlife and fisheries component of 

the Ecology and Environmental Biology 

Emphasis, they have now made it impossible 

Table 4. Botany Course Enrollments by Decade (based on Faculty Load Reports) 


Decade/Year  1970s  1980s  1990s  2000s  2010s  2019*  2020  2021  2022 











Undergraduate  1494 



















*2019 represents only single semester because of COVID-19. 


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PSB 69 (2) 2023


for our graduates to meet requirements for 

Federal Wildlife Biologist Certification. Nine 

college Botany or Plant Science Credits are 

required (Wildlife Biologist [0486])! Perhaps 

they will allow McKenzie to teach two 

additional botany courses in rotation?  

As I write this article, 155 years after college 

Botany was first taught in Emporia, ESU has 

joined a growing number of U.S. colleges and 

universities where there is no longer a botany 

program. The trajectory of our program was a 

remarkably parallel microcosm of the national 

trends of botany in colleges and universities 

for the last century and a half. In the late 19th 

century, botany was the predominant natural 

history course taught, but early in the 20th 

century biology began to displace first zoology 

and then botany as the organizing discipline. 

Botany maintained a vital role nationally, 

and in the department, through the mid-

1960s, and NSF grant support was a key tool 

employed by both the college, and the BSA, 

to attract new students/new members. Since 

that time there has been a steady erosion in 

botany courses and course enrollments. The 

final straw at ESU was the full-on acceptance, 

with state support, of the business model for 

higher education in response to Covid-related 

enrollment declines. Thirty-one botanists 

have taught in the department, with tenures 

ranging from 1 to 54 years. Several have 

been active in national science education 

organizations and two had leadership 

positions in the BSA. Several had very active 

research programs, most actively mentored 

undergraduate and graduate student research, 

and all, from the very beginning, had a focus 

on promoting student learning (Box 1 on the 

following pages). 


Rebeka Curry and Shari Schribener, University 

Archivists, Emporia State University.

Carrie Cornelius, Head Librarian, Haskell 

Indian Nations University.

Cristy Schreck, Assistant Director for 

Institutional Research. Emporia State 


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Box 1. Botany Faculty at Emporia State University (ESU), 1868–2023.

Agrelius, Frank U. G. M.S., University of Kansas. 1911–1956. Botany, Nature Study, Plant 

Anatomy, Plant Morphology, Plant Physiology, Plant Systematics.

Ahshapanek, Donald. Ph.D., University of Oklahoma. 1962–1971. Plant Morphology, Plant 

Physiology, Plant Ecology.

Brooks, Merle E. Ph.D., University of Colorado. 1947–1959. Botany, Plant Anatomy, Plant 

Physiology, Morphology of Lower Plants, Morphology of Higher Plants, Science Educa-


Carter, Jack. Ph.D., Iowa State University. 1962–1966. Botany. Coordinator of NSF Insti-

tutes, Plant Ecology, Plant Morphology, Plant Taxonomy.

Crary, Chalotte Elva. B.A., Kansas State Normal School (ESU), graduate work University 

of Chicago. 1902–1914. Algae, Botany, Field Biology, Fungi, Mosses and Ferns, Nature 

Study, Plant Anatomy, Plant Morphology.

Delap. S.C. B.A. Millersville State Normal School, PA. 1875–1879, Botany.

Eddy, Thomas A. Ph.D. Kansas State University. 1960–2014. Botany, Plant Taxonomy.

Gladfelter, Clarence F. M.S. Kansas State University. 1930–1967. Agriculture, Horticulture, 


Hartman, Emily L. Ph.D. University of Kansas.  1958–1960. Botany, Plant Morphology.

Hughes, Gilbert, Ph.D. University of Florida. 1961–1962. Mycology, Plant Anatomy, Plant 


Kelly, Dorman S.  Ph.D. Indiana State Normal School. 1885–1897. Botany

Koerner, Brenda. Ph.D. Arizona State University. 2004–2023. Ecology, Field Ecology, 

Plant Anatomy and Physiology, Soil Science, Field and Laboratory Biology.

Kurtz, Edwin B. Ph.D. California Institute of Technology. 1968–1972. Plant Physiology, 

Science Education. 

Leisman, Gilbert A. Ph.D. University of Minnesota. 1955–1989. Botany, Ecology, Paleo-

botany, Plant Anatomy, Plant Kingdom, Plant Morphology, Plants Useful to Man.

Mayo, James M. Ph.D. University of Washington. 1981–2001. Grasses, Plant Anatomy and 

Physiology, Plant Physiology, Range Management, Soil Science. 

McKenzie, David. Ph.D. University of Wyoming. 2015–present. Plant Ecology, Plant Tax-

onomy, Forensic Botany.

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PSB 69 (2) 2023


Menhusen, Bernadette. Ph.D. University of Kansas. 1964–1974. Botany, Bryology, Natural 

History, Plant Kingdom, Phycology, Field and Laboratory Biology.

Mentzer, Loren W. Ph.D. University of Nebraska. 1946–1947. Botany.

Norton, Henry B. A.M. Illinois State Normal University. 1868–1875. Botany.

Novak, Joseph D. Ph.D. University of Minnesota. 1957–1958. Botany, Science Education.

Parenti, L. Robert. Ph.D. University of Oklahoma. 1966–1980. Botany, Plant Physiology.

Peterson, John E. Ph.D. Michigan State University. 1971–1983. Botany. Mycology.

Rathbone, Karrie. Ph.D. University of Kansas. 2003–2005. Botany, Field and Lab Biology.

Robbins, R. Laurie. Ph.D. Texas Tech University. 1989–2003. Botany, Economic Botany, 

Field and Lab Biology.

Sadler, Holmes. B.A. Yale, L.L.B. Union College. 1880–1885. Botany.

Stephens, Homer A. M.A. Columbia University. 1954. Taxonomy.

Stewart, Alban. B.A. Kansas State Normal School. 1910–1911. Botany

Sundberg, Marshall D. Ph.D. University of Minnesota. 1997–2022. Botany, Plant Anatomy 

and Physiology, Plant Kingdom, Economic Botany, Forensic Botany.

Weber, Vincent. Ph.D. University of Minnesota. 1959–1960. Plant Anatomy, Plant Taxonomy.

Wilson, James S. Ph.D. University of Michigan. 1959–1982. Botany, Grasses, Plant 

Anatomy, Plant Ecology, Plant Taxonomy.

Wooster, Lyman C. Ph.D. Milton College. 1897–1935. Botany.


Anonymous, 1889. A History of the State Nor-

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Five Years. Miscellaneous Publication, Kan-

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taught in the State Normal School, Emporia, 

Kansas. Miscellaneous Publication. Archives 

copy: Np.2bi 1904.
Archives, Emporia State University, Biologi-

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Bergen, J. Y. 1896. Elements of Botany. Bos-

ton, Ginn and Company.
Bergen, J. Y. 1901. Foundations of Botany

Boston, Ginn and Company.
Bessey, C. E. 1877. Letter to W.J. Beal, Uni-

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1942. A History of the Iowa State College of 

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Breukelman, J. 1950. The Kansas State Teach-

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Gray, A. 1895. Field, Forest, and Garden 

Botany: A simple introduction to the common 

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next millennium. Plant Science Bulletin 62: 

Wildlife Biologist (0486). Website: https://



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By Kamal I. Mohamed* and Karen R. Sime 

Department of Biological Sciences, State 

University of New York at Oswego, Oswego, 

NY 13126 

*Corresponding author: kamal.mohamed@    

As a botanist and an entomologist, taking a 

wildlife safari tour was never a high priority 

for either of us. We’ve both traveled widely 

and worked with plants and insects in many 

parts of the world. Wildlife viewing in Africa 

sounded interesting, to be sure, but we hardly 

thought of it as worthy of the effort and expense. 

As faculty members at SUNY Oswego, our 

professional lives center on undergraduate 

teaching and small-scale research experiences, 

with fieldwork conducted in our local New 

York fields and woodlands. 

New York summers are short, though, and 

we are always looking for more options 

for our many students interested in field 

biology. In 2017, while one of us (K.I.M.) 

was in Tanzania conducting research on the 

parasitic genus Striga, he was introduced to 

Dr. Alex Kisingo, at the time a senior lecturer 

Travels in Tanzania with North 

American Undergraduates:  

A Botanical Wildlife Safari

and Head of Research and Consultancy at 

The College of African Wildlife Management 

(Mweka), in Moshi. Mweka trains students 

for careers in wildlife conservation, with most 

graduates finding work as game wardens, 

park rangers, safari guides, and climbing 

guides on Kilimanjaro. The college has been 

expanding its offerings recently, to include a 

master’s degree program, and—fortuitously 

for us—it is seeking to grow its international 

programs, bringing in more students from 

outside Africa, sending more of its students 

abroad, and enhancing teaching and research 

collaborations and exchanges with biologists 

from around the world. During K.I.M.’s visit, 

Alex encouraged us to bring over Oswego 

students for a short training course in wildlife 

ecology. As one of the few U.S. universities 

offering a bachelor’s degree in zoology, we were 

pretty sure that there would be interest among 

our students. His tour of Mweka convinced 

K.I.M. that the infrastructure and expertise 

Mweka had in place to lead field research and 

training for its own students would make it an 

outstanding destination for ours as well.

We have now taught the Tanzania Biodiversity 

and Conservation class three times, in 2018, 

2019, and 2022, to an average of 10 students 

each time. The format of the course is what 

SUNY Oswego terms “faculty-led travel,” in 

which students do coursework for a portion 

of the semester, and then are accompanied 

by the instructors during travel. For half a 

semester, we met weekly with the students 

in Oswego to get them up to speed on 

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Tanzania’s history, people, ecosystems, and 

wildlife, and to get ourselves up to speed as 

well. We knew embarrassingly little about 

Tanzania at the start, but (as is often the case 

for college professors) we did manage to stay 

just ahead of the students. Besides references 

that we specifically cite, these are examples of 

suggested sources students used to prepare 

talks and a final paper: Kennedy, 2014; Sinclair 

et al., 2015; Briggs and McIntyre, 2017; Luke 

and Beentje, 2020; Makunga, 2022.

Some interesting things we learned:

• The name “Tanzania” is a modern in-

vention. The British colony of Tang-

anyika gained independence in 1961. 

A few years later, Zanzibar overthrew 

Arab rule, and the two young coun-

tries joined into a single nation, the 

Republic of Tanzania, blending their 

names into one as well (Tan-Zan-ia).

• The population of Tanzania is marvel-

ously multicultural, an amalgamation 

of some 120 tribes with over 100 lan-

guages (Swahili being the lingua fran-

ca, along with English to some extent). 

Around two thirds of the population is 

Christian, another one  third is Mus-

lim, with small minorities following 

other practices (Winks, 2009). 

• Tanzania takes conservation very seri-

ously. About 40% of the land area of 

Tanzania is protected (there are ma-

rine preserves as well), one of highest 

percentages in the world. In contrast 

about 12–13% of the U.S. is protect-

ed, which is roughly the world aver-

age. Preserves include national parks, 

which are completely protected and 

closed to human habitation, and game 

and forest reserves and conservation 

areas in which herding, hunting, and 

human habitation are allowed to vary-

ing degrees (United Republic of Tan-

zania, 2014).  

• Wildlife tourism makes up nearly 20% 

of the GDP and employs hundreds of 

thousands of people (United Republic 

of Tanzania, 2015). Mweka itself is a 

testament to Tanzania’s dedication to 

protecting these resources. Its found-

ing in 1964, shortly after indepen-

dence, represented the beginnings of a 

movement to put Africans in charge of 

the conservation of their wildlife and 

other natural resources.

Our two-week visits in Tanzania began with 

a day of lectures from Mweka faculty on 

wildlife ecology, local ecosystems (including 

the vertical vegetation zones of adjacent Mt. 

Kilimanjaro), and regional conservation 

practices, followed by a tour of preserves and 

parks in the northeastern part of the country 

(Figure 1). Throughout the visit, we kept 

costs very low by staying in dormitories and 

camping in tents they provided. We traveled 

in the back of a repurposed Russian troop 

carrier (no air-conditioned comforts on this 

trip), and had communal meals prepared 

by a team of cooks. Additional lectures and 

discussions took place in the field, at picnic 

tables and around campfires. 

On our first full day in Tanzania, we explored 

the Mweka campus and discovered many 

tree species that our students found to be 

quite exotic. Some of these are seen in the 

background of Figure 2: fever acacia (Vachellia 

xanthophloea (Acacia xanthophloea)), 

Senegal date (Phoenix reclinata), pencil cedar 

(Juniper procera), Norfolk pine (Araucaria 

heterophylla), and traveler’s palm (Ravenala 

madagascariensis). Among others not pictured 

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are strangler fig (Ficus thonningii), African 

tulip (Spathodea campanulata), and the giant 

potato tree (Solanum macranthum). Strangler 

fig is of particular interest to North American 

students with its unfamiliar appearance and 

lifestyle. A hemiepiphyte, it starts atop a 

host tree and sends roots down to the forest 

floor, squeezing the trunk of the host tree and 

shading its crown, eventually killing it. 

Mweka is located on the lower slopes of Mt. 

Kilimanjaro at about 1370 m. At slightly lower 

elevations, the landscape is devoted to coffee 

plantations. Two wet seasons—a shorter 

one that runs November to January and a 

longer one from March to May—supply an 

annual rainfall of 100–165 cm and support 

a lush, wooded environment. Hiking up 

from the college toward one of the entrances 

to Kilimanjaro National Park at elevation 

Figure 1. Star symbols show the National 

Parks and Olduvai Gorge Museum we visited 

in Northern Tanzania. The Snake Park, Maasai 

Museum, and Maasai Boma, just outside Lake 

Manyara, are other significant sites we visited 

but are not shown on this map. The College of 

African Wildlife Management (Mweka) is at 

the base of Kilimanjaro. 

Figure 2. Students of the 2018 class on the Mweka campus, along with a Mweka faculty member, 

Mt. Kilimanjaro in the background. The weather in May was usually overcast, and of the three 

times we have offered the class, this was the only time we had a sustained clear view of Mt. Kili-

manjaro. 1. Fever acacia, 2. Norfolk pine, 3. Senegal date, 4. Traveler’s palm, and 5. Pencil cedar.

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1640 m, we passed through a landscape of 

small villages, home to the Chagga tribe, the 

houses and other buildings interspersed with 

household gardens planted with banana, coffee, 

maize, sweet potato, beans, and cassava. These 

so-called Chagga homegardens, built into the 

forest over centuries, are a fascinating example 

of sustainable land use in a mixed-cropping 

system (Fernandes et al., 1985; Hemp, 2008). 

The coffee-banana belt occupying the lower 

flanks of Kilimanjaro is a modified woodland, 

with the canopy intact and shade-tolerant 

crops integrated into the forest; over 500 plant 

species, 400 of which are not cultivated, can 

be found in this zone (Hemp, 2006, 2008). 

The typical Chagga homegarden comprises 

four main layers: larger trees like avocado 

(Persea americana) and albizia (Albizia 

schimperiana var. amanuensis), beneath 

which grow different varieties of bananas 

(Musa x sapientum) 5–7 m high, then coffee 

(Coffea arabica), and at the base a mixture 

of smaller food crops like cassava (Manihot 

esculenta) and coco yam (Colocasia esculenta). 

These crops make up a large part of the local 

diet, and the extras (particularly coffee) are 

sold for cash. Bananas are perhaps the largest 

single crop, and we were fascinated by the 

variety of ways in which the Chagga use them. 

One interesting use is the making of mbege, 

a strong beer made up of fermented banana 

mixed with a borage of finger millet and some 

quinine-bark flour to adjust the sugary taste 

of banana. Numerous small pubs serving the 

drink line the roads outside the National Park. 

Besides sampling the mbege on our hike, we 

also introduced our students to several plants 

with medicinal and folk uses, including castor 

bean (Ricinus communis), misty plume bush 

(Tetradenia riparia) (Figure 3), and dragon 

tree (Dracaena afromontana) (Figure 4).

Figure 3.  Tetradenia riparia, a plant found 

in the Chagga homegardens, which our hosts 

claimed worked as a COVID-19 treatment ei-

ther by chewing the leaves or as steam therapy.

Figure 4. Among the Chagga, Dracaena mar-

ginata is used to build fences and mend rela-

tionships—one must forgive when the plant is 

offered by the offender.

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The Chagga gardens provided the students an 

education in a type of agricultural system that, 

while unfamiliar to North Americans, is fairly 

widespread, particularly in the tropics, among 

indigenous cultures. For example, K.I.M. 

witnessed similar homegardens in southern 

Ethiopia, with an upper layer of ensete (Ensete 

ventricosum); below it, sorghum, millet, or 

maize; and a bottom layer of smaller crops, 

such as beans and vegetables (Zemede and 

Avele, 1995). In parts of Ecuador, inhabitants 

practice two systems of agriculture: small 

fields closer to their homes and homegardens. 

These gardens and fields contain over 50 

plant species including cacao, coffee, banana, 

pineapple, cassava, and a variety of other 

food and non-food crops (Gari, 2001). Fields 

are cultivated and managed, and abandoned 

according to a complex agroecological system 

(Gari, 2001). Diversified systems such as these 

ensure the resilience of ecosystems and at the 

same time maximize the production of food, 

medicines, and other resources. The study 

of these systems has much to contribute to 

improving the effectiveness and efficiency 

of sustainable agroecosystems worldwide, 

by integrating indigenous knowledge with 

scientific methodology (Dewalt, 1994).

After a couple of days at the college, we piled 

into the troop carrier, accompanied by two 

Mweka faculty members who would serve as 

our guides and interpreters, along with the 

cook and his helpers. We drove several hours 

to Mto Wa Mbu, staying in a tent campground 

in the forested hills above the town. Nearby 

Lake Manyara National Park is the smallest 

of the parks we visited, with an area of 325 sq 

km but known for its diverse habitats, which 

harbor nearly 700 plant species (Greenway 

et al., 1972); in fact, the density and diversity 

of wildlife here is extraordinary. Any fears 

that our zoology students might have been 

disappointed in their safari were quashed 

within minutes of entering this park, as we 

soon had up-close views of baboons, zebras, 

wildebeest, warthogs, elephants, monkeys, 

and lions.

This park differs from the others that we 

visited in that much of it is densely wooded, 

whereas the others are characterized by 

open savannah. Most of the park’s roads run 

through the narrow flats bounded by the 

alkali lake on one side, and the steep sides of 

the Rift Valley on the other. The woodland 

is dominated by large, dense Acacia and 

Commiphora species, Albizia anthelmintica

and  Cassia singueana, with a variable 

understory shrub layer. Notable among these 

is African myrrh (Commiphora africana), 

from the resins of which incense is produced. 

The slopes, which rise 600–1000 m above lake 

level, feature baobabs (Adansonia digitata), 

broad-leaved croton (Croton macrostachyus), 

candelabra tree (Euphorbia candelabrum), 

sycamore fig (Ficus sycomorus), quinine tree 

(Rauvolfia caffra), Natal mahogany (Trichilia 

roka) (also noted for its medicinal extracts 

[Sanogo et al., 2001]), and forest toad-tree 

(Tabernaemontana ventricosa) (Greenway et 

al., 1969, 1972). Closer to the lake are open 

alkaline flats beds dominated by grasses, 

mainly Sporobolus spicatus in association with 

Sporobolus consimilis, whereas the drier grassy 

areas are dominated by Cynodon dactylon.

Tarangire National Park is about 70 km 

south of Lake Manyara. Although both parks 

receive similar amounts of rain (about 70 cm 

annually), Tarangire seems drier than Lake 

Manyara National Park, with open water 

flow largely limited to the Tarangire River, in 

contrast to the multiple springs and creeks 

draining through the steep hillsides of Lake 

Manyara. It is grassier and much more open, 

with only scattered trees. Nonetheless, many 

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of the same animals occur at the two parks, 

and there is significant migration between 


Tarangire is renowned for its large elephant 

herds, but we were just as thrilled by the 

botanical “big game” of its many enormous 

baobabs (Adansonia digitata). We saw more 

extensive stands of these trees than at any 

other place we visited in Tanzania (Figure 5A, B). 

These long-lived, majestic trees reach up to 25 

m, with wide spreading branches and stout 

trunks measuring 10–15 m across. Baobabs 

are known among the most effective plants that 

control water loss. Some baobabs in Tarangire 

had been heavily damaged by elephants 

seeking nutrients and water, bringing to our 

attention the many uses of baobabs by both 

people and wildlife. They are important for 

the livelihood of many people in arid zones 

for uses in food, beverages, and medicine. The 

hollow trunk of some specimens can provide 

shelter, and the tubers, twigs, fruits, seeds, 

leaves, and flowers are common ingredients in 

traditional dishes and beverages; they provide 

a reliable food and water source for birds, 

baboons, and other animals (Gebauer et al., 

2002; Venter and Venter, 2007).  

Besides the baobabs, Tarangire’s vegetation is 

a mix of Acacia and Combretum  woodlands 

and seasonally flooded grasslands. Along the 

riverbanks, we saw pure Acacia stands and 

occasional sausage trees (Kigelia africana). 

The drier habitats are highly suited for mound-

building termites and feature numerous, often 

very large mounds (Figure 6), to the delight of 

the entomologist in the group.



Figure 5. (A) Tarangire, the land of baobab. 

(B) Elephants, a baobab, and an acacia bear-

ing dozens of weaverbird nests. Note the cin-

der cone in the background. There are dozens 

of such volcanic features in northern Tanzania 

(including Kilimanjaro), most of them inactive. 

Figure 6. A termite mound in Tarangire Na-

tional Park, with a young baboon. The rest of 

his troop was in a nearby baobab, devouring 

the fruits and plundering bird nests. 


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From the dry lowlands (ca. 900 m elevation) 

around Manyara and Tarangire, we ascended 

into the cloud forests at the rim of Ngorongoro 

Crater, where we camped overnight. Through 

the mists, we began to see astonishing views 

of the crater, which is the world’s largest intact 

and unfilled volcanic caldera, some 610 m 

deep and around 17 km across. At 2300 m 

elevation, the rim is persistently cool and 

damp. The steep interior slopes of the crater 

are occupied by a variety of montane forest 

trees, including red thorn acacia (Vachellia 

gerrardii) and gum acacia (Acacia senegal), 

stands at the edges (Figure 8). The highlight 

of the crater was a close view of the gravely 

endangered black rhino, made possible when 

we connected with some of the “rhino rangers” 

assigned to protect the crater’s rhino herd. The 

rangers were alumni of Mweka College and 

arranged our viewing with our faculty guides, 

their former professors. Only a few dozen 

rhinos live here. The ranger team follows each 

animal’s activities closely, using cameras and 

tracking devices. Injured or sick rhinos are 

given aid (which is not done for other species). 

Although the topography limits poaching in 

this preserve, it is still a serious concern here 

as elsewhere.

Most of the crater floor is grassland, with some 

small sections of standing water surrounded 

by swampy areas (Anderson and Herlocker, 

1973). In late May, at the end of the rainy 

season, we found many roads still muddy 

or inundated. Few trees exist at the floor, 

mainly near the swamps and the edges of the 

crater, including species of Acacia, Vangueria, 

Commiphora, Albizzia, and  Rauvolfia. 

Common herbaceous plants include species 

of  Chloris, Cynodon, Digitaria, Andropogon, 

Figure 7. A typical grassland habitat in 

Ngorongoro crater with a mixed herd of ze-

bras, Cape buffalo, and wildebeest; in the back-

ground, the rim rises some 600 m above the 

floor of the crater.

sweet olive (Osmanthus fragrans), African 

redwood (Hagenia abyssinica), and African 

pencil cedar (Juniperus procera), with fever 

acacia dominating the lower portions. Enormous 

candelabra trees also cling to the hillside.

The morning after arriving at the rim, we 

descended the steep switchback road through 

these woodlands to the bottom, where we 

were rewarded by views of the elephants, 

lions, zebras, wildebeest, hyenas, and other 

wildlife that congregate in the lush grassy 

wetlands (Figure 7) and the fever acacia 

Figure 8. The walls of Ngorongoro crater, vis-

ible in the background with their dense forest, 

descend into stands of large fever acacia around 

the base (here with a group of vervet monkeys).

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Sporobolus, and Leucas. We also encountered 

several invasive species: yellow flower bidens 

(Bidens schimperi), wild cannabis or khaki 

weed (Tagetes minuta), and purple flower 

gutenbergia (Gutenbergia cordiflora)—the 

latter two species in particular implicated in 

dramatic alterations to the native flora of the 

crater in recent years (Ngondya and Munishi, 

2021). Bidens schimperi has edible leaves, and 

Tanzanians claim that the roots cure coughs 

and colds.

Ngorongoro Crater is situated between the 

Serengeti plains on the northwest and the 

Rift Valley to the east, and together with 

surrounding lands comprises the larger 

Ngorongoro Conservation Area (NCA), a 

UNESCO World Heritage Site that is home to 

many Maasai, albeit with restrictions on their 

use of the land. The NCA has been celebrated 

as a model for cooperative conservation, the 

semi-nomadic, pastoralist Maasai coexisting 

with protected game (we saw many mixed 

herds of cattle, goats, zebras, giraffes, and 

gazelles), but for the Maasai the story has 

been fraught with tensions (Buzinde et al., 

2014; Melubo and Lovelock, 2019). Many 

moved to the NCA after being evicted from 

the adjacent lands that were designated as 

Serengeti National Park in 1959. The crater 

itself was made off-limits to the Maasai for 

pastoral use and habitation in 2009. One of 

the Mweka faculty members accompanying 

us was a Maasai who grew up in a village near 

the crater rim and recalled bringing his herds 

into the crater as a boy. More recently, the 

Tanzanian government has moved to further 

restrict Maasai use of the NCA, leading to the 

possibility of another round of displacement. 

From the crater, we descended into the 

Serengeti plains, traveling toward Serengeti 

National Park. This stretch is in the rain 

shadow of the crater rim and adjacent 

uplands, an ecosystem dominated by dry 

grasslands and thickets of stunted acacia 

species, including whistling acacia (Acacia 

drepanolobium syn Vachellia drepanolobium). 

Before entering the park, we stopped at 

Olduvai Gorge and its visitor center (Figure 

9), with its excellent museum chronicling the 

paleoanthropological discoveries made in the 

adjacent ravine by Louis and Mary Leakey and 

their colleagues. It was here that the Leakeys 

found the key fossils that consolidated the 

evidence for an African origin for the human 

species. Excavations in the area are ongoing. 

We didn’t see much wildlife here—a few troops 

of baboons—but as evolutionary biologists 

we were thrilled to explore the Leakeys’ 

field sites. Incidentally, the name “Olduvai” 

comes from (a mispronunciation of) oldupai, 

the Maasai word for sisal (Agave sisalana

(Figure 9), which is abundant in this area. 

Although native to Central America, sisal has 

been cultivated for commercial purposes in 

Tanzania since the 1880s, and grows wild near 

the gorge (Carr et al., 2006). 

Figure 9. Entrance to Olduvai Museum with 

sisal plants lining the road on either side.

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We spent four nights in Serengeti National 

Park. The park is large, extending some 150 km 

south from the Kenya-Tanzania border and 

150 km southeast from points near the shores 

of Lake Victoria, with elevations ranging from 

900 to 1800 m. Much of it is rolling plains, with 

as many as 200 species of grasses (Williams 

et al., 2016), characterized by short and tall 

grasslands and small stretches of woody 

savannah dominated by Acacia, Vachellia, 

Commiphora, palms, and sausage trees. The 

short grasslands in the eastern parts of the 

park are dominated by Sporobolus and Kyllinga 

species, while the tall grasslands in the west 

are dominated by Pennisetum, Andropogon

and  Themeda species (Lind and Morrison, 

1974). Intermediate grasslands of Cynodon 

and  Sporobolus are found between them. 

McNaughton (1983) divided the Serengeti 

grasslands into 17 different communities 

including 6 short grassland communities, 

3 tall, and 8 intermediate. Anderson and 

Talbot (1965) and Lind and Morrison (1974) 

attributed the distribution and growth of grass 

species in the plains to a number of factors, 

including soil depth and texture, salinity, wind 

erodability, rainfall, and grazing pressure.

The diversity of grasses may have failed to 

capture the interest of our zoology students, 

but they could not help but notice the 

scattered trees, which were focal points for 

wildlife observation. Predators frequently 

climb them, to scan for prey and possibly also 

to avoid biting flies. We often spotted lions 

and leopards on sausage trees (Figure 10) and 

acacias; once, we counted 11 lions (females 

and several cubs) lounging in a large acacia 

(Figure 11). The sausage trees, which we had 

first spotted in Tarangire National Park, are 

particularly interesting. These semi-deciduous 

trees are common and widespread in African 

savannah, and they’re large, reaching up to 25 

m. They are easily identified by the sausage-

like dangling fruits, which can be a meter 

long (Figure 10). The fruits are poisonous 

if consumed raw, but if prepared correctly 

have significant food and medicinal value 

(Jackson et al., 1996; Picerno et al., 2005). 

Indigenous people make them into a beer and 

have used them in wound healing and to treat 

rheumatism, psoriasis, diarrhea, and stomach 


Figure 10. Serengeti lions resting on a sausage tree after a big meal. Notice the typical open 

grassland with scattered trees, typical of this park. The insert on the left shows the sausage fruits.

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Up to our arrival in the Serengeti we had been 

astonished at the bounty of wildlife sightings; 

and here we were astonished again, at the 

sheer abundance and magnitude of the herds 

in the park. Pools packed with hundreds of 

hippos; gazelle, zebra, and elephant herds 

so vast as to disappear into the horizon. We 

witnessed thousands of migrating wildebeest 

accompanied by zebras and trailed by cheetahs, 

lions, and hyenas. Even our guides, who had 

spent much time in the park, expressed joy, 

wonder, and excitement at the scene.

While the animal highlights of a Tanzanian 

safari would be well known to any fan of 

BBC and PBS nature specials, the many 

plant highlights are most fascinating as well, 

and not only within the preserves. Driving 

between parks, we saw numerous additional 

species of interest, whether for their uses by 

locals or for their familiarity as garden and 

house plants in North America, and we had 

opportunities to relate their stories to our 

students. These included desert date (Balanites 

aegyptiaca), with its edible fruits often serving 

as fodder for goats and camels; sandpaper 

bush (Ehretia obtusifolia), whose distinctive 

tough leaves are infused into teas to treat 

pain; frankincense (Boswellia papyrifera), 

African chewing gum (Azanza garckeana); 

toothbrush bush (Salvadora persica), which 

is used as such and has added antiseptic and 

analgesic effects (Niazi et al., 2016); and plants 

commonly cultivated in North America such 

as maidenhair fern (Adiantum venustum), 

lantana (Lantana camara), and jimsonweed 

(Datura stramonium). Jimsonweed is a large 

herbaceous plant with well-known poisonous 

and hallucinogenic effects (Trancă et al., 2017). 

It occurs in North America but is seldom seen 

in our part of New York. 

Why would a botanist teach a “safari class”? 

In a sense, it was under the guise of a wildlife 

safari that we were able to expose our 

students to a great many botanical wonders: 

unfamiliar plants, plant communities, and 

agroecosystems, as well as new insights into 

familiar plants and products. They were 

excited to taste the sweet pulp of the coffee 

Figure 11. There were 11 lions in this umbrella acacia (females and 

cubs), plus a few more on the ground, obscured by the tall grass (Seren-

geti National Park).

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PSB 69 (2) 2023


fruit and dig out the green beans within, to 

sample mbege made from bananas growing 

just outside the pub, to see the plants from 

which frankincense and myrrh originate, 

and to learn the names of plants that provide 

habitat, food, and water for animals. They 

gained a new appreciation of indigenous and 

folk uses of plants, most of them unfamiliar; 

they learned about agroecosystems entirely 

different from, and more sustainable than, the 

typical North American farm; and they learned 

about kinds of plants, such as strangler fig, that 

behave very differently from any they know in 

the U.S. The opportunity to view animals in 

their native settings was the bait, perhaps, and 

the wildlife viewing was wonderful indeed—

but we also aimed to stimulate these young 

zoologists to learn more about the plants with 

which their objects of study interact. Zoology 

students, in our experience, are often reluctant 

to study plants, but in Tanzania, through 

hands-on study, they discovered that plants 

and animals are inseparable when studied in 

the field, and gained a new appreciation for 

botanical knowledge. 

By collaborating with faculty members at 

Mweka, we were able to provide our students 

with a rich learning experience focused on 

wildlife conservation and ecology, subjects 

outside our own areas of expertise. We 

learned a great deal as well—about wildlife, 

about Tanzanian ecosystems, about the effects 

of climate change in this region, and about 

political, economic, and cultural aspects of 

species and habitat conservation in this part of 

the world. In turn, we were able to share with 

our Mweka colleagues some of our knowledge 

of plants and insects, making the trip more 

rewarding for everyone.

Field work in Africa can be expensive and 

logistically difficult for scientists based far away 

and with limited knowledge of local resources. 

Organizing a class for undergraduates made 

available to us with support from both our 

own university and from Mweka, providing 

a convenient and low-cost way to travel. Both 

for us and for our students, the class was an 

opportunity to work in a part of the world that 

would otherwise have been very difficult for 

us to visit.


We thank the College of African Wildlife 

Management and SUNY Oswego’s Office of 

International Education and Programs for 

making our Tanzania course possible; and 

we thank Jim Seago and two anonymous 

reviewers for comments on an earlier version 

of this manuscript.


Anderson, G. D., and L. M. Talbot. 1965. Soil 

factors affecting the distribution of the grass-

land types and their utilization by wild ani-

mals on the Serengeti Plains, Tanganyika. The 

Journal of Ecology 53: 33-56. 
Anderson, G. D., and D. J. Herloacker. 1973. 

Soil factors affecting the distribution of the 

vegetation types and their utilization by wild 

animals in Ngorongoro Crater, Tanzania. 

Journal of Ecology 61: 627-651.
Briggs, P., and C. McIntyre. 2017. Northern 

Tanzania Safari Guide: Including Serengeti, 

Kilimanjaro,  Zanzibar.  Bradt  Travel  Guide 

Publication. Chalfont St. Peter, England.
Buzinde, C. N., J. M. Kalavar, and K. Melu-

bo. 2014.Tourism and community well-being: 

The case of the Maasai in Tanzania. Annals of 

Tourism Research 44: 20-35.

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PSB 69 (2) 2023


Carr, D. J., N. M. Cruthers, R. M. Laing, and 

B. E. Niven. 2006. Selected mechanical prop-

erties of sisal aggregates (Agava sisalana). 

Journal of Materials Science I41: 511–515. 
DeWalt, B. 1994. Using indigenous knowl-

edge to improve agriculture and natural re-

source management. Human Organization 5: 

Fernandes, E. C. M., A. Oktingati, and J. Ma-

ghembe. 1985. The Chagga home gardens: A 

multi-storeyed agro-forestry cropping system 

on Mt. Kilimanjaro, Northern Tanzania. Food 

and Nutrition Bulletin 7: 1-8.
Gari, J. 2001. Biodiversity and indigenous 

agroecology in Amazonia: the indigenous 

people of Pastaza. Etnoecologic 5: 21-37.
Gebauer, J., K. El-Siddig, and G. Ebert. 2002. 

Baobab (Adansonia digitata L.): a review on a 

multipurpose tree with promising future in the 

Sudan. Gartenbauwissenschaft 67: 155–160. 
Greenway, P. J., and D. F. Vesey-Fitzgerald. 

1969. The vegetation of Lake Manyara Na-

tional Park. Journal of Ecology 57: 127–149.
Greenway, P. J., and D. F. Vesey-FitzGerald. 

1972. Annotated check-list of plants occur-

ring in Lake Manyara National Park. Journal 

of the East Africa Natural History Society and 

National Museum 28: 1–29.
Hemp, A. 2006. The banana forests of Kili-

manjaro: Biodiversity and conservation of the 

Chagga home gardens. Biodiversity and Con-

servation 15: 1193–1217.
Hemp, A. 2008. The Chagga home gardens 

on  Kilimanjaro:  Diversity  and  refuge  func-

tion for indigenous fauna and flora in anthro-

pogenically  influenced  habitats  in  tropical 

regions under global change on Kilimanjaro, 

Tanzania.  International Human Dimensions 

Programme on Global Environmental Change 

(IHDP) 2: 12-17.

Jackson, S. J., P. J. Houghton, A. Photiou, and 

S. Retsas. 1996. The isolation of a novel anti-

neoplastic compound from a bioassay guided 

fractionation of stem bark and fruit extracts of 

Kigelia pinnata (Bignoniaceae). British Jour-

nal of Cancer 73: 68.
Kennedy, A. S. 2014. Birds of the Serengeti 

and Ngorongoro Conservation Area. Princ-

eton University Press. Princeton, NJ.
Lind, E. M., and M. E. Morrison. 1974. East 

African Vegetation. Longman. London, UK.
Luke, Q., and H. Beentje. 2020. 100 Trees to 

see on Safari in East Africa. Penguin Random 

House. Johannesburg, South Africa.
Makunga, J. E. 2022. Field Guide of Tanzania 

Plants. White Falcon Publishing. Chandigarh, 

McNaughton, S. J. 1983. Serengeti grassland 

ecology: The role of composite environmental 

factors and contingency in community orga-

nization. Ecological Monographs 53: 291-320. 
Melubo, K., and B. Lovelock. 2019. Living 

inside a UNESCO World Heritage Site: The 

perspective of the Maasai community in Tan-

zania.  Tourism Planning & Development 16: 

Ngondya, I. B., and L. K. Munishi. 2021. 

Impact of invasive alien plants Gutenbergia 

cordifolia and Tagetes minuta on native taxa 

in the Ngorongoro crater, Tanzania. Scientific 

African 13: e00946.
Niazi, F., M. Naseem, Z. Khurshid, M. S. Za-

far, and K. Almas. 2016. Role of Salvadora 

persica chewing stick (miswak): A natural 

toothbrush for holistic oral health. European 

Journal of Dentistry 10: 301-308. 

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PSB 69 (2) 2023


Picerno, P., G. Autore, S. Marzocco, M. Mel-

oni, R. Sanogo, and R. Aquino. 2005. Anti-

inflammatory  activity  of  verminoside  from 

Kigelia Africana and evaluation of cutaneous 

irritation in cell cultures and reconstituted hu-

man epidermis. Journal of Natural Products 

68: 1610-1614. 
Sanogo, R., M. P. Germanò, V. D’Angelo, A. 

M. Forestieri, S. Ragusa, and A. Rapisarda. 

2001. Trichilia roka Chiov. (Meliaceae): phar-

macognostic researches. Farmaco 56: 357-

Sinclair, A. R. E., K. L. Metzger, A. R. S. 

Mduma, and J. M. Fryxell. 2015. Serengeti 

IV: Sustaining Biodiversity in a Coupled 

Human-Natural System. Chicago University 

Press, Chicago, IL.  
Trancă, S. D., R. Szabo, and M. Cociş. 2017. 

Acute poisoning due to ingestion of Datura 

stramonium - a case report. Romanian Journal 

of Anaesthesia and Intensive Care 24: 65-68. 

United Republic of Tanzania. 2014. Report on 

the Implementation of the Convention on Bi-

ological Diversity. Website: https://www.cbd.

United Republic of Tanzania. 2015. National 

Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan 2015-

2020. Website:

Venter, F., and J. A. Venter. 2007. Making the 

most of indigenous trees. Briza Publications, 

Williams, E. V., J. E. Ntandu, P. Ficinski, and 

M. Vorontsova. 2016. Checklist of Serengeti 

ecosystem grasses. Biodiversity Data Journal 

4: e8286. 
Winks, Q. 2009. Tanzania - Culture Smart! 

The Essential Guide to Customs & Culture. 

Kuperard, London. 
Zemede, A. and N. Avele. 1995. Home-gar-

dens in Ethiopia: characteristics and plant di-

versity. Sinet, an Ethiopian Journal of Science 

18: 235-266.









477 Jarvis Ave, Winnipeg, Canada, R2W 3A8

Toll Free: 1-800-361-7778

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PSB 69 (2) 2023


OUP Plant Science Hub

Bringing together hundreds of articles from across all our

plant science journals, organized thematically for the first time.

Plant Resilience
Sustainable Plant Production
Developing Technologies
Plant Science to Improve Health

Explore the topic hubs now >>

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PSB 69 (2) 2023




Amelia Neely

BSA Membership & 




E-mail: ANeely@


Botany360 (

botany360.html) is a series of programming that 

connects our botanical community during the 

360 days outside of Botany Conferences. The 

Botany 360 event calendar is a tool to highlight 

those events. The goal of this program is to 

connect the botanical science community 

throughout the year with professional 

development, discussion sessions, and 

networking and social opportunities. To see 

the calendar, visit 

Botany360 Event Recordings  

Now Available

We are excited to now offer the following event 

recording from our Spring 2023 Botany360 events:

• Making the most out of Bota-

ny 2023 - A Student Conference 

Guide (May 26, 2023) [Available 


Workshop presented by BSA Student 

Representatives,  Ioana Anghel and 

Eli Hartung.

Are you attending the Botany Conference 

for the first time this July? Or are you looking 

for tips on how to make the best of the 

conference as a student? This workshop goes 

over student-specific events, how to organize 

your time, how to make your trip as affordable 

as possible, and how to successfully network. 

It also goes over ways to make the best out of 

attending virtually. (Also see the student reps’ 

article in this issue of the PSB.)

You can also find past recordings that can be 

accessed for free  at

resources/botany360.html, including:

• De-mystifying the MS submissions 

process: Before you submit (Part 1 & 2)

• Applying to Grad School - A Q&A 


• Intro to Reviews and Meta-Analysis
• Webinar & Discussion #1: Learning 

to Write Your Story Well

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PSB 69 (2) 2023


• Webinar & Discussion #2: 


Your Paper Published: An Editor’s 



Thank you to all of our Legacy Society 

members for supporting BSA by including 

the Society in your planned giving. We look 

forward to hosting you at this year’s Legacy 

Society Reception at Botany 2023 in Boise, 

Idaho.  If  you  are  interested  in  joining  the 

Legacy Society, you are welcome to come to 

the event and sign up in person or by filling out 

the form at

profile/create?gid=46&reset=1 at any time. 


The intent of the Botanical Society of 

America’s Legacy Society is to ensure a 

vibrant society for tomorrow's botanists, and 

to assist all members in providing wisely 

planned giving options. All that is asked is 

that you remember the BSA as a component 

in your legacy gifts. It’s that simple—no 

minimum  amount,  just  a  simple  promise  to 

remember the Society. We hope this allows all 

BSA members to play a meaningful part in 

the Society's future. To learn more about the 

BSA Legacy Society, and how to join, please 




The BSA Spotlight Series highlights early 

career scientists in the BSA community and 

shares both scientific goals and achievements, 

as well as personal interests of the botanical 

scientists, so you can get to know your BSA 

community better.

Here are the most recent Spotlights:

• Mario Blanco-Sánchez


ate Student, Universidad Rey 

Juan Carlos, Madrid, Spain 

Biología y Geología, Física y Quími-

ca Inorgánica  





• Trinity Depatie, Graduate Student, 

University of South Carolina, Biologi-

cal Sciences (



• Matias Köhler, Postdoctor-

al Fellow, São Carlos Univer-

sity (UFSCar),  São Paulo, Brazil 

Biology Department (https://

c a r e e r s - i n - b o t a n y / b s a - s p o t -


• Kathryn Vanden Hoek, Un-

dergraduate Student, Univer-

sity of Missouri - Columbia 

Division of Biochemistry (https://



Would you like to nominate yourself or 

another early career scientist to be in 

the Spotlight Series? Fill out this form:

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PSB 69 (2) 2023




New this year, we are including a BSA 

Professional Member Highlights section 

each month in the Membership Matters 

newsletter. If you would like to be 

highlighted, email me at 







Dr. Shannon Fehlberg,  

Conservation Biologist,  

Desert Botanical Garden

(Twitter:  @sdfehlberg, Website:  https://dbg.



Dr. Fehlberg works as the Conservation Biologist at 

the Desert Botanical Garden in Phoenix, Arizona. 

Her research uses phylogenetic and population 

genetic approaches, along with other data, to 

understand the evolution of rare plants and their 

closest relatives. She is particularly interested 

in resolving relationships among closely related 

species and understanding the influences of genome 

duplication (polyploidy), hybridization, geography, 

and ecology on species diversification. Recently, her 

work has focused on members of the cactus family, 

including several species complexes in the hedgehog 

genus, Echinocereus. Shannon is currently serving 

as a rotating program officer in the Systematics and 

Biodiversity Science Cluster at the National Science 

Foundation, an incredibly enriching and rewarding 



Wesley Knapp 

Chief Botanist 


(Twitter: @wmknapp, Websites: www.Wesley- and

Wesley Knapp is the Chief Botanist 

for  NatureServe, a conservation nonprofit 

providing the  authoritative source for 

biodiversity data on species and ecosystems 

throughout North America. Wes is an 

expert in numerous fields including plant 

identification, taxonomy, systematics, and 

extinct species. Wes’s current research 

focuses on identifying and preventing plant 

extinction events and describing undescribed 

species. Wes has extensive field experience in 

his previous positions as a field botanist with 

the Maryland and North Carolina Natural 

Heritage Programs. Wes is currently a PhD 

student in Alan Weakley’s lab at UNC-Chapel 


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PSB 69 (2) 2023


Dr. Mason Heberling 

Assistant Curator of Botany  

Carnegie Museum of Natural History

(Twitter: @jmheberling, Websites: masonheberling.

com, Blog:


Dr. Mason Heberling is an herbarium curator 

and plant ecologist studying the functional 

ecology of understory plant species in 

temperate forests, especially in the context 

of climate change and introduced species 

invasions. As a museum curator, he strives to 

facilitate and broaden the use of natural history 

collections by students, researchers, and the 

public. As a museum-based researcher, he uses 

herbarium specimens, field experiments, and 

observational data to understand basic plant 

function and complex ecological interactions. 

Dr. Karolina Heyduk 

Assistant Professor 

University of Connecticut

(Twitter: @kheyduk,  Website: www.kheyduk.


Dr. Karolina Heyduk studies how plants have 

evolved adaptations to cope with abiotic stress, 

with a particular emphasis on understanding 

the evolution of CAM photosynthesis. Her 

research integrates plant physiology, genomics, 

and phylogenetics and focuses mostly on 

members of the Agavoideae (including agaves 

and yuccas). She is also Director of the George 

Safford Torrey herbarium at UConn.



BSA Student Chapters are a great way to network 

with peers within institutions of learning 

through engaging activities, as well as take 

advantage of special BSA discounts—including 

a $10 Student Membership and discounted 

registration to Botany Conferences.

Here are our current BSA Student Chapters:

• NEW - Bartoo Botanical Society - 

Tennessee Technological University - 

Student Chapter

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PSB 69 (2) 2023


• Bucknell University - Student Chapter 
• NEW - Idaho State University Botany 

Club - Pocatello - Student Chapter

• IISER Bhopal Student Chapter
• L.H. Baileys Botany Bunch - Cornell 

University - Student Chapter

• Northwestern University - Student 


• Oklahoma State University - Student 


• NEW - Old Dominion University - 

Student Chapter

• Otterbein University - Student Chap-


• South Dakota State University - Stu-

dent Chapter

• NEW - St. Louis Area - Student Chap-


• The Botany Club of Louisiana State 

University - Student Chapter

• University of Central Florida - Stu-

dent Chapter

• University of Hawai'i at Mānoa - Stu-

dent Chapter

• NEW - University of South Carolina - 

Student Chapter

• Weber State University - Student 


Welcome to our New or Rejoining Student 

Chapters! If you want to start a BSA Student 

Chapter, contact me at


This is a reminder that BSA Gift Memberships 

are a great way to introduce students and 

developing nations’ colleagues to the BSA 

community. You can purchase one-year 

($10) or three-year ($30) gift memberships 

by visiting: and 

choosing “Give a Gift of Membership”. 



Don’t  have  anyone  specific  for  whom  to 

purchase a gift membership? Not a problem! 

You can put your own name and email in the 

gift membership fields and we will add that 

donation to a list of memberships that we 

offer to those who need financial assistance

Questions about gift memberships, or other 

ways to donate? Email me at aneely@botany.


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PSB 69 (2) 2023





60 years ago

C. A. Price from Rutgers wrote to the editor to argue for greater training in math, chemistry, and physics for 

undergraduates in botany. 

“To move freely along the highway of modern plant physiology, students need a solid understanding of physical 

chemistry. For the student who knows he is heading for graduate study in physiology or biochemistry, physical 

chemistry should obviously be taken as an undergraduate. But the principal problem lies in the advising of 

students only generally oriented toward botanical or biological sciences. In many otherwise reputable institutions 

a student may earn a B. A. or even an M. A. in botany without having a single course in college mathematics or 

physics. Such a student, wishing later to enter physiology, would require no less than three consecutive years 

making up undergraduate courses.

Price, C.A. 1963. Letter to the Editor. PSB 9(2): 7

50 years ago

An article by Beryl Simpson provides information on the status of women in botany. 

“Let us now compare these figures with those of professional women in general. The first, and encouraging, 

datum, is that the percentage of women with a professional interest in botany is higher than the average of 

doctorates granted in the natural sciences as a whole (19% vs. 5.6%, or 7% vs. 5.6% if only the women with 

professional titles are considered). . . . 

The decrease in women entering professions in the forties through the sixties is a general phenomenon.  . .  

Although there is no data on the ages of the botanists in the Yearbook, it subjectively seems to me that there is a 

bimodality in the ages of women botanists, with few women botanists who would have received degrees during 

the period of 1940-1960. Many noted women botanists began their careers in the 20’s and 30’s, but few after World 

War II.. . . 

To increase the percentages of women in the professions will require several things: the removal of the obvious 

hinderances of discrimination; a conscious effort to convince women that they are capable of pursuing a career 

without losing the qualities of’ being a woman, and a generation during which we will hopefully dispose of our 

current conditioning of men and women. The next few years will be a transition period, but I have no doubt that 

the change will occur. The increase in interested individuals and new ideas that this change will cause could not 

help but advance a profession.”

Simpson, Beryl 1973. Women in Botany PSB 19(2): 22-24 

40 years ago

  “The Center for Environmental Studies at Arizona State University is interested in publishing a newsletter 

dedicated to computer (particularly microcomputer) software and applications for the natural sciences. The 

newsletter would be published quarterly and would contain 1) a listing and short review of recent scientific 

with availability and compatibility specifications; 2) one or more articles on microcomputer 

techniques -- how to download software for different systems, how to choose between a minicomputer 

and a network of micros, etc.; 3) a form for advertising “custom” software -- a place where scientists 

who have written software for specialized modeling or applications (for microcomputers, minis, or 

main-frame) can list and describe programs for free use, exchange or sale.”

Assistance Needed for Science Software Newsletter. 1983


 28(5): 35.


The 1983 volumes 1-4 are missing from the digital archives. If you have a copy of these issues, 

please contact the BSA office.] 

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PSB 69 (2) 2023





By Dr. Catrina Adams,  

Education Director

Jennifer Hartley, 

Education Programs 


Life has been busy for the PlantingScience 

team. We just closed out our Spring 2023 

session, which served over 1300 students!   

Twelve of the projects they created received 

Star Project designation; please come take 

a look at them at

starprojects/sp-recent.  Many thanks to Jin 

Liao and Shan Wong, our coordinators, for 

helping to keep things running smoothly, 

and an additional big thank you to everyone 

who stepped up to mentor students or serve 

as leaders on the Master Plant Science Team.

BSA 2022-2023 MASTER 



Each year, the PlantingScience team reaches 

out to our society partners to ask them to 

sponsor members of our Master Plant Science 

Team. This leadership team mentors students 

like our other participants, but they also take on 

an advisory role with each teacher who works 

with us each session. As MPST members, they 

PlantingScience Updates!

support communication between the teachers 

and the mentors working with student teams 

within a class. Each week they report in on any 

issues the group may be having, and they step 

in when scientist mentors cannot respond to 

student posts right away.

The BSA generously supports PlantingScience’s 

Master Plant Science Team by sponsoring 

early career scientists interested in taking part.  

The 2022-2023 MPST members sponsored by 

BSA included:

• Guadalupe Maldonado Andrade  

• Israel Borokini

• Yanni Chen 

• Ana Flores

• Nitin Gaikwad

• Waqar Hussain

• Devani Jolman

• Jacqueline Lemmon

• Allyssa Richards

• Juan Diego Rojas-Gutierrez

• Cierra Sullivan

• Jessica Szetela

Please join us  as we thank these amazing people 

for their contribution to our program.  We 

could not do what we do without their help.

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PSB 69 (2) 2023




PlantingScience’s next round of efficacy 

research, Digging Deeper F2, kicks off in the 

coming Fall 2023 session. This session will 

include about sixty test classrooms in addition 

to the usual classes who participate.   With 

this in mind, we are in desperate need of new 


If you, your colleagues, or your students might 

be interested in working with a high school 

team this fall, please consider registering for 

an account at and setting 

yourself available to mentor.  Mentoring 

through PlantingScience is conducted 

entirely online through an asynchronous 

message board. The students’ teachers handle 

instruction, so the mentors’ role is simply to 

respond to student messages, answer their 

questions, and provide encouragement and 

advice. You’ll also be encouraged to share a 

little about your own research and what life 

as a plant scientist is like.  The experience 

is convenient and easy and takes at most an 

hour per week.  For more information, visit

You can also apply to be a member of 

our Master Plant Science Team. MPST 

membership is available to early-career 

scientists who are interested in taking on a 

leadership role for one academic year (two 

sessions, fall and spring). This role involves 

more behind-the-scenes responsibilities 

that may require up to 2 hours of time per 

week during an active session, so our team 

members are sponsored by a partner society 

and receive membership discounts and other 

benefits.  For more information on the MPST, 


And of course, if you aren’t in a position to 

participate directly, we would love your 

support in spreading the word! Please share 

this opportunity with other scientists in your 

community and encourage them to check it 



Come visit our PlantingScience booth at 

Botany this summer!   We have a fun booth 

planned in the exhibit hall, and we encourage 

everyone planning to attend the conference to 

drop by and check us out. If you’re currently a 

mentor or MPST member, make sure to drop 

by to pick up an appreciation gift.   We’ll be 

found next to the BSA booth.

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Plant Conservation &

Restoration Program

U.S. Department of the Interior

Bureau of Land Management

Native plants are the true green infrastructure we rely on

for healthy, resilient, biodiverse ecosystems. As

wildfires and other climate-driven disasters continue to

devastate the U.S., the BLM Plant Conservation &

Restoration Program is implementing the National Seed

Strategy and conserving and restoring the native plant

communities that define America's iconic landscapes

and provide wildlife habitat, ecosystem services, and

recreational opportunities for all Americans to enjoy.

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By Ioana Anghel and Eli Hartung 

BSA Student Representatives

The Botany Conference is coming up very 

soon. We are looking forward to seeing you 

in Boise or virtually! With six days of lectures, 

field trips, workshops, and socials, how can 

you get the most out of the conference? Don’t 

worry, we’ve got you covered with some 

student-focused tips below. We discussed these 

conference tips and more at our Botany360 

event on Friday, May 26th “Make the Most out 

of Botany 2023: A Student Conference Guide”. 

See a recording of the event on the Botany360 

page at:


If you have any questions or need any help 

navigating Botany, please email us (Ioana:, Eli: elishartung@gmail.

com) or connect with us on Twitter (@ioana_

anghel and @hartung_eli). Also follow the BSA 

social media accounts (Facebook: Botanical 

Society of America; Twitter: @Botanical_

Instagram:  @botanicalsocietyofamerica) t

get the latest updates on the conference and 

BSA activities. 

Your Student Botany 2023  

Conference Guide



• Here’s a summary of the conference 

schedule: Friday 7/21 – Sunday 7/23: 

Field Trips

• Sunday 7/23: Workshops 
• Monday 7/24 – Wednesday 7/26:  

Regular talks and events

• Wednesday 7/26 evening: Confer-

ence-wide party



Join us for the many student-centered 

conference events including a workshop, a 

Careers in Botany Panel, two Student Socials, 

and a Student Chapter Meet-up: 

Workshop: Writing your CV and translat-

ing it into public facing website

Sunday, July 23, 8:00 AM – 12:00 PM

Let’s work together to create a comprehensive 

description of your career in a CV format and 

then create a website that will highlight those 

achievements for the world to see. We will 

first organize your skills and accomplishments 

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PSB 69 (2) 2023


in a CV that you can use for job, funding, 

and nomination applications. Then we will 

use these highlights of your career history 

to design a website that can showcase your 

research, teaching, publications, speaking 

engagements, and service. At the end of this 

workshop, you will have the tools to write a 

well-developed CV and to create your own 

website. You will also leave with a working 

draft of a CV and a basic academic website 

that you will be able to build up further in the 

weeks to come. 

 In this workshop, you will:

1. Learn the basic structure of a CV and 

best practices for writing it

2. Receive feedback on your CV from 

peers and instructors 

3. Learn the steps to create your own 



Why create a website? Define 

your audience and intentions for 

having a website


Discover possible content to in-

clude and see good examples


Create a structure for your per-

sonalized website content (using 

your CV as a starting point)


Work together to build a free 


This workshop is for students and early-career 

professionals. Please bring a draft of your 

current CV to edit in class, a computer, and 

any previous attempts at making a website. 

This event costs $20 and has limited space - 

register today!

Undergraduate Student Social

Sunday, July 23, 5:30 – 7:00 PM

Join us before the Plenary Talk for a chance to 

meet fellow undergrads and make some new 

friends to explore the rest of the conference 


Careers in Botany Luncheon

Monday, July 24, 12:00 – 1:45 PM

Come learn about career paths and experiences 

from professionals from a variety of academic 

disciplines and job titles. We will have rotating 

small-group discussions so that everyone has 

a chance to speak with our panelists. Check 

out the Careers in Botany Profiles from the 

2022 conference (



 This event costs $10 for students, $25 for non-

students with lunch included.  

Student Social and Networking

Monday, July 24, 9:00 – 11:59 PM

After the full first day of the conference, please 

join us to wind down, network, and socialize 

with other students. This is another great 

opportunity to make friends that you can 

explore Botany and Boise with! 

Registration is necessary and costs $10 for 

students, $25 for non-students with a drink 

and snacks included.

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Student Chapter Meet-up

Date and time TBD 

Come chat with other students about how to 

start a student chapter at your university or to 

connect with other student chapters at other 

schools. Look out for an announcement from 

us about the date and time for this event. 

If you already registered, you can still sign 

up for events! Log into your registration 

and “Modify Registration” at https://2023.



Here are some ideas to make the most of the 


• Plan out in advance the talks you want 

to see and make a schedule for your 

time. With so many events occurring 

during the conference, planning each 

day can be a challenge! The online 

Botany Conference App gives you the 

freedom to browse talks and events 

and create your own easily accessible 

schedule to stay on track. More infor-

mation about where to download the 

App is coming soon! Be on the look-

out for an e-mail and/or check the 

conference website for details.

• Don’t overpack your schedule with 

too many talks to avoid burnout; plan 

time to meet people and to rest.

• Think about who you want to meet 

with in advance, and reach out to 

them to see if they’d be willing to grab 

a coffee or tea.

• If you are presenting, invite people 

you meet to come see your talk.

Share your experience on social media with 

the hashtags #BSAStudents and #Botany2023. 



• Register early for best price – early 

registration deadline 5/31, or before 

July 20 

• Field trip reimbursements: Any grad-

uate or undergraduate student that is 

a member of ASPT and/or BSA may 

apply to have one field trip fee reim-

bursed, up to $100.00. Reimburse-

ments will be issued after the confer-

ence as a refund on your registration 

credit card. Sign up Here! https://   

Volunteer at the conference

Did you know that you can earn your early 

registration fee back by volunteering your 

time at the conference? The conference would 

not be able to happen without the help of 

students who run the registration booth, help 

at ticketed events, and make sure that sessions 

run smoothly. Eight hours of service will 

cover your registration, with opportunities 

before and during the conference. For more 

information, be sure to check your email as 

well as the conference website.


Find the included food events 


Continental breakfast each morn-

ing of the conference


Coffee/Tea at coffee breaks

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Careers in Botany Luncheon – 

Mon 12:00 PM (lunch), registra-

tion necessary


Student Social – Mon 9:00 PM 

(substantial snacks), registration 



Undergraduate Student Social – 

Sun 5:30PM  


Celebrate! All-society celebra-

tion – Wed 7:30 PM (substantial 



Affinity group events; some re-

quire registration  

Shop for food at the grocery store (TJs 2 blocks 

away from the conference center).

Conference center will have vegetarian, vegan, 

gluten-free, dairy-free, and kosher options, 

and the kitchen labels the food. 



All talks will be in one location 

at the conference center so there 

won’t be any issue of running be-

tween buildings during the day. 


The hotels with room blocks sur-

round the conference center, a 

very short walk away (most are 

less than 10 minutes away).




If giving a talk in person, you are 

encouraged to submit a record-

ed presentation for the virtual 

conference attendees or to have 

someone record your talk at the 

scheduled time and upload it.


Virtual presenters must pre-re-

cord their presentations and up-

load them to the platform by July 



Meeting new people is hard, especially if you 

are an introvert. A little planning in advance 

can make networking a little easier. Here are 

some ideas: 


Come up with a plan about how 

you will approach people.


Remember that people love to 

talk about themselves, so asking 

questions can help start conver-



Talking to people is more valu-

able than attending talks.


Use mutual connections to meet 

people. Ask your advisor to intro-

duce you to people.


Introduce others to people they 

might like to meet. 


Meet new people at affinity group 

events. This year the LGBTQ 

and Friends Mixer is planned for 

Tuesday (5:30–7:00 PM). In the 

past, we’ve had a Black, Indig-

enous, and People of Color gath-

ering, a Bots with Tots gathering, 

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PSB 69 (2) 2023


an Asian/Asian-American/Pacif-

ic Islander mixer, a Disabled and 

Allies mixer.  Dates and times for 

additional planned meet-ups to 



Be ready with a pitch about you 

and your interests. 


Get contact info from people you 

meet (Twitter, email, etc.) and 

have a follow-up topic to keep the 

conversation going.



Treat it as if you were at the con-

ference in person by giving it 

your undivided attention and by 

reaching out to people you would 

like to connect with.


Avoid multitasking during talks.


If presenting virtually, make sure 

to include your contact informa-

tion in your presentation so peo-

ple can get in touch with you. 


Use the chat features in the con-

ference app to ask questions of 

the presenters and to connect 

with other attendees. 


Don’t hesitate to reach out to peo-

ple who are attending the confer-

ence in person.


Be on the lookout for virtual spe-

cific events. 




We are excited to welcome our incoming BSA 

Student Rep, Josh Felton. Josh’s term will begin 

the day after the Botany Conference and last 

for two years from 2023 to 2025. Get to know 

them in the interview below. 

Josh Felton 

Incoming Plant Biology PhD student 

at Cornell University

When did you join BSA and what motivated 

you to do so? Will you encourage other 

students to become members and participate 

in the Society as well?

In July 2021, I became a member of the BSA 

after taking part in the PLANTS program. It 

was my advisor at the time, Dr. Rachel Jabaily, 

who introduced me to both the program 

and the Society, and she spoke highly of the 

numerous benefits associated with being a 


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Since joining the BSA, my botanical journey 

has been enriched in countless ways. One of the 

most significant highlights has been attending 

the renowned Botany conference. This annual 

event serves as an invaluable platform for 

expanding my botanical knowledge. The 

conference offers a diverse range of sessions, 

workshops, and presentations that expose 

me to cutting-edge research, innovative 

methodologies, and emerging trends in 

the field. Each year, I eagerly anticipate this 

gathering of like-minded individuals who 

share a deep passion for botany.

Beyond the intellectual growth that Botany 

provides, the BSA has connected me with 

a vast network of professionals. I’ve had 

the privilege of interacting with esteemed 

botanists, researchers, and educators who 

have not only inspired me but also become 

valuable mentors in my journey. 

In addition to the conference, I’ve been 

thoroughly enjoying attending Botany360 

events. These immersive experiences have 

allowed me to delve deeper into specific 

areas of botany, and the comprehensive range 

of events that cater to diverse interests has 

ensured there is always something new to 

learn and explore.

From my initial exposure through the PLANTS 

program to my ongoing participation in the 

Botany conference and other BSA events, I 

have gained invaluable knowledge, formed 

meaningful connections, and expanded 

my passion for botany. The BSA has truly 

been a cornerstone of my botanical journey, 

providing a supportive community and 

invaluable resources that continue to fuel my 

curiosity and growth in this fascinating field.

What motivated you to run for the position 

of Student Representative to the Board of 

Directors and what do you plan to do as the 

student representative of BSA?

The motivation to run for the student 

representative position stemmed from my 

deep passion for building community and 

my desire to actively contribute and advocate 

for the needs and interests of fellow student 

members. As a passionate student in the field 

of botany, I have recognized the importance 

of providing a platform for students to have 

their voices heard and their perspectives 

considered within the society.

As the student representative, I aim to 

establish effective communication channels 

between students and the Board of Directors. 

I will actively engage with student members, 

soliciting their feedback, ideas, and concerns, 

and ensure that their voices are represented 

during decision-making processes.

Additionally, I intend to promote professional 

development opportunities specifically 

tailored to students. This includes organizing 

webinars, and workshops that focus on 

honing essential skills, providing guidance 

for career advancement, and facilitating 

networking opportunities within the botanical 


Overall, my goal as the student representative 

is to ensure that the BSA remains a supportive 

and inclusive community for all students. 

By actively listening to any concerns and 

advocating for our interests I aim to empower 

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PSB 69 (2) 2023


student members and strengthen their 

engagement within the BSA.

What’s your research about and how did you 

discover your research interest?

My undergraduate research focused on 

studying the reproductive biology of 

Bromeliaceae (the pineapple family). As I 

looked ahead to my future research in graduate 

school, I discovered a new-found interest in 

mating systems. It was while working on my 

undergraduate thesis that I became fascinated 

by the intricate nature of plant reproduction. 

This sparked my desire to delve deeper into 

the study of mating system evolution.

Mating systems in plants are determined 

by a combination of morphological, 

developmental, and physiological traits of 

reproductive organs, which directly influence 

the union of gametes. Understanding the 

intricate interaction among these traits is 

crucial in determining how plants mate. 

While breeding system evolution has been 

broadly investigated across angiosperms and 

extensively studied in select model systems, 

there remains a significant knowledge gap 

regarding the phylogenetic distribution of 

breeding systems in some of the largest and 

most culturally and agriculturally important 

angiosperm families.

In graduate school, my aim is to address this 

knowledge gap and shed light on the breeding 

systems of Bromeliaceae. I will focus on 

exploring the evolutionary patterns of mating 

systems while incorporating aspects of natural 

history research.

Through this research, I hope to uncover 

important insights into the adaptive 

radiation and evolution of mating 

systems in Bromeliaceae. By expanding 

our understanding of breeding systems 

beyond model systems, we can gain a more 

comprehensive understanding of plant 

reproduction as a whole and its implications 

for both conservation and agricultural 


What hobbies do you have? 

One of my biggest passions is playing guitar, 

which I’ve been playing off and on since I was 

young. Lately, I’ve been particularly interested 

in blues, indie folk, and bossa nova. I enjoy 

experimenting with different chords and 

melodies, and I find that playing music is a 

great way to relax and unwind after a long day.

I also love to get outside and explore the 

world around me. I’m an active person and I 

love to channel that energy through outdoor 

activities like ultimate frisbee and road biking. 

I love the rush of adrenaline that comes with 

chasing down a frisbee and making a great 

catch, and the feeling of freedom that comes 

with riding my bike down an open road.

Maybe my favorite hobby is botanizing. It’s 

a great way to connect with nature and the 

feeling of finding a plant that you’ve never seen 

before is euphoric. Follow me on iNaturalist: 


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This year we lost another brilliant evolutionary 

biologist much too early! AJ Harris lost 

her battle with cervical cancer on January 

15 at her home in Indiana at the young age 

of 44. AJ started her academic career at 

Alamance Community College in Graham, 

North Carolina where she earned her high 

school equivalency diploma in 2003, and was 

recognized as the Distinguished Alumna of 

the Year in 2016. She soon enrolled at North 

Carolina State University (NCSU) majoring 

in Religious Studies and minoring in Botany 

after taking PB403-Systematic Botany with 

Dr. Jenny Xiang. This curriculum sparked 

an  interest  in  plants  that  would  inspire  her  to                 

not only to graduate with a minor in Botany 

for her undergraduate degree (2005), but also 

to complete a M.S. degree with Dr. Xiang on 

AJ Harris in the Xiang Lab at NCSU in 2005



Molecular and Morphological Inference of the 

Phylogeny, Origin, and Evolution of Aesculus 

L. in 2007 at NCSU. AJ published two peer-

review papers from her M.S. degree (Harris 

et al., 2009; Harris and Xiang, 2009). In the 

process, she spearheaded a method to account 

for phylogenetic uncertainty in reconstructing 

ancestral ranges in biogeographic analysis 

with the DIVA method to serve her research 

on Aesculus and published the method in the 

second paper. 

During this time, AJ began interacting with 

colleagues in China, which led to fruitful 

collaborations. Her keen understanding and 

interest in computational biology allowed 

AJ to contribute to the development of some 

excellent analytical tools in biogeographic 

inference such as S-DIVA (Yu et al., 2010) 

and  RASP (Yu et al., 2015). AJ also had an 

insatiable appetite for the evolutionary history 

and diversification of plants, and she wanted 

to know more about the fossil record after 

taking Jim Mickle’s PB545-Paleobotany class 

at NCSU during her M.S. degree. AJ pursued 

that passion from 2008 to late 2009 as a Ph.D. 

student with paleobotanist Dr. Ruth Stockey 

at the University of Alberta in Edmonton, 

Canada. AJ gained much insight from working 

with Ruth and was working on a manuscript 

describing fossil maple-like samaras with Drs. 

Steve Manchester and Kirk Johnson in the fall 

of 2022. 

She enrolled in a Ph.D. program at Oklahoma 

State University, Stillwater in 2010 under 

the mentorship of Dr. Michael Palmer, and 

she graduated in 2015 with her dissertation: 

Evaluating Past and Present Plant 

Distributions using Biodiversity Informatics. 

During her Ph.D. studies, she received an East 

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PSB 69 (2) 2023


Asia and Pacific Summer Institutes for U.S. 

Graduate Students (EAPSI) fellowship from 

NSF to work in Dr. Fu Chengxin’s laboratory 

at Zhejiang University in Hangzhou, China in 

2012.  There AJ developed a passion for field 

work and interacted with many colleagues 

from all over China.  

After her Ph.D. graduation AJ was awarded 

the prestigious Peter Buck Postdoctoral 

Fellowship to work with Dr. Jun Wen on ‘The 

effects of time, speciation and extinction rates, 

and morphological traits on assembly of the 

woody flora of North America’ (2016–2018) 

at the Department of Botany, Smithsonian 

Institution.  She had a tremendous impact on 

undergraduate and high school interns and 

foreign visitors at the Wen lab, helping with 

analyses and the training of graduate students 

in computational biology. This collaboration 

resulted in a dozen peer-reviewed papers 

ranging in scope from historical biogeography 

and ecological characterization of Northern 

Hemisphere disjunct plants to sumac-gall 

aphid-plant co-evolution (Harris et al. 2016, 

2017; Ren et al. 2017). Prior to her Peter 

Buck postdoctoral fellowship, AJ also did a 

10-week Smithsonian graduate fellowship 

on ‘Resolving taxonomic uncertainties in 

Billia Peyr. (Sapindaceae), tropical trees in a 

temperate subfamily’ in the summer of 2014.

Always reinventing and fueling her passion, 

AJ applied and was awarded another 

postdoctoral fellowship in computational 

biology working with Dr. Aaron Goldman at 

Oberlin College in Oberlin, Ohio (2018–2020). 

In this position, AJ brought her expertise 

in phylogenetic analysis to a NASA-funded 

collaboration with origin of life researchers at 

the University of Southern California (USC) 

and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory. Her many 

contributions included the discovery of a new 

family of anciently duplicated genes (Harris 

and Goldman, 2018) and the reconstruction 

of ancient proteins responsible for targeting 

other proteins to cell membranes (Harris and 

Goldman, 2021). This research required AJ 

to learn an entirely new side of evolutionary 

biology. Although she continued to carry 

her botanical sampling equipment with her 

everywhere she went, AJ also approached 

Yuan Xu, Yash Kalburgi, Jun Wen, AJ Harris, Liz Zimmer, Xiaodan Xu, Wei Zheng and 

Yousheng Chen at the National Museum of Natural History, the Smithsonian

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PSB 69 (2) 2023


these new topics in molecular evolution with 

the same enthusiasm and fearlessness that 

defined her approach to science.

She continued her passion for China and 

chose to work in China at the South China 

Botanical Garden (SCBG), Chinese Academy 

of Sciences, in Guangzhou, Guangdong, 

China as an associate professor in 2020. 

Unfortunately, due to the pandemic and travel 

bans, she was unable to fulfill her dream 

of living in China to pursue her academic 

career there, and worked at SCBG remotely 

during the COVID-19 pandemic. She was 

extremely productive in her position at SCBG, 

collaborating with many inspiring young 

students and colleagues. She did not only 

manage to mentor her own students at SCBG, 

but also extended her mentoring to several 

students of Huafeng Wang’s lab at Hainan 


It was in 2011 that I (S.I.B.) had the privilege 

to meet AJ at the XVII International Botanical 

Congress (IBC) in Melbourne, Australia, 

where she was an invited speaker on The 

Bayes–DIVA method and its application 

for testing biogeographic origins of inter-

continental disjunct endemics.  AJ first 

approached me in her self-assertive, exuberant 

way, “Hello, are you Dr. Ickert-Bond, I am AJ 

Harris, I am the co-developer of Bayes-DIVA 

and I would like to get your datasets….” Our 

meeting in Melbourne started a long period 

of exchanging thoughts on manuscripts, 

developing new projects and always having a 

laugh on one thing or another (Ickert-Bond 

et al., 2018). AJ was very generous with her 

time throughout her short career and helped 

many scientists from many different nations 

with their own research and career paths. AJ 

had an impactful career in the life sciences, 

publishing more than 66 peer-reviewed 

papers (see References), and she organized 

symposia both at the IBC in Shenzhen, China 

in 2017 as well as the BSA annual Botany 

meeting in Anchorage, Alaska in 2022. Her 

research was original, using her knowledge 

of systematics, biogeography, and computer 

sciences. I loved her voice, her smile, and her 

laugh. Her joyful spirit was contagious. She 

was amazing in her endeavors, forging ahead, 

breaking new ground analytically, and always 

posing challenging questions in seminars 

and at conferences. She was very humble and 

generous with her knowledge, eager to include 

you on her discoveries. We will miss you, 

AJ! She is survived by her parents, husband 

Andrew Dabbs, and many international 

colleagues and students that she supported in 

many ways.


{The most complete listing of AJ’s publications 

can be found at


Harris, AJ, and Q.-Y. Xiang. 2009. Estimating 

ancestral distributions of lineages with uncer-

tain sister groups - A statistical approach to 

DIVA and a case using Aesculus L. (Sapinda-

ceae) including fossils. Journal of Systematics 

and Evolution 47: 349-368.
Harris, AJ, Q.-Y. Xiang, and D. T. Thomas. 

2009. Phylogeny, origin, and biogeographic 

history of Aesculus L. (Sapindales) - An up-

date from combined analysis of DNA sequenc-

es, morphology, and fossils. Taxon 58: 1-19.
Harris, AJ. 2015. Evaluating Past and Pres-

ent Plant Distributions using Biodiversity In-

formatics. Ph.D. Oklahoma State University, 

Stillwater, OK.

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PSB 69 (2) 2023


Harris, AJ, C. X. Fu, Q.-Y.(J.) Xiang, L. Hol-

land, and J. Wen. 2016. Testing the mono-

phyly of Aesculus L. and Billia Peyr., woody 

genera of tribe Hippocastaneae of the Sapin-

daceae. Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 

102: 145-151.
Harris, AJ, P. T. Chen, X. W. Xu, J. Q. Zhang, 

X. Yang, and J. Wen. 2017. A molecular phy-

logeny of Staphyleaceae: Implications for ge-

neric delimitation and classical biogeographic 

disjunctions in the family.  Journal of System-

atics and Evolution 55: 124-141.
Harris, AJ, and A. D. Goldman. 2018. Phy-

logenetic reconstruction shows independent 

evolutionary origins of mitochondrial tran-

scription factors from an ancient family of 

RNA methyltransferase proteins. Journal of 

Molecular Evolution 86: 277-282.
Harris, AJ, and A. D. Goldman. 2021. Very 

early evolution of protein translocation across 

membranes. PLoS Computational Biology 17: 


Ickert-Bond, S. M., AJ Harris, S. Lutz, and 

J. Wen. 2018. A detailed study of leaf micro-

morphology and anatomy of New World Vitis 

L. subgenus Vitis within a phylogenetic and 

ecological framework reveals evolutionary 

convergence. Journal of Systematics and Evo-

lution 56: 309-330.
Ren, Z. M., AJ Harris, R. B. Dikow, E. B. Ma, 

Y. Zhong, and J. Wen. 2017. Another look at 

the phylogenetic relationships and intercon-

tinental biogeography of eastern Asian - North 

American Rhus gall aphids (Hemiptera: Aphi-

didae: Eriosomatinae): Evidence from mitoge-

nome sequences via genome skimming. Molec-

ular Phylogenetics and Evolution. 117: 102-110.
Yu, Y., AJ Harris, and X. He. 2010. S-DIVA 

(Statistical Dispersal-Vicariance Analysis): 

a tool for inferring biogeographic histories. 

Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 56: 

Yu, Y., AJ Harris, and X. He. 2015. RASP 

(Reconstruct Ancestral State in Phylogenies): 

A tool for historical biogeography. Molecular 

Phylogenetics and Evolution 87: 46-49.


To honor AJ, members of the botanical community seek to establish an 

award with the BSA to support graduate student research. In this way, her 

name will continue to resonate with botanists well into the future. BSA 

is collecting funds in memory of AJ Harris. $20,000 will allow a student 

award to be created in her name in perpetuity. If this goal is not met, the 

funds collected will be distributed to fund extra graduate student research 

awards in 2023 and 2024. Graduate student research awards are open to all 

students, including non-U.S. citizens. Your donation to this fundraising ef-

fort to the BSA is tax deductible and you will receive a tax donation receipt 

upon making your gift. Thank you for your contributions in honor of AJ 


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PSB 69 (2) 2023





Robert Lynch Wilbur, Professor Emeritus of 

Biology at Duke University died 31 October 

2022 in Durham, North Carolina at the age 

of 97. He was a prominent teacher of plant 

taxonomy, productive botanical researcher 

and nomenclaturist, herbarium curator/

proponent, and mentor to several generations 

of undergraduate and graduate students. 

He excelled in each of these endeavors 

throughout his botanical career. Born in 

Annapolis, Maryland, he and his family 

moved to Durham in 1933, where Bob Wilbur 

and Duke University began an association 

Bob Wilbur collecting plants in Orange 

County, North Carolina in 2013. Photo by 

Mengchi Ho, used with permission

that lasted nearly 80 years. After obtaining his 

BS (1946) and MA (1947) degrees in botany at 

Duke, he went to the University of Hawaii and 

worked as a graduate assistant with Harold 

St. John. In 1948, Wilbur began studies at the 

University of Michigan for a Ph.D. under the 

direction of Rogers McVaugh—as the latter’s 

third graduate student. He accompanied 

McVaugh on his professor’s first trip to 

the Nueva Galicia region of west-central 

Mexico, and several months later, he and one 

of his brothers returned there to continue 

collecting. His doctoral dissertation, a detailed 

taxonomic account of the primarily North 

American genus Sabatia (Gentianaceae), was 

completed in 1953. Its publication (Wilbur, 

1955) received the George R. Cooley Award 

in 1956 from the American Society of Plant 

Taxonomists for the “best published paper 

dealing with the flora of the southeastern U.S.”   

Wilbur’s professional academic career 

began with a one-year stint as an assistant 

professor at the University of Georgia (1952-

53). He relocated to North Carolina State 

College in Raleigh as assistant professor and 

herbarium curator (1953-57) before making 

his final move back to Durham, Duke, and 

the Department of Botany (later Biology) 

for the remainder of his career. He advanced 

to associate professor in 1963, to professor 

in 1970, departmental chair (1971-77), 

and professor emeritus (2007-22). Wilbur’s 

signature course was a lecture/lab class on 

local flora and plant taxonomy. Half or more 

of both lecture and lab periods were spent 

roaming the Duke campus and Duke Forest, 

learning how to identify plants. In addition 

to his teaching duties, he curated and greatly 

expanded the university’s herbarium (DUKE) 

and conducted/published research primarily 

on plants of the southeastern U.S. and 

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PSB 69 (2) 2023


Central America. One of his early botanical 

contributions that remains in use today was a 

book on the family Fabaceae in North Carolina 

with keys, lengthy descriptions, distribution 

maps, and illustrations (Wilbur, 1963).  

A trip to Costa Rica in 1968 with Duke 

colleague Donald E. Stone rekindled his 

interest in tropical botany, and thereafter 

Wilbur became an avid collector of plants 

in Central America. He and his students 

collected extensively in Costa Rica, and made 

trips to Belize, El Salvador, Mexico, Nicaragua, 

and Panama. His typical field protocol was 

early to rise, eat breakfast, get out in the field 

ASAP, collect until dark with no lunch break, 

return and eat dinner, and work until late at 

night writing up notes and rearranging plants 

from the field press into drying presses. His 

specimens tended to be ample (sometimes 

completely covering an herbarium sheet) 

and were occasionally referred to by others 

as “Wilbur sheets.” After formally retiring, 

much of his time in the field was refocused on 

collecting again in North Carolina and other 

parts of the southeastern U.S. 

In his floristic and monographic research, 

Wilbur was a flowering plant generalist 

with taxonomic publications on numerous 

families, including: Asteraceae, Annonaceae, 

Campanulaceae, Cistaceae, Clethraceae, 

Crassulaceae, Ericaceae, Euphorbiaceae, 

Fabaceae, Gentianaceae, Liliaceae, 

Myricaceae, and Rubiaceae. For 21 years, 

he served on the International Association 

for Plant Taxomomy’s Committee for 

Spermatophyta, and his papers clarifying 

and revising botanical nomenclature include 

many additional families. Wilbur was a 

prolific plant collector who made more than 

100,000 numbered collections. Largely as a 

result of his collections, those of his students, 

and exchange generated by duplicates of both, 

the number of specimens of vascular plants 

at DUKE grew from a teaching and reference 

collection of 134,000 to a major research 

collection of more than 400,000. Among his 

103 (fide his numbered reprint collection) 

research publications, Wilbur described 

three new genera, Calcaratolobelia Wilbur 

(Campanulaceae), Didonica Luteyn & Wilbur 

(Ericaceae), and Utleya Wilbur and Luteyn 

(Ericaceae); he also described more than 60 

new species. To date, 28 species have been 

named for him. 

Beyond his productivity as a teacher, collector, 

and researcher, Dr. Wilbur was devoted to his 

family, students, university, and discipline 

of systematic botany. He was warm-hearted, 

friendly, and always approachable. Those 

who worked closely with him—colleagues, 

students, his long-time collections manager 

(Sherri Herndon)—got to know him as a 

caring family man with six children and a 

cadre of dogs; at least one of the latter often 

accompanied him to the herbarium and/or 

field. One of his great joys was the time he 

spent training, encouraging, and aiding the 

next generation of plant systematists. He took 

a personal interest in the lives and careers of 

his graduate students and those undergrads, 

like us, who demonstrated an interest in 

learning about plants. These efforts included 

taking students into the field, offering both 

fatherly and academic advice, and sharing his 

passions for local flora, tropical botany, and 

rigorous academic scholarship. 

A tribute to Robert Wilbur, the man, scientist, 

and teacher, is to appear in a forthcoming 

issue of Rhodora, a journal in which his 

articles often appeared. It consists of a detailed 

biography, a bibliography, reminiscences by 

some of his former students, and a series of 

research papers produced in his honor. 

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PSB 69 (2) 2023



Wilbur, R. L. 1955. A revision of the North 

American genus Sabatia (Gentianaceae). 

Rhodora 57: 1-33, 43-71, 78-104.  
Wilbur, R.L. 1963. The Leguminous Plants of 

North Carolina. North Carolina Agricultural 

Experiment Station, Technical Bulletin 151. 

Raleigh, North Carolina. 294 pp. 

— Thomas F. Daniel, Curator Emeritus, 

Botany, California Academy of Sciences; and 

Layne Huiet.



Nancy Slack, botanist and historian of botany, 

passed away on December 21, 2022 after a 

short illness.   She taught botany at Russell 

Sage College and then also became interested 

in the history of botany.   She was an active 

member of the Botanical Society of America.

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PSB 69 (2) 2023





Chasing Plants

Mary Strong Clemens. A Botanical Pilgrimage

Pressed Plants: Making a Herbarium

White Pine: The Natural and Human History of a Foundational American Tree



Edward Parker 

2021. ISBN: 978-1789143560

US$27 (Hardcover); 224pp. 

Reaktion Books, London, U.K.

Years ago, I planted several ash trees in my 

yard in Ohio. Then sometime later, I learned 

that the emerald ash borer beetle had arrived 

in Ohio and that people all over town were 

cutting down these trees to stop the spread of 

infection from this harmful insect. It appeared 

that the massive death of ash trees would 

change the character of natural areas and cities 

as much as the Dutch Elm disease fungus did 

(Bukowski, 2019). Ash trees are casualties of 

this invasive insect that has killed hundreds of 

millions of these trees in the United States and 

Canada (Siegert et al., 2014).
This book, written for the general reader, is 

part of a series that integrates botanical work 

into a broader social and historical context. 

All books in the series have a single word title 

(e.g., apple, sunflower, oak, cherry) and are 

elegant hardcover volumes.
Chapter one provides the general botanical 

background on ash trees. Ash is in the 

genus  Fraxinus with about 48 true species. 

Ash is one of the 24 genera in the olive and 

lilac family, the Oleaceae. These plants are 

widespread throughout much of North 

America, Europe, and Asia, and most of the 

species are medium-to-large, deciduous trees.  

These trees are generally 35 to 75 feet in height 

with a diameter of 1 to 2 feet. Most species of 

ash have compound leaves, and they provide 

a more open canopy than other trees so that 

there can be a rich under-story of small plants 

in the forest. Many lichens and mosses occur 

on the alkaline bark of ash trees. The oldest ash 

trees in the fossil record are from the Eocene 

epoch (55 to 34 million years ago).
The next chapter focuses on threats to ash 

trees, which are dying at an unprecedented 

rate throughout North America and Europe. 

In North America, the death is due to the 

introduction of a beetle known as the emerald 

ash borer, and in Europe, ash is perishing 

due to a fungal infection. The emerald ash 

borer was introduced from Asia where it is 

in balance with the ecosystem, but in North 

America this beetle has no known predators. 

Damage occurs when emerald ash borer 

larvae feed on the inner bark of trees, thus 

impeding transport within the phloem. Blue 

ash (Fraxinus quadrangulate) appears to be 

relatively resistant to the emerald ash borer, 

but damage caused by this insect is estimated 

to be $10 billion over a 10-year period (Herms 

and McCullough, 2014).

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Mythology of ash throughout history 

and across the world is considered by the 

author. Mythologies about ash appear in a 

large number of cultures, including Native 

American, Scandinavian, Siberian, Asian, 

Middle Eastern, and Indian folklore. A 

common theme is to use a tree as a metaphor 

for the structure of the universe and to show 

the interconnectedness of everything.
Ash trees also have had tremendous economic 

importance throughout history. Ash timber 

has a number of qualities that make it very 

useful, such as its strength and flexibility. Ash 

wood was used for the wheels in carts and 

carriages for hundreds of years.  This wood 

also was used in a number of weapons such 

as spears as well as bows and arrows. Ash 

also was used in construction and furnishing 

homes throughout the ages. One of the most 

interesting uses of ash woods is in musical 

instruments, including the classic violin and 

electric guitar bodies.
The final chapter considers the medicinal uses 

of ash trees. One of the first medicinal uses 

of ash was noted by ancient Greek physicians 

who found the leaves were useful for the 

treatment of snake bites. Ash plants contain 

important biochemicals including phenols, 

phenylethanoids, flavonoids, coumarins, 

and lignans. These compounds are useful as 

pharmaceutical since they have been shown 

to have properties such as antioxidant, 

anticancer, anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, 

among others (Sarfraz et al., 2017). 

The book is beautifully illustrated with many 

images of ash trees in natural settings along 

with interesting historical photographs. This 

book is reasonably priced and will be enjoyed 

by professional and amateur botanists as well 

as by horticulturalists and foresters.  


Bukowski, E. 2019. Using the commons to understand 

the Dutch elm disease epidemic in Syracuse, NY. Geo-

graphical Review 109: 180-198.
Herms D. A., and D. G. McCullough. 2014. Emerald 

ash borer invasion of North America: history, biology, 

ecology, impacts, and management. Annual Review of 

Entomology 59: 13-30.
Sarfraz, I., A. Rasul, F. Jabeen, T. Younis, M. K. Za-

hoor, M. Arshad, and M. Ali. 2017. Fraxinus: a plant 

with versatile pharmacological and biological activi-

ties. Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative 

Siegert, N. W., D. G. McCullough, A. M. Liebhold, 

and F. W. Telewski. 2014. Dendrochronological recon-

struction of the epicentre and early spread of emerald 

ash borer in North America. Diversity and Distribu-

tions 20: 847-858.

–John Z. Kiss, Department of Biology, UNC-

Greensboro, Greensboro NC 27402

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PSB 69 (2) 2023


Chasing Plants: Journeys 

with a Botanist through 

Rainforests, Swamps, and 


Chris Thorogood

2022. ISBN: 978-


US$27.50 (cloth); 224 pp.

University of Chicago Press
Chasing Plants really is a journey with botanist 

Chris Thorogood through rainforests, 

swamps, and mountains. The book is 

intended for a lay audience and the beautiful 

artwork throughout makes it worthy of any 

coffee table. The writing and stories are so 

enjoyable that non-botanists and seasoned 

researchers alike will thoroughly enjoy the 

book. While botanical knowledge is not a 

prerequisite for reading this book, having 

some background in botany does improve the 

reading experience. Overall, Thorogood has 

written an entertaining and informative book 

that takes you with him as he travels the world 

to satisfy his professional goals and fulfill his 

personal mission of experiencing as many 

plants as he can while they can still be found.
Right from the start, Thorogood’s eagerness 

and passion for studying plants drives 

him to inspire a similar passion in his 

readers. His enthusiastic descriptions and 

narrated adventures immerse the reader in a 

secondhand experience of a day in the life of 

a botanist. Throughout his book, it’s clear that 

Thorogood views botany as a communal effort 

as he strives to increase awareness of plants 

in communities in order to combat plant 

blindness. It’s evident that part of Thorogood’s 

mission in writing his book is to highlight 

the vulnerability of many plants, especially 

endemic species, which may soon disappear 

forever due to natural disasters and climate 

changes. One of his adventures highlights this 

danger, when he talks of a mudslide that wipes 

out many endemic species before he has the 

chance to return and study them. His race to 

discover, study, and raise awareness of as many 

plants as possible portrays Thorogood’s belief 

that mankind must take part in a stewardship 

of nature. Part of this stewardship seems to 

involve a “conversation with the past” (p. 64). 

He’s not only interested in studying plants in 

the present, but also in learning what plants 

can tell us about our heritage. In addition, 

Thorogood is very conscious of the fact that 

botany exists today as a result of the combined 

efforts of past scientists and explorers, such 

as Alexander von Humboldt and Walter 

Weston, whom he quotes multiple times. 

Through Thorogood’s interweaving of history, 

conservation, theory, and science, the reader 

gleans a sense of the interdisciplinary nature 

of botany.
As Thorogood states, each geographic 

location is a “living library” of rare and 

endemic species, documenting evolutionary 

changes and relationships that contribute to 

the greater study of plant conservation (p. 

57). He places himself within a long-existent 

tradition of plant documentation, originating 

as personal herbariums and sketches, by 

including the writings of early botanists, 

linking his own research into the continuous 

lineage of botanical study (pp. 53-54, 154-155). 

Thorogood’s masterful paintings paired with 

his own meticulous study are perfect reflections 

of the structure of early botanical studies. 

The reader can see that Thorogood envisions 

himself as a perpetuator of and participant 

in a historically rich and ecologically critical 

heritage. By continuing research begun 

centuries previous, he constructs a promising 

future for the conservation and preservation 

of diverse plant communities across the globe.

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The reader will notice that throughout his 

explorations, Thorogood never hesitates 

to credit his discoveries of rare plants to 

local guides and researchers. He subtly 

but artfully emphasizes that the science of 

plant taxonomy is only possible with the 

intimate, observational knowledge that local 

communities have of their unique flora. 

This becomes a key for his vision of plant 

conservation as a practice which needs the 

involvement of the average person as well as 

scientists. Thorogood crafts a definition of 

plant conservation as one part science, one 

part botanical tradition, one part personal 

interest, and one part community engagement 

(pp. 10-11, 144-146, 154, 264). As readers 

approach the final chapters, they cannot help 

but feel that Thorogood’s mission is the most 

relatable, compelling, and accessible form of 

plant science they have encountered.
As a researcher, Thorogood provides powerful 

and yet simple explanations of the science 

underlying why plant taxonomy is important 

to our understanding of plant diversity. For 

example, Thorogood’s explanation of species 

richness and the importance of collecting 

herbarium specimens (pp. 154, 155) and 

his allusion to the importance of DNA to 

confirm identifications (p. 120) remind us 

that the author always has his research goals 

in mind. In addition, Thorogood conveys 

how island endemism and rarity are products 

of evolution, further supporting his goal of 

increasing awareness of plant conservation 

without detracting from the overall narrative. 

The glimpses into the life a modern botanist 

are equally informative; descriptions of the 

harsh conditions, the fruitless searches and 

the successful ones are described in ways that 

make you feel like you are in the field too.

Chasing Plants incorporates an exciting 

mixture of art, science, history, and culture, 

which are all made accessible to the reader 

through vivid imagery and Thorogood’s 

conversational tone. Thorogood’s descriptions 

of the plants that he encounters engage all 

the senses and bring the plant to life in the 

reader’s mind. Part of the life-like nature 

of Thorogood’s descriptions comes from 

his creative ability to associate unfamiliar 

plants with images from everyday life. He’ll 

compare plants to anything ranging from a 

“purple asparagus” to “a leafless ghoul” (pp. 

21, 23). Add to these descriptions his dynamic 

artwork, and the reader feels as though they 

are seeing the plant with their own eyes. Our 

only complaint about the artwork is that there 

could be a larger variety of plants depicted and 

a more organized placement of the artwork 

throughout. Often the artwork displayed 

seems to have little to do with the page it’s 

facing. However, the art itself is beautiful and 

creates an anticipation for whatever artwork 

might be displayed on the next page. Overall, 

Thorogood’s Chasing Plants invites the reader 

to share in an educational, immersive, and 

exciting journey that helps reveal the history 

of plants and their relevance to our own lives.
–Elizabeth Wamsley, Carolyn W. Howell, and 

Christopher D. Heckel (, 

Hillsdale College, 33 E College St, Hillsdale, 

MI 49242

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PSB 69 (2) 2023


Mary Strong Clemens.  

A Botanical Pilgrimage

Nelda B. Ikenberry 

2021. ISBN-13:‎ 978-1889878638

Hardcover US$45; 462 pp.

Botanical Research Inst of Texas


Mary Strong Clemens, who lived from 

1873 to 1968, was a botanical explorer and 

extensively collected plants in remote areas of 

the world including the Philippines, Borneo, 

New Guinea, and Australia. She was born in 

New York and died in Australia where she did 

extensive work in isolated areas.
In 1896, Mary married Joseph Clemens, who 

became a chaplain in the U.S. Army. This work 

brought Joseph and Mary to the Philippines 

from 1905 to 1907, and she started to make 

collections in remote areas. Later, Joseph 

worked with her, and they became notable 

botanical collectors. They made many trips 

in Southeast Asia, and during 1931–1934 in 

Borneo (a large, rugged island), they made 

the largest collections of plants from remote 

mountainous parts of that island.
In 1935, Mary and Joseph traveled to New 

Guinea, and Joseph died the next year (Merrill 

and Perry, 1948). Mary stayed to continue to 

collect plants but evacuated to Australia in 

1941 due to World War II in the Pacific theater. 

For the next 20 years, she worked at the 

Queensland Herbarium in Brisbane, and she 

continued her botanical work as a collector. 

Mary did extensive botanical collections in 

Queensland and made major contributions to 

categorizing the flora of Australia. She worked 

in the Queensland Herbarium until the early 

1960s and died in 1968.
This book used her diaries and letters as well 

as family and institutional archives to present 

the fascinating story of her dedication to 

collect plants from all around the world. She 

was considered in many ways an “amateur” 

botanist whose extensive collections were used 

by professional botanists throughout the world 

(Keeney, 1992). Sets of her plant collections 

in Queensland were sent to the Botanical 

Garden at the University of Michigan, which 

distributed them to other institutions. Thus, 

her specimens were sent to herbaria around 

the world including Berlin, Zurich, Munich, 

Singapore, Harvard, the United States Botanic 

Garden, New York Botanical Garden, and 

many other places.
The author takes a chronological approach, 

and the book includes many photographs 

(both half-tone and color) of Mary and 

Joseph Clemens, the exotic locations of their 

collections, and some of the plants they 

collected and catalogued. Amateur botanists 

have contributed greatly to the field, and we 

are fortunate to have so many people interested 

in plants and their remarkable diversity. 

Although we still have some amateurs who 

are very knowledgeable about plant taxonomy 

(Marcenò et al., 2021), few today will ever 

contribute to plant biology as much as Mary 

Strong Clemens.


Keeney, E. 1992. The botanizers: amateur sci-

entists in nineteenth-century America. Univer-

sity of North Carolina Press.
Marcenò, C., J. Padullés Cubino, M. Chytrý, 

E. Genduso, A. S. Gristina, A. La Rosa, D. Sa-

lemi, et al. 2021. Plant hunting: exploring the 

behaviour of amateur botanists in the field. 

Biodiversity and Conservation 30: 3265-3278.
Merrill, E. D., and L. M. Perry, L.M. 1948. 

Notes on some Papuan collections of Mary 

strong Clemens. Journal of the Arnold Arbore-

tum 29: 152-168.
–John Z. Kiss, Department of Biology, Univer-

sity of North Carolina Greensboro, Greensboro 

NC 27412

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PSB 69 (2) 2023


Pressed Plants: Making a 


Linda P.J. Lipsen

With illustrations by Derek Tan

2023. ISBN 978-0772680563.

Paperback, US$19.95; 92 pp. 

Royal BC Museum

People press plants for all sorts of reasons, 

from creative or artistic pursuits, to “amateur” 

documentation, to the use of specimens in 

more formal scientific endeavors.  Pressed 

Plants: Making a Herbarium by Linda P.J. 

Lipsen (with illustrations by Derek Tan) guides 

readers through the entire process of pressing 

plants. Lipsen is the collections curator at the 

University of British Columbia Herbarium, 

part of the Beaty Biodiversity Museum, while 

Derek Tan is an illustrator and photographer 

with the museum. This book is divided 

into six main chapters that chronologically 

address the major steps in creating one’s own 

The book starts with a brief introduction 

that explains why we press plants, and 

who presses them, followed by chapters 

that walk through the steps to making an 

herbarium. Chapter One deals with collection 

preparation, including a list and description 

of the necessary supplies as well as safety 

and ethical considerations to make before 

collecting. The second chapter focuses on the 

actual collection process, walking through 

the why, what, when, and how to carry out 

this important step of sampling plants in the 

field. The third chapter addresses how to press 

and dry plant specimens, and Chapter Four 

focuses on the mounting process. Now that 

individual specimens have been collected, 

pressed, and mounted, the author details the 

preservation and organization of the overall 

collection in Chapter Five. Chapter Six 

discusses how to identify specimens, pointing 

to both traditional field guides and online 

resources, while also describing key traits for 

some of the largest plant families along with 

illustrations and special tips on collecting or 

mounting plants from these groups. Finally, 

the References and Resources section directs 

readers to both useful publications and 

websites, organized thematically.
This concise book (92 pages) is a remarkable 

guide through each step of making an 

herbarium. Lipsen provides complete 

equipment lists for each step, including both 

expensive options and recommendations 

for supplies that are more affordable or 

accessible, with special notes on reusable or 

sustainable options in the margins denoted 

by a recycling symbol. Additional margin 

notes denoted with a “T” include tips and 

tricks, while checkmarks provide step-by-step 

checklists for important protocols. The black-

and-white illustrations by Tan are beautiful 

and clean, giving clear depictions of all tools 

and supplies, plus set-ups for organizing and 

walking through the pressing and mounting 

processes. Gorgeous botanical illustrations 

also highlight important parts of the plants to 

preserve; labeled diagrams show key features 

of important plant groups.
This book is accessible to novices while 

simultaneously providing helpful reminders 

and tips for more experienced individuals. 

At each step in the process, Lipsen not only 

discusses what to do, but also why to do it, 

which reiterates the importance of the step 

and provides helpful context. It can therefore 

serve as a handy reference for non-experts, as 

a great introduction to students or new people 

working in collections, or as a reference for 

seasoned herbarium staff or curators. As a 

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PSB 69 (2) 2023


professor who teaches Plant Systematics and 

co-curator of a small university herbarium, I 

will certainly be using many of the tips and 

tricks recommended in this book and will 

also be framing my teaching using some of 

these ideas and examples! Overall, this book 

is a thorough and accessible introduction and 

reference to plant collection and preservation 

in herbarium formats.

—Nora Mitchell, Department of Biology, 

University of Wisconsin – Eau Claire, Eau 

Claire, Wisconsin, USA

White Pine: The Natural and 

Human History of a  

Foundational American 


John Pastor

2023. ISBN-13: 9781642831412

US$30.00 (paperback); 276 pp.

Island Press, Washington, DC, USA 

As children, we all learned about the history 

of America in increasing detail each year 

from kindergarten through our late high 

school or early college years. Our teachers 

imparted their knowledge of major events 

in American history, including the Boston 

Tea Party, Revolutionary War, and Franklin 

D. Roosevelt’s New Deal but, sadly, not one 

teacher, in my experience, mentioned the 

critical role that white pine had on these 

and other historical events. White Pine: The 

Natural and Human History of a Foundational 

American Tree by Dr. John Pastor, an ecologist 

and Professor Emeritus at the University of 

Minnesota, fills in the gaps and regales readers 

with tales from American history through the 

lens of Pinus strobus, the tree species that built 

America. This captivating book is organized 

into 11 chapters, and includes a detailed 

introduction, afterword, and bibliography 

with additional notes for the history and 

forestry buffs who want more information 

and references for further reading. 
The book starts with stories of Pastor’s youth 

in the North Woods with old-growth eastern 

white pine stands and evolves into a summary 

of the history of white pine. Many of the 

chapters seem to include similar musings 

from Pastor about his lived experiences 

with white pine, preceding or following the 

science and history around the theme of the 

respective chapter. In the first chapter, Pastor 

begins by painting a vivid description of the 

sights, smells, and sounds of an old growth 

stand of eastern white pine in Minnesota and 

transitions to a story of how pine evolved, 

starting from the time of Pangaea and 

Laurasia with Pinus mundayi, through the 

many Ice Ages, and up to the present-day 

distribution and diversity of pine species in 

North America. This narrative eases the reader 

into the history of the relationships between 

humans and white pine that picks up speed in 

the second chapter, which includes a very brief 

history of Indigenous use (e.g., needles, roots, 

and bark used as base of many Algonquin 

medicines) and reverence/views (e.g., sign of 

unity for Haudenosaunee peoples) of white 

pine. The chapter includes citations from 

some powerhouse researchers in the field, but, 

unfortunately, does not directly or explicitly 

cite Indigenous elders and knowledge keepers 

as sources of the information. Pastor strongly 

contrasts Indigenous use and views of white 

pine with the more utilitarian and ownership-

centric view of European colonists, who are 

the focus for the rest of the chapter. Notable 

events, such as the naming of white pine by 

Plukenet and Linnaeus, the development of 

the Pine Laws and King’s Broad Arrow, and 

Pine Tree Riot, which led to the Boston Tea 

Party and Revolutionary War, are woven 

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PSB 69 (2) 2023


together in the history presented in the second 

The post-Revolutionary War era picks up in 

the third chapter, which focuses on the extreme 

shift in white pine logging and utilization that 

led to the rapid establishment and success 

of many timber companies (some of which 

still exist today) and rapid displacement of 

Indigenous peoples and downfall of white 

pine ecosystems throughout eastern North 

America. Henry David Thoreau’s views on the 

destruction of these “legendary” white pine 

forests are outlined in the somewhat solemn 

fourth chapter, which details Thoreau’s 

ecological perspective, “righteous” quest to 

understand the relationships between white 

pine and other forest-dwelling organisms, 

and determination to demonstrate the 

ecological value of white pine from cradle to 

grave and beyond. This focus on ecological 

benefits of white pine continues in the next 

chapter, “The Watershed,” which focuses on 

diplomat and conservationist George Perkins 

Marsh and artist Sanford Gifford, the latter 

of which who was the godfather of Gifford 

Pinchot, the first head of the U.S. Forest 

Service. Collectively, the story of these three 

men speaks to the recognition that white pine 

commodification led to the demise of other 

species and the landscape, which segues to 

the sixth chapter focused on Pinchot’s quest 

for sustainable forestry and the development 

of Spalding and Fernow’s comprehensive 

study of white pine ecology, silvics, health, 

and management. Chapters seven through ten 

focus on the movement to restore white pine 

to the landscape, which ranged from imports 

of white pine (and the horrid white pine 

blister rust) from Europe to the development 

of the Civilian Conservation Corps (a.k.a., 

Roosevelt’s Tree Army) as part of FDR’s New 

Deal attack on economic stagnation during 

the Great Depression, and the development of 

modern-day ecological silviculture. The ninth 

chapter focuses on the shifting view of fire in 

the forest landscape, from Indigenous use of 

fire to promote berry-producing species to the 

early Smoky Bear era of fire prevention and 

the shift to understanding the importance of 

using fire to obtain and sustain diverse, healthy 

forest ecosystems. The last chapter brings the 

story back to climate and how pines have 

evolved over time, citing that, with climate 

change rapidly warming Earth’s temperature, 

no one really knows what will happen with 

pines. Will they adapt to the warming climate? 

Contract their range? Go extinct? Pastor 

speculates what will happen, wrapping up 

the book with an emphasis on using what we 

have learned about the history of white pine to 

guide the future of this foundational species 

that helped shape America and the field of 

This book contains the rich history of a 

foundational tree species that has helped 

sustain life and ecosystem health while 

shaping a nation. Pastor’s discussion of the 

fine historical details, such as the Pine Tree 

Riots, how mean annual increment was 

created, how white pine blister rust was 

important for motivating Congress to pass 

the Plant Quarantine Act, and transition from 

Indigenous reverence to European exploitation 

and utilitarianism to modern conservation 

and sustainability, makes this a must-read 

for all forestry professionals, naturalists, and 

others receptive to the teachings of history in 

pursuit of conserving a legendary tree species 

and forest ecosystems. 
– A.N. Schulz, Department of Forestry, Missis-

sippi State University, Starkville, Mississippi, 


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                                                                           Summer 2023 Volume 69 Number 2

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