The New York Botanical Garden is a museum of plants, an educational institution, and a scientific research organization. Founded in 1891 & now a National Historic Landmark, it is one of the greatest botanical gardens in the world. http://www.nybg.org/
The Academic Decline: How to Train the Next Generation of Botanists
Although federal agencies need educated botanists, only a handful of colleges still have botany programs
by Allie Bidwell
Krissa Skogen is a conservation scientist at the Chicago Botanic Garden, where she spends her days researching a family of plants known as the evening primrose.
She and her colleagues study different features of more than 100 species of the sunny yellow flowers: How big are their petals? How much nectar do they produce? What combination of compounds in their fragrance attracts the most pollinators?
While it might seem like a particularly nuanced job for only a certain niche, Skogen says understanding the relationship between plants and their pollinators can have a large effect on other sectors.
"Only through having that information can you then make predictions about what might happen if we lose some of the pollinators or some of the plants, what the consequences might be," Skogen says.
Put another way, how would food crops that rely on bee pollination – such as pumpkins, peaches, apples tomatoes and avocados – be affected by losing a species of bees?
That’s one application of studying botany in college.
But more and more, colleges and universities are getting rid of their botany programs, either by consolidating them with zoology and biology departments, or eliminating them altogether because of a lack of faculty, funds or sometimes interest. And at the same time, many trained botanists in federal agencies, such as the Bureau of Land Management, are nearing retirement age, and those agencies are clamoring for new talent…
dirtybearprince asked: Would you encourage someone with a career goal of working extensively with plants to pursue a major in horticultural science or botany? Is experience or formal education more important for opening up doors in the field? Is it justifiable? Some people seem to think it is a waste of time and money and there are no jobs in the field. When I bring up going to school for something other than healthcare or computer science, the blank stare I receive from people is kind of discouraging.
“Discouraging” is hitting the nail on the head. Being an English major, the responses I’d get when announcing my chosen track usually ran the gamut from sympathetic pats on the back to outright laughter. It was always a shot to the gut—being told to follow passion one minute and pragmatism the next. But empathy doesn’t answer your question, so I passed it along to a couple of our NYBG experts to see if they could offer any advice.
Naturally, these are their own opinions as individuals, separate from that of the NYBG itself. It’s likely some of our other botanists and horticulturists would have very different opinions based on their own experiences, as will others on Tumblr, and there’s plenty of debate to be had there (which is likely for naught—personal experience is just that: personal). But I hope you can glean something from these answers. —MN
Oh, David Attenborough. This would almost be creepy if it were anyone but you. Thankfully, your decades of service in nature education have given you carte blanche to be as strange as could ever suit your fancy.
Here’s to the educators—the nature show hosts, the science teachers, the botanists, the volunteers, and even the NYBG Explainers—who keep our love of green and growing things alive in future generations. Because somebody has to hug the plants, even if only figuratively. —MN
Our new educators rescued a few abandoned sundews left over from summer teacher trainings. Let’s see how they fare under our watchful eye. Hopefully a little love and some juicy insects will give them back their will to survive. What will be our next rescue mission? Give us your withered, your dry, your forgotten plants yearning to be cared for!
We’re getting some freelance graphic design work done on the logo this fall. Here is a sneak peek of the fantastic work being done. (Actually found in a pile of cardboard students use as “clipboards” when writing or drawing in the garden.)
One of our activity stations for the fall family programming involves sorting a variety of fruits and seeds into petri dishes. The children are free to choose the categories they wish to use and ideas are offered if they get stumped.
After observing this station in action, I have to say, the…