PLANT SCIENCEBULLETINFALL 2020 VOLUME 66 NUMBER 3A PUBLICATION OF THE BOTANICAL SOCIETY OF AMERICAWhat Have We Learned?Lessons and Strategiesfrom the ChaosBy Dr. Bryan DewsburyIN THIS ISSUE.The Shapes of Botany, by BSA PresidentCynthia Jones.p. 174Getting Started in Tropical Field Research,by Kadeem Gilbert.p. 243Diversity and Inclusion in the Sciences,by Beth Ginondidoy Leonard . p. 191
Greetings,From the EditorThis final 2020 issue of PSB comes at what feels likean unprecedented moment. As I write this, the U.S.Presidential election is essentially over. However,due to pending recounts, litigation, and spreadingdisinformation, the transition of power is shapingup to be, at minimum, chaotic. At the same time,the world is still in the midst of the COVID-19pandemic and the U.S. has just posted a recordnumber of cases reported on a single day and arecord number of hospitalizations. When I’m notteaching twice as much as usual to accommodateboth my students who are meeting in person andmy students who are in quarantine, I find myself“doom-scrolling” the latest news and opinions.Since its first issue, PSB has been the place wheremembers of the Society can confront currentevents and acknowledge current problems inscience, academia and education. In this issue,we present an article by BSA President CindiJones that reflects on “The Shape of Botany” anddemonstrates how we can learn from the pastand act for the future. These themes are alsohighlighted in articles by Bryan Dewsbury andBeth Ginondidoy Leonard that specifically addressissues of diversity and inclusion. How do we, as acommunity of scientists and educators, address theinequality and systematic oppression engrained inour institutions and promote equity and justice?In the student section, we check in on the ongoingimpact of the pandemic on our student members.PLANT SCIENCE BULLETINEditorial CommitteeVolume 66Shannon Fehlberg(2020)Research and ConservationDesert Botanical GardenPhoenix, AZ email@example.comDavid Tank(2021)Department of BiologicalSciencesUniversity of IdahoMoscow, ID firstname.lastname@example.orgJames McDaniel(2022)Botany DepartmentUniversity of WisconsinMadisonMadison, WI email@example.comI hope that you find the articles in this issue timelyand motivating. I send warm wishes to all as 2020draws to a close.Sincerely,Seana K. Walsh(2023)National Tropical BotanicalGardenKalāheo, HI firstname.lastname@example.orgFall 2020 Volume 66 Number 3
TABLE OF CONTENTSSOCIETY NEWSThe Shapes of Botany.174Advocate for Botany and Science! .185SPECIAL FEATURESDiversity and Inclusion in the Sciences: Relationships and Reciprocity .191What Have We Learned? Lessons and Strategies from the Chaos .198The Teaching Botanist: William F. Ganong and the Botanical Society of America.206SCIENCE EDUCATIONBSA Awarded 3.9m Grant for PlantingScience.231STUDENT SECTIONShifting Gears: Fieldwork, Benchwork, and Greenhouse Studies during COVID-19 .236Getting Started in Tropical Field Research.243ANNOUNCEMENTSIn Memoriam - Brian Joseph Axsmith (1963–2020).250MEMBERSHIP NEWS . 254BOOK REVIEWS. 255Looking forward tomeeting with thesepremier scientific societies!173
SOCIETY NEWSThe Shapes of BotanyThis article by BSA President Cynthia Jones isbased on her BSA Incoming President Addressat Botany 2020.For most of my career, my research hasfocused on the evolution, development,and functional significance of leaf shape:physical, tangible forms in space. However,in this essay, I’m not going to address leafshape, but instead leverage some of theother 14 definitions of shape oreflect on where I see the BSA today, on our“national aspirational capacity for botanicaleducation” at the undergraduate level, and onteachable moments for botanists presentedby the human emotional need for plants in apandemic.ACKNOWLEDGMENTSI thank Marsh Sundberg for generouslysharing his data files. I am alsograteful to Charlie Henry for combingthrough 154 college catalogs on-lineto document their course offerings inbasic plant biology.By Cynthia S. JonesDepartment of Ecology andEvolutionary BiologyUniversity of Connecticut,Storrs, CT 06269 USAThe BSA was formally established in 1893 to“unify and subserve the botanical interests ofthe country” (Diggle, 2013). A scroll throughthe Past Presidents on the BSA website showsthat the Society elected its first President in1894. Between 1984 and 1972, only 3 out of78 presidents were women. Since 1972, thepercentage of women serving in this role hasgone up by an order of magnitude relativeto the period preceding 1972 (Fig. 1). Whyfocus on 1972? In 1972, Title IX became law.Title IX stated that no person could be deniedparticipation in, or reap benefits from, or besubjected to, discrimination in any educationalprogram or activity receiving federal assistanceon the basis of their sex. Shortly after, in 1973,the Supreme Court decision Roe v. Wade gavewomen rights associated with reproductivechoice. Both of these events accompanied anew phase of the women’s movement and theBSA responded. Clearly, intention and effortcan change scientific societies, even if it takes50 years!Recent events have led to heightenedreflection on the role of race and ethnicityin perpetuating inequities, and the BSA isowning its part in this situation. We intendto create a more equitable and welcomingSociety. We will make every effort possibleto fight discrimination against people whoare black, indigenous, or persons of color. Weacknowledge that we have a lot of work to do:optional responses to this year’s membershipform show what we all already know: over50% reported as white (Fig. 2), and the actual174
PSB 66 (3) 2020Figure 1. Past Presidents of the BSA. Prior to1972, 4% were female; since then, 43% havebeen female.percentage is likely higher as some if not mostof the 30% who declined to report may bewhite. We will strive harder to become morediverse, such that we become a scientificsociety where the contributions of BIPOCmembers are welcomed, recognized, andcelebrated.What actions is the BSA taking? This Fall, theBSA is embarking on a new strategic plan thatwill define the Society’s priorities for the nextfive years. Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI)will be one of four pillars of this plan. In theshorter term, BSA staff and the BSA Board ofDirectors and the Committee on Committeeswill undergo training in Diversity, Equity andInclusion. At Botany 2020 Virtual, we hostedour first BIPOC Mixer for members and theirallies, and we also hosted an open forum ondiversity. The Executive Director is workingwith the BSA Committee on Diversity, Equityand Inclusion on new tracking metrics that willallow us to tell if our initiatives are working,and beginning this Fall we will revamp theFigure 2. Percentage of members reporting raceand ethnicity data based on BSA 2020 membership renewal.process of selecting candidates for leadershippositions and membership on committeeswith the goal of making these processesas equitable, accessible, and transparentas possible. Finally, the BSA will supportinitiatives, such as Black Botanists Week, thatare independent of the BSA but that supportand encourage BIPOC researchers, educators,and others who are passionate about plants.Changing themes of this essay, I want to relatea story. In the late 1990s, I had a student ina course who seemed unhappy. The secondweek, I mentioned that I had noticed herdemeanor. She responded that she didn’treally “like” plants, but that she was a seniorand she needed the course to fill a graduationrequirement. We talked about strategies forapproaching the course and in the end shedid well. As she turned in her final exam, she175
PSB 66 (3) 2020said, “I don’t know if I should thank you ornot.” I was surprised and responded that Ihad been under the impression she liked thecourse. She replied, “Well, yeah, but life wasless complicated when I looked at the sideof the road and just saw a lot of green.” Now,“I see individual plants it makes my brainwork too hard.”This conversation was my first realization thatwhen many people, including students, view ascene with vegetation such as Fig. 3A, they areseeing something more like in Fig. 3B: a smearof green. It is worth noting that seeing a smearof green isn’t bad. Color phycologists will tellyou that most people report feeling calm andrestored after seeing green (Elliot and Maier,2014). In fact, one of the first publicationsdescribing the “moral associations” of humansto color was by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe,translated into English by C. L. Eastlake in1840 (Goethe, 1810). In his treatise Theory ofColours, Goethe wrote of green that “the eyeexperiences a distinctly grateful impressionfrom this colour” (p. 316). But as botanists,we don’t see a smear of green: we see diversity(Fig. 3C). We see shapes, colors, interactions,and species. We study how diversity evolved,how it is maintained, and how diversity willrespond to climate change. We know thatplant diversity forms the cornerstone ofecosystem stability and resilience (e.g., Tilmanet al., 2014; Anderegg et al., 2018).Given the importance of plant speciesdiversity in terms of ecosystem responsesto climate change, I wondered whether theconcept of diversity had yet infiltrated howbotany is presented in what I think of asmainstream information. The answer is“not really.” Googling “botany” brought upfive sites at the top of the page. The first is adefinition of botany. The second is Wikipedia,Figure 3. A, New England forest on the edge ofEcho Lake, Mansfield Center, CT. Photo takenby the author. B, The author’s impression ofwhat students see. C, What botanists see.176
PSB 66 (3) 2020which mentions biodiversity in the last lineat the end of the fourth paragraph. An entryin Britannica follows that does not mentiondiversity. Fourth is the BSA site that mentionsmajor groups of plants. The fifth site describescareers in environmental science (https://www.environmentalscience.org/). The introductionto Botany at this latter site makes no mentionof diversity, but does include a statement Iquestioned: “Many of the top universities havebotany degrees, but there has been a decline inrecent years of students taking botany in favourof other environmental and natural sciences.”Is this true? Do many of the top universitieshave botany degrees? Has there been a declinein recent years in students taking botany?While not addressing these questions directly,surveys of course catalogs of institutionsof higher learning provide some insights.Marsh Sundberg (2004) published one suchsurvey that provides baseline data. In 2008,Sundberg revisited the same course catalogsand updated the information for a talkhe presented at Botany 2008 dex.php?func detail&aid 194).UsingtheSundberg 2008 data set as a starting place,we revisited course catalogs of the same154 institutions. We searched for BotanyDepartments or any department withBotany in its name. I assumed the numberof departments with “Botany” in the namewould be correlated with the numbers ofdepartments that award degrees in botany,with the caveat that some institutions thathad removed Botany from the name of theirdepartment could retain a botany degree.ABFigure 4. Data based on course catalogs from154 institutions of higher education. A, Percentage of institutions offering freshman levelcourses. B, Total number of courses beyondfreshman level offered in each category. Numbers of institutions included in the study: in2004, 58 research institutions, 60 comprehensive institutions, and 55 liberal arts colleges; in2020, 57 research institutions, 48 comprehensive institutions, and 49 liberal arts colleges.41% had departments with Botany in thename. By 2020, that number had dropped to12%, indicating that in fact “most of the topuniversities” no longer offer botany degrees.Even in 2004, with a few exceptions,The second issue raised on the “Environmentalonly Research Universities had BotanyScience Introduction to Botany” website wasdepartments. Of those surveyed in 2004,that there has been a decline in the numberof students enrolling in botany courses. I did177
PSB 66 (3) 2020Figure 5. Percentage of institutions offering courses in various botanical disciplines and areas ofstudent. Grey 2008, black 2020.not investigate enrollment numbers, but wewere able to record courses offered in coursecatalogs. More generally, I was interested inwhether the decline in “Botany” departmentstranslated to a decline in botanical educationat the collegiate level.Assuming thatinstitutions of higher learning update theircatalogs periodically and drop (most) coursesno longer offered, and assuming that theseinstitutions do not continue to supportcourses with low enrollments, we lookedat the percent of these 154 schools offeringcourses that were primarily focused on basicplant biology as a proxy for enrollments. Wefound that at the freshman level, there hasbeen very little change in the number of theintroductory courses focused on botanicalinstruction (Fig. 4A). The very good newsis that there also has been no decline inthe numbers of courses offered above thefreshman level (Fig. 4B). In other words, our“national aspirational capacity” for instructionin the fundamental biology of plants appearsto be as strong today as it was 16 years ago,despite the dramatic decrease in the numberof botany departments! Considering differenttypes of courses, the general distributionis roughly the same (Fig. 5), although newcourses (e.g., Plant Development or Evolutionand Diversity) have been added as others (e.g.,Morphology) have declined.Botany classes are especially importantbecause our labs satisfy many criteria forcreating excellent learning opportunities (e.g.,Nilson, 2010). They are multimodal, active,178
PSB 66 (3) 2020especially if the greenhouses are not tied toresearch. Data always help make the case toadministrators that greenhouses are criticalto basic plant biology education, but I’venever seen any multi-institutional data ongreenhouse use or support. (Please contactme if you know of any!) To address this datagap, I published a survey in the February 2020issue of the BSA’s monthly e-mail newsletter. Ialso submitted the survey to the Associationof Research and Educational GreenhouseCurators. In total, about 100 valid surveys werereturned. Although that is a fairly low returnrate, each of the valid responses was from adifferent institution. Seventy-three percent ofresponses were from institutions in the U.S. ora U.S. protectorate. Eighty percent of responseswere from public institutions, and half ofthose had more than 20,000 undergraduates.Only 10% were from respondents whodescribed their institutions as “primarilyapplied,” as opposed to “primarily basic” or“combined.” The survey results were similar soall institutions were combined. Ninety-sevenFigure 6. Botany labs provide engaged learning percent of respondents teach courses in basicplant biology, and of those, 95% viewed theopportunities.use of living plants for teaching as extremelyand engage multiple senses and incorporate important or very important.many of the skills necessary for STEMEighty-eight percent of the respondentseducation, such as graphing, data analysis,indicated that they have greenhouses that areand observation-based hypothesis testing used for teaching, outreach, or undergraduate(Fig. 6). Our labs also present plant diversity research. The modal number of plant speciesin ways that images and lectures cannot used primarily in teaching was between 50accomplish. Often not appreciated, our labs and 200 species (Fig. 7A), although a fairhave the potential for unusually high levels number of institutions use more than 200of student engagement because they include species per year. Most respondents indicatedliving material, as compared to most modern that between 100 and 500 undergraduatestudents are taught per year, although in someanimal-oriented courses.institutions the number is much higher (Fig. 7B).Providing living material comes with a fairlyhigh cost, especially if the material is provided Also relevant to the question of institutionalby greenhouses. Greenhouses are expensive support for greenhouses is, who paid for theirto build and to maintain, and we periodically construction? Greenhouse sizes are generallyhear examples of universities that make the between 1000 and 10,000 square feet (Fig. 7C),decision not to continue to support them, Construction was funded most commonlyby the educational institution, or by some179
PSB 66 (3) 2020Figure 7. Results from Survey of Greenhouse Use and Support. A, Numbers of plant species fromgreenhouses and outdoor space used for teaching. B, Number of undergrads using living materials. C, Size of greenhouses used for undergraduate teaching or research. D, Categories of fundingsources for greenhouse construction. E, Categories of plant care personnel. F, Source of salary forplant care personnel.combination of funding sources (Fig. 7D).Most respondents indicated that greenhousesare staffed by a paid staff member, as well asstudents, and of those institutions with paidstaff, most are funded by the institution (Fig.7E, F). This represents significant financialinvestment in greenhouses that supportundergraduate teaching and research.Perhaps the most interesting finding of thestudy was that 61% of teaching and 48% ofresearch greenhouses are more than 20 yearsold, with a significant proportion of those olderthan 30 years (Fig. 8). Traditional greenhouseshave a life span of about 30 years, so if thesedata are nationally representative, more than50% of greenhouses used for teaching shouldbe replaced in the next 20 years. Given thecurrent cost of constructing greenhouses anddeclining state support for public institutionsof higher learning, the current age of morethan half of the greenhouses used nationallyfor teaching presents a serious threat to ourability to continue to provide immersivelearning experiences in basic plant biology,a threat I perceive as especially dire giventhe critical role of plants in mediating Earth’sresponse to climate change.180
PSB 66 (3) 2020Figure 8. Ages of greenhouses used for undergraduate teaching and research (grey) and research only (black).Perhaps the single most important thing we cando now is to recognize this looming threat andform a collective voice. In addition to makingour federal agencies aware of this potentialnational decline in our ability to provide highquality education in basic botanical education,there are several possible actions those of uscurrently facing greenhouse replacementsare familiar with: inviting governmentalrepresentatives to view the greenhouses andhow they are used, educating administrationson the critical role of plant biology relative tosustainability and climate change, aligningour greenhouses with the strategic plans ofthe universities, and identifying opportunitiesto involve the greenhouses in campus-wideinitiatives.In addition to these approaches, we also canand should emphasize to administrators theimportant role of plant
departments that award degrees in botany, with the caveat that some institutions that had removed Botany from the name of their department could retain a botany degree. Even in 2004, with a few exceptions, only Research Universities had Botany departments. Of those surveyed in 2004, 41%
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