Sunday, October 11, 2009

You are interested in a botany career...

Plants have great value. They convert solar energy to chemical fuel. They provide shelter, food, oxygen, clothing, shade, beauty...

Plants are so vital to our survival that it is hard to imagine that botanists might have difficulty finding employment. Today a 7-year old girl's family told me she is interested in a botany career. How exciting! A child can see the importance of botanical research and employment while a nation struggles to do so during a recession.

What is botany?

What is Botany?

Botany is the scientific study of plants. "Plants," to most people, means a wide range of living organisms from the smallest bacteria to the largest living things - the giant sequoia trees. By this definition plants include: algae, fungi, lichens, mosses, ferns, conifers and flowering plants. Today scientists believe bacteria, algae and fungi are in their own distinct kingdoms, but most general botany courses, and most Botany Departments at colleges and universities, still teach about these groups.


What types of careers exist in botany, the study of plants which includes pure research, like studies of photosynthesis or reaction to plant diseases, and, applied sciences, like horticulture and agricultural engineering. To provide youth prepared to study for such careers, you can encourage plants in the curricula at your nearby schools. Did you know most science topics can be taught using plants, including physics, chemistry, general science, and biology. For example, plants have electrical activity and respond to light, physics is found there. Beneficial chemicals such as anthocyanans and other antioxidants, as well as enzymes are found in plants, so chemistry is found there. In fact, a botanist discovered brownian movement that lead to some of Einstein's work, and another botanist discovered, "chromatography," a technique used and expanded today to include HPLC, a type of chromatography that helps ensure our medicines are as safe as possible. Even medicine started with the study of plants. I am always amazed that the medical curricula took out the study of plants just as herbal medicines are becoming so important. (Perhaps you can help get botany back into the medical school curricula.)

Did you know botanists, plant scientists, from all over the world, cooperate to help prevent famine?

Do you know about plants, botany, and the role botanists have played in advancing the sciences of physics, chemistry and medicine? Are there links to help you learn more botany and get more botany into schools? Surely, there are. Some are listed below to get you started. (As you find others, please add them to the comments. I'd like to add some links from all countries.)

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