Monday, June 18, 2012

Are you a botanist or a biologist?

Probably the worst question I was asked during my recent book tour was, "So are you a biologist or a botanist?"

Just to confirm, the Merriam-Webster Disctionary defines as follows:
bot·a·ny: a branch of biology dealing with plant life

This question would be really funny if it weren't for the underlying tone that botany is distinct from biology. Unfortunately many a plant scientist (or botanist) can attest that at many major universities, botany is considered secondary to "real science", which is often defined as human genetics or neurobiology. This is is seen in the distribution of financial resources and in the diminished part of plant biology in undergraduate biology curricula. I've personally witnessed academic discussion where plants were considered irrelevant for the study of circadian rhythms or basic developmental biology.

Among the public this misconception of "botanist" is also prevalent. Ask yourself, what do you picture when you hear the term "botanist" or "plant biologist"? If you don't picture a scientist in a modern lab researching basic questions essential for human survival, than we as botanists have done a very bad job at projecting who we are and what we do.

1 comment:

  1. Botanist, as zoologist, as ethnobiologist, as ecologist, as anthropologist, ae all BIOLOGISTS which meand degree in BIOLOGY, as well as cardiologist, neurologist, oncologist, are all physician degree in medicine. This means that to become a botanist that go in tropical forest to hunt new plant species, you must become a biologist before, someone in past was not degree, but other that find a new plant not made anymore, any description ecc. All botanists are biologists as well as all zoologists are biologists all evolutinary biologists are biologists, all taxonomists are biologists all wild life biologists are biologists, in the sense are degree in Biology. Other disciplines as neurobiology, molecular biology, genetic are came many years after, of botany and zoology that are two pillars of Biological Sciences.