Botany Research

Okay, I know we all have a tendency to side eye the “highly trained and qualified botanist Keiko O'Brien decides to become a school teacher” thing, and from an out of universe perspective it’s rather questionable.

But I love what it says about her character.

Think about her situation at the start of DS9. She’s just given up her position on the flagship so her husband can take a promotion that she fully believes he deserves, even though she’s not particularly happy about living on the station. There’s not much need for her specific skills where she is at the moment, and going off somewhere else to work would be counterproductive to trying to keep her family together. 

But the moment she sees a need in her community, a need no one else had anticipated or even noticed, she automatically steps up and volunteers to fill it. She doesn’t go to Sisko and say “oh, this is a thing somebody should do”, she says “this should be done and I’m going to do it”. She takes on all the challenges and obstacles herself for something that isn’t even her primary passion just because it will help others. No one would have looked twice or blamed her if she had stopped when things go tough, but she fought tooth and nail to keep her school open because she truly believed in what she was doing. 

(I also firmly believe that, if the school hadn’t eventually shut down, she would have found a replacement teacher and gone on to do her botany research anyway once the opportunity came up. The school was something that was needed, but her own role in running it was just a stopgap because no one else at the time was able or willing and it was better than doing nothing.)

tl;dr - Sisko may have had to bribe Quark into becoming a “community leader”, but he got Keiko O'Brien and her heart of gold and nerves of steel for free. 

Collected on this Day in 1845

Collected on April 28, 1845, this specimen was found in Mercersburg, Pennsylvania (Franklin County) by Thomas Conrad Porter. Porter (1822-1901) was a botanist associated with the herbarium at what is now the Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University in Philadelphia. 

This plant might not seem like anything to write home about, but it is well known by most scientists. Arabidopsis thaliana (mouse-ear cress) has played, and continues to play, a huge role in plant biology research. This weed in the mustard family (Brassicaceae) is native to Europe and Asia and has been widely introduced to the United States. 

Because of its small genome (fully sequenced 16 years ago), rapid life cycle (Germination to reproducing adult takes only six weeks!), mutant genotypes, and a long history of genetic research, this species has become an important model organism for cellular, molecular, evolutionary, agricultural, and even ecological studies. It is the international “lab rat” for plant science. It was discovered in Germany in the 1500s, but did not really become famous as a model organism for research until 1943—nearly 100 years after this specimen was collected!  

Botanists at Carnegie Museum of Natural History share pieces of the herbarium’s historical hidden collection on the dates they were discovered or collected. Check back for more!

Botanical Exploration. Researcher Alex gazing into the dense foliage as he contemplates his tasks.

Hiking in the unique ecosystems of the Avon Park Air Force Bombing Range for specimens with Floridian researchers and botanists.

Fieldwork, from plant fossils to robotics

“Thousands of US groundwater aquifers have been inadvertently contaminated with chlorinated solvents, such as perchloroethene (PCE) and trichloroethene (TCE). Chlorinated solvents are both toxic and persistent and classified as possible carcinogens by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. I am investigating the reaction of these chemicals with iron minerals commonly found in the soil. I synthesize iron and sulfur bearing minerals and monitor reactions in experiments with PCE or TCE. We hypothesize that these minerals are one natural pathway that transforms these contaminants to benign products.”

– Johnathan D. Culpepper, graduate research assistant, The University of Iowa

“The definitions of race and crime change. Criminology is a multidisciplinary field that combines my interest in human behavior and the diverse ways societies define deviance and race. I am generally interested in social institutions, racial ideology, inequality and social disorganization theory. For example, one of my current projects examines the link between African American-owned businesses and urban crime. Additionally, I am exploring how pre-hire psychological screenings impact adverse correctional employee behavior. As a former correctional officer, I am proud of scientifically addressing issues that may have implications on policy and practice by establishing research relationships with institutions.”

– TaLisa J. Carter, Ph.D. student, Department of Sociology and Criminal Justice, University of Delaware

Keep reading


Houseleek may have a mundane workaday name but it is far from a trivial asset to a medicinal garden. Perhaps its scientific name sempervivum, ‘live forever’ in Latin,can help to indicate its true worth to the healing herbalist. Houseleek, unrelated to the onion leek, has a very distinctive bushy pink trunk and its thick sap has been used since the earliest time as a delicious coolant and accelerating healant of open wounds and gashes. Weed has dire need of its balmy properties more than once in the Poison Diaries when in the fray and thrash of violence he sustains injury and is cut to the quick.

ok so really quick i want to talk about this plant and i promise there’s a reason at the end but god man just. god

this is Amorphophallus titanum, a threatened plant in western Sumatra (this picture is it in bloom. 

-there are about 100 plants of these in cultivation right now, generally by univerties like Cornell and the University of Wisconsin Madison and world-class research centers/gardens like the KEW in the UK

-They’re so valued by reaserch centers that they’re generally given names (the one at UWM was named ‘Bucky’)

-They’re a carrion flower, meaning that when they bloom, they give off a sent that smells like rotting flesh, feces, ect to attract pollinators

-They can grow up to ten feet tall

-they have to be repotted from time to time, which is hard for researchers/botany staff bc adult plants generally weigh 75 kg (165 pounds) 

-one large one at the KEW a few years back weighed 91kg 200 pounds

and heres the thing…….. yes heres the kicker

Amorphophallus titanum” means “Titan misshapen penis”

some dude looked at this and was like you know what this giant eight foot tall 200 pound smelly plant reminds me of???????????????? u know what it reminds me o


My friend Daniel - photographer, biologist, artist, friendliest person ever - is working on a photo project that highlights staff and volunteers of The Field Museum along with their favorite collections items.

Posing with artifacts and specimens brings a certain ingenuity to the object; perhaps it would otherwise be something easily overlooked in a drawer, its history buried in comparative numbers. Singling out individual articles stresses their inherent uniqueness, and we’re drawn in with a curiosity trying to puzzle out why, out of 27 million items in this museum, these particular people chose the specimens in their hands.

There’s a visceral connection between Laura’s gaze and that agave lace: she’s looking at it so lovingly and holding it so carefully, as if she’s imagining herself sitting in awe at the foot of the person who painstakingly knit the fibers together and watching the entire process come together. Having seen her knit her own scarves on our way home one evening I can fathom the respect she has for not only the collections but also the people responsible for their creation and care.

Throughout Daniel’s portraits he’s been able to capture so well a humbling sense of gratification and pride, a mood that reflects our joy of being here because of the love we have for this world and its achievements. We’re all bursting with the same sense of wonder. 

Check out more portraits in his series, including questions answered by the featured scientists.


Happy International Darwin Day!

While Charles Darwin is most known for his work on the theory of evolution and natural selection, did you know that he also performed groundbreaking research in botany? Charles Darwin, along with his son Francis Darwin performed important experiments on the physiological mechanisms behind plant movements outlined in their book “The Power of Movement in Plants”. The Darwins discovered that phototropism, the movement of plants in response to light, was controlled by something located in the tips of growing shoots. By subjecting seedlings with their growing tips intact or with their growing tips removed to light, the Darwins were able to determine that something in the growing tip enabled the plant to respond to the light stimulus. Today, we know that the plant hormone auxin is responsible for phototropism, among other physiological processes, but it was the Darwin’s experiments that revealed that this plant hormone was concentrated in the growing tips of plants and helped to lay the foundation for future plant physiology research!

Follow for more plant facts and photos!
Plant collections left in the cold by cuts
North America’s herbaria wilt under pressure for space and cash.

Specimen repositories for plants and animals are invaluable not just to studying species they represent, but also climate change, habitat change and evolution. Museums house many of these collections and offer so much more than what the public sees.


BLM Works With Partner to Study Rare Colorado Plant Species

BLM Colorado has been working with Betty Ford Alpine Gardens to research the rare Parachute penstemon, a plant that only grows on oil shale cliffs high above the Colorado River.

BLM Botanist Carol Dawson and the Alpine Gardens staff are studying how Parachute penstemon grows in order to understand how it may one day be planted in its native habitat as part of successful recovery efforts.

Research on Parachute penstemon is currently focused on gaining a better understanding of the plant by testing multiple germination techniques and seeing which one works best. In addition, BLM Colorado monitors the plant population annually and has determined that it is currently stable.

The threatened plant is native only to northwest Colorado’s Roan Plateau, an ecologically diverse area managed by the BLM and known for its recreational opportunities, remarkable landscape, and sensitive species.


New video: Water Dropwort and Gruesome Grins

Today I discuss the gruesome botanical origin of the word “sardonic.” Hint: it’s the plant Hemlock Water Dropwort or Oenanthe crocata.

Don’t forget to like and subscribe for more videos on current research, botany basics, and tutorials!