Field of Science

Wanted - A Patron of Botany

Two things grieve me severely. 1. My back isn’t getting any younger and more and more of my research takes place at ground level, or so it seems. 2. Students who miss out on first-hand scientific experiences because of too few resources. And that is the point of today’s missive; the Phactor needs some patrons of botany. Artists have patrons; why not botanists? Surely somebody out there with deep pockets, and actually they don’t have to be that deep, wants to support students interested in botanical research. The Laboratory for Plant Identification and Conservation stands ready to accept your charitable donations. A mere $10,000 a year would keep several students in groceries while happily engaged in research. A mere $100,000 would endow the laboratory and the herbarium collection within providing perpetual support. Just so potential patrons understand, not a cent goes to support the Phytophactor; that’s Mrs. Phactor’s role. And those young minds (and backs!) are needed for the future of botany. While our government daily fritters away billions as if pennies on dubious international escapades, the educational needs of tomorrow’s botanists, apprenticed by engaging in today’s research under the tutorage of experienced and worldly scholars, are not being met. The funding rate from the National Science Foundation has fallen to the lowest level (less than 5% of grants are funded) in my entire career, so needless to say governmental support is far from filling even the minimal research needs, especially those of us who are not at large research universities, those of us who deal with undergraduates rather than post-docs. Failing to support basic research is just one more way that our governmental system is mortgaging our country’s future. But rather than castigate any individuals for having accumulated a large share of this nation’s wealth, how about allowing some of it to trickle down to the grass roots of botanical research? Every Hummer that drives by represents one person with misplaced values; for the difference in price between an impractical and a practical vehicle, you could support a student’s research for a year. You’d never regret your decision. You’d see your name in the scientific literature. You’d be invited to our fabulous end of harvest gala balls (we serve pizza, or sometimes fry a turkey). And we'd love you, really. Your support would allow a clever and committed waitress to rush to a few less tables each evening carrying a few less plates of pasta, a job she needs to make ends meet even after working in the field all day. We’ve got some great youth in this country, and we have lots of interesting things for them to do, but they can’t eat grass. Contact the Phytophactor at his google-mail account with any serious inquiries.

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