Field of Science

Botany as a Brand

Over at the AoB blog Alun Salt (always thought he should be Alum Salt and a chemist) is offering his thoughts on making botany more appealing to students. Here in the USA the human-biomedical tail continues to wag the biological dog, and as more stand alone botany departments and programs get submerged into biology depts and programs, it continues to get harder to even get a forum for showing students that plants aren't just green scenery upon which animals cavort stopping now and again for a bite to eat. Alun used sensitive plant as an example. Show the video to a bunch of biology students, and then ask, "How do they do that?" The responses will sound like plants are just green animals. Then you have to prick their biological bubble. "Plants don't have nerves; Plants don't have muscles." "Yet this plant reacted quickly to a stimulus, so I ask again, how do they do that?" Unfortunately such investigative approaches, while quite rewarding in some terms, requires sacrificing content, but since content laden botany seems to be a losing proposition, what do you have to lose? Remember, plants are dull, but botany can be. More on this later.


Angela K said...

Too bad that botany programs are losing funding and academic space. I didn't have the time of day for botany until I spent a year in sub-tropical South America, where colorful, widely varying plants were easy to study--now that I am back in the mid-west, I'm better able to see the contrasts and beauty in the more subtle color palate of this region. Would more and earlier exposure to 'exotic' species help students see the wonder of plant life?

The Phytophactor said...

Angela K asks, "Would more and earlier exposure to 'exotic' species help students see the wonder of plant life?"
My answer; it depends. When I take students to study rainforest, they find plants interesting. When zoological colleagues teach the field trip, then no, suddenly the rain forest is just a back drop again. And generally it is asymmetrical, botanists know more about zoology than zoologist know about botany, but there are many exceptions both ways.