Taxonomy--changing to saving botany

Donna I. Ford-Werntz diford at WVNVM.WVNET.EDU
Fri Nov 6 13:27:50 EST 1998

Thanks to Bill and Doug for sharing their views as non-specialists.  As a
fellow (but gal) lumper, I prefer to think of taxonomy and systematics as
the same, perhaps even encompassing morphology, anatomy, and population
biology (as tools).  Of course, those bearing titles in the latter fields
are likely to argue that taxonomy is merely their subdiscipline!  The plant
systematics class I teach is an upper level course emphasizing breadth and
integration of areas.  For example, our discussions of evolution and
speciation are understood best by students having a good background in
genetics.  However, as a college freshwoman I took a botany class narrowly
focused on history and family classification that was called taxonomy. 
This distinction would seem to follow the "traditional" connotations of the
terms.  Here we have no general botany course or low level plant classes
because the basics are supposed to be part of the intro. biol. material. 
Also, there is no requirement for any additional study of plant sciences
and the pre-med emphasis provides little motivation toward botany. A down
side to the refocusing of biology curricula on levels of organization
(cellular, organismal, ecological) rather than the animal vs. plant
distinction is that botany is often neglected.  Our upper level plant
courses suffer from low enrollments and the students are frequently not
well-prepared with a grasp of basic botany fundamentals.  How does one
maintain a viable botany program in the face of heavy bias toward animal
and/or molecular science?  If you have a good example of balance/survival
please share your success story and tips!  

Donna I. Ford-Werntz     West Virginia Univ.                                    
Herbarium Curator (WVA)  Box 6057                                               
Asst. Prof. Biol.        Morgantown, WV 26506                                   
425 Brooks Hall          (304)293-5201 X2549                                    
email: diford at    fax: (304)293-6363                                     
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