Request for help

David Domozych ddomoz at
Fri May 4 07:41:18 EST 2001

     By way of introduction, I am a professor of Biology at Skidmore
College in Saratoga Springs, New York. Skidmore is a private liberal arts
college and our Department of Biology has thirteen full time faculty, three
of which are botany/mycology-oriented. I am writing to this site requesting
for help on a future curriculum issue in our department and one that your
group has undoubtedly encountered before: the possible elimination of
botany from the core curriculum. Dr. David Kramer suggested that I post
this e-mail to see if I can get help from various sources.

  In our current core, students are required to take four courses: a
population biology/ecology course, a plant biology course, a cell biology
course and a vertebrate physiology course (this course once alternated with
a whole zoology course). Completion of this core allows students to take
advanced courses.
   Our plant biology course is a modern course that also includes the
basics of traditional botany and mycology. For example, our students do a
lab where they do a immunolocalization of cytoskeletal proteins in algae at
the light and electron microscopy levels. Likewise, they do learn the life
cycles of key algal types. Students do a semester-long tissue culture
exercise-- from explant-to-callus-to hormonal control of plantlet
regeneration. And, they also learn "traditional" vascular anatomy. The
bottom-line is that the current course contains a modern approach but also
includes tradtional concepts as well. The labs are either hands-on
experimental or observational. This course gets good enrollments and our
upper level botany courses (for which this course is a lead-in course) are
near full enrollment.

   A suggestion or trend that is developing in our departmental discussions
of curriculum change is a move to a more-reductionist biology core where
plant biology will be removed. Some proponents of this move say that plant
biology courses are a thing of the past or that if we eliminate the plant
biology course, they will bring in examples of plants and fungi into their
"reductionist" courses of the core (cell biology, poulation biology). As
you might imagine, I am aghast at the possible elimination of plant biology
from the core of a Biology major at an undergraduate instititution. The
three of us botanical types have so far stalled the process and we are
hoping to get some help in an outside review of our department next year.

   My requests for help are simply these:

1.) Has anybody out there had similar experiences and what was the outcome?
How can one successfully fight this? Strategies? We have argued, till blue
in the face, that plants are key components in our environment, important
research tools in molecular biology and genetics, the basis of our
economy,...,. But, our antagonists reply that they do indeed know this but
still, let's eliminate plant biology. It is frustrating.

2.) What websites or publications can one recommend that might help in
educating other biologists about the importnce of plants and fungi?

   I thank you in advance for any help that you might provide.


David Domozych

Professor of Biology
Skidmore College
Saratoga Springs, NY, 12866
Fax:: 518-580-5071


More information about the Plant-ed mailing list