Who Are Botanists?
Botanists are plant biologists who can work in a wide variety of settings. Some botanists work for colleges and universities as teachers or researchers. Others may find work in botanical gardens, zoos, arboretums, greenhouses, herbariums, medical laboratories, pharmaceutical companies, biotechnology firms, or government agencies.
Some botanists work inside in offices or laboratories. Others work in the field, studying plants in their natural habitats. Many botanists do both lab and field work. There’s no end to the types of tasks botanists may work on. You could study how pollution or climate change affects plants. You could use advanced genetics to grow new or improved plants.
You might discover new plant species or find new applications for established species. You could focus on improving crop yields, creating new medicines, or even developing new fuels to satisfy the world’s ever-growing energy needs.
Some botanists choose to work in conservation to save endangered species. Today, one out of every five of the world’s plant species is threatened with extinction. To bring these plants back from the brink of extinction, some botanists engage in extreme botany.
For example, Steve Perlman from the University of Hawaii’s Plant Extinction Prevention Program has made it his life’s work to preserve the 238 plant species in Hawaii that are near extinction. His work takes him into the field regularly. Sometimes he fences off endangered species from grazing goats and pigs. At other times, you might find him rappelling off cliffs to collect specimens in places where humans and animals can’t easily reach.
He might even climb to the top of a mountain to pollinate the last few individuals of a species by hand. While some might consider botany a boring field, Perlman would tell you it’s the farthest thing from boring when you do what he does!