UH Mānoa excellence in botany receives national spotlight

University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa’s excellence in the field of botany was showcased nationally at the Botanical Society of America (BSA) 2022 annual conference in Anchorage, Alaska, July 24–28. Ten UH Mānoa faculty members, post-doctoral researchers, graduate and undergraduate students from the School of Life Sciences delivered talks, and organized workshops and symposia, both virtually and in person.

people standing in a room
From left, Scott Van De Verg, Ana Flores, Veronica Gibson, Kasey Barton and Feresa Corazon Cabrera

“As one of the few universities to offer botany undergraduate and graduate degrees, botanists from UH Mānoa have a strong history of participation at BSA meetings,” said Associate Professor Kasey Barton. “Attending the annual BSA meeting gives students, postdocs and faculty members the opportunity to interact with our colleagues from around the world, hear about new science and participate in workshops about critical issues in academia, such as diversity and inclusion, education and research approaches.” Kasey Barton is also on the Change HI research team.

Barton presented a talk on salinity tolerance of Hawaiʻi‘s native coastal dune plants, which are threatened by sea-level rise. It was part of the symposium “From High Islands to the Ocean Floor: Pacific Island Plants at the Extreme,” which was organized by UH Mānoa graduate students Ana Flores (PhD candidate) and Scott Van De Verg (recent MS graduate). According to Barton, it is rare for graduate students to organize a symposium at an international meeting like this, and to also secure funding to support the speakers in the symposium is really impressive.

person standing at a podium on a stage
PhD candidate Veronica Gibson presenting at the Botanical Society of America annual conference in Anchorage, Alaska.

PhD candidate Veronica Gibson delivered two talks on macroalgal physiological ecology under submarine groundwater discharge conditions and biocultural values of groundwater dependent ecosystems. Gibson said that after being unable to attend in-person events over the past years due to the pandemic, attending conferences in this last year of her PhD has been pivotal to networking and making connections for post-doctoral opportunities and future collaborations.

“It was really interesting to learn how I have grown as a scientist over the past two years, and really found my place in studying tropical marine ecosystems and social ecological systems,” Gibson said.

Botany leaders recognized with national award

Assistant Professor Karolina Heyduk was part of a team that organized a colloquium titled “Tackling Coloniality in Plant Sciences: Legacies and Paths Forward.” They had an international group of invited speakers who gave talks on the history and ongoing influence of Western/European and colonialist practices on plant science, ways to change how we think about systems of knowledge and ways to repair the damage done to Indigenous peoples and land.

Heyduk, who is also the director of the Joseph F. Rock Herbarium, housed in the School of Life Sciences, was the 2022 recipient of the BSA Emerging Leader Award, which is given annually to one scholar in the country who has displayed outstanding accomplishments and has demonstrated exceptional promise for future accomplishments in research, education, public policy and exceptional service to the professional botanical community. UH Mānoa Assistant Professor Christopher Muir, who organized a workshop at the BSA annual conference, won the award in 2020.

Other participants from UH Mānoa included Feresa Corazon Cabrera (PhD student, School of Life Sciences), McKenna Bonn-Savage (recent BS graduate presenting her undergraduate research), Ed McAssey (instructor, School of Life Sciences) and Carrie Tribble (National Science Foundation post-doctoral fellow, School of Life Sciences).

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