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Plant Evolution and Systematics Concentration

See also: Course requirements for PES concentration

Summary:

Plant Evolution and Systematics involves learning and understanding methodologies for measuring and studying plant biodiversity on levels from the microbiological to the global. This concentration involves work and research associated with the understanding of plant ancestry through classification (systematics), accomplished with the use of modern-day models in the field of informatics. Coursework is focused around the evolutionary relationships between plants and the classification and cataloging of plant families based on these relationships. This knowledge and understanding of the plant world connects to international and current natural affairs, aiding in the understanding of both geological and current matters, across almost any field of science. To be active in the field of systematics, one must have an interest in understanding plants and their evolutionary background. Activities such as nature walks, starting your own personal garden, or a simple curiosity about the origin of plant species might be great indicators that Plant Evolution and Systematics is the concentration for you.

Careers:

If you are intellectually curious, thoughtful and open-minded, this concentration will allow you to explore countless career opportunities, including:

  • Botanist curator at a botanical garden: This position entails on-site research, preservation and plant maintenance, doing the "behind the scenes" work that occurs at botanical gardens.

  • Academic profession: At a university, this may include teaching as a professor or doing research in a lab. Research possibilities encompass a wide range of sub-fields, for example, in bioinformatics, conservation, and genetics. Taxonomists are often needed in the field of plant breeding (e.g., developing new pest- and disease-resistant apple varieties), as well as in the fields of forensics (forensic botanist), pharmacy, and archaeology. PhDs may be asked to go on expeditions, for example, to foreign countries to aid in the identification of geologically preserved plants.

  • Bioinformatics taxonomist: This profession applies informatics to plant systematics, using computers as a tool for modeling and understanding plant taxonomy. There is an increasing demand for experts in this area, especially for genome sequencing. As biotree systems become more accessible the need for people who can sequence and understand the genome increases.

  • Conservation taxonomist: There is an increasing need for people who can catalog and preserve biodiversity and set priorities for conservation. Taxonomists work to collect and preserve plants in this ever-changing world as they go extinct and new species evolve. Employment in this field includes park ranger and naturalist positions in both government and private sectors.

This knowledge is valuable to many fields of science, and taxonomists may often be called in for special tasks, such as aiding in the research or expeditions of larger projects. Many of the modern medicines we take for granted today were originally derivatives of plants, unlocked and made accessible to us by the understanding of taxonomists.