Posts tagged ‘medicinal plants’

December 10, 2013

Be A Botanist Gets a Facelift!

by Melissa Harding


Be a Botanist is getting a facelift! This activity booklet based on our Botany in Action Fellows‘ work in the field has been a popular addition to our Tropical Forest research station for the last year. These fun activities allow participants to use a diversity of methods to collect data and answer questions about botany, from a reading binder of mock interviews to observing petri dishes of soil. Be a Botanist is meant to give participants a sense of the various ways that science happens as well as to encourage the use of the scientific method to find solutions. It is also meant to demystify scientists and science in general. Dispelling the myth of the mad scientist is important to making science careers accessible to young people, just as dispelling the myth that science is boring is important to increasing scientific literacy. The Be A Botanist booklet strives to help visitors connect with real science as it happens.

So what has changed? New activities!  The booklet contains new experiments based on both our recently inducted Fellows Anna Johnson and Jessica Turner and returning Fellows Aurelie Jacquet and Anita Varghese. One activity is centered around Anna’s work studying plants in vacant lots; Anna’s research involves lots of counting plants to better understand the diversity of plants in each lot, so visitors are asked to count plants in a prescribed area of the Tropical Forest. A second new activity focuses on Jessica’s work with ginseng. Jessica is interested in traditional medicinal plants and whether or not they can be grown in non-traditional areas such as mined lands. Visitors are asked to compare two different leaves grown under two different conditions and measure each one. The third activity is related to Anita’s work studying the Black Dammer tree in the Northern Ghats of India. Visitors are asked to travel around the Tropical Forest to look for different species of jasmine and then to map them in the booklet. Finally, the last new activity is based on Aurelie’s work studying medicinal plants and her need to be able to identify plants in all stages of their growth cycle. Visitors are asked to find the cardamom plant near the Spice Hut and draw it as a plant and as a spice.

The Be A Botanist booklets are full of fun experiments and activities for families that help them to understand the kinds of work that real scientists do every day in the field. Need another reason to participate? Every completed booklet that returns to the gift shop gets a free magnifying glass! Don’t wait – check them out today!

The above picture was taken by Blaire Abraham.

March 21, 2013

Follow the Fellows: Understanding the Link Between Indigenous People and Native Ecology

by Melissa Harding


The Botany in Action Fellowship program at Phipps fosters the development of the next generation of plant-based scientists who are committed to both excellent research and educational outreach. Open to PhD students enrolled at US graduate institutions, the BIA program provides Fellows with funding for use towards scientific research in the US or abroad and a trip to Phipps, to engage in science outreach training and opportunities to share his or her research to public audiences.

Current BIA Fellows are engaged in local research in Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Maryland and research abroad in Nepal, Thailand and India. Their work covers topics ranging from the role of green roof plants in urban storm water management and the effects of plant invasion on a rare woodland butterfly to identification of plants used by healers for treatment of dementia.

March’s featured fellow is Anita Varghese. Anita is PhD student in Botany at the University of Hawaii. She has lived and worked in the Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve Western Ghats, India since 1993, after completing her Masters in Ecology. Anita is interested in the relationship between ecology of forests and indigenous people. Her research focuses on the reasons why some people in India choose to remain harvesters of medicinal plants and forest products, while others are moving away from livelihoods that depend on forest resources. Her research combines the knowledge of native people with scientific studies to produce a comprehensive understanding of plant species to aid in conservation.

Read an update on Anita’s research and life as a scientist at the Botany In Action website!
You can follow Anita and all of the BIA as they study plants across the US and across the world at Follow the Fellows.

The following Botany In Action update was written by Amanda Joy, Botany in Action Fellowship coordinator.

The above image was provided by Anita Verghese.


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