Proposed Symposia and Colloquia for Botany 2024 

(The schedule will be announced at a later date - These are presented as Submitted - Subject to change)

The future is here: Undergraduate-driven research in a changing world

Submitted By: Jessica Savage, University of Minnesota – Duluth


The future of botanical research and our understanding of natural and agricultural systems is shaped by the current experiences of the next generations of researchers. However, the success of student researchers is strongly impacted by our ability to support and elevate them in the field, and their access to impactful research opportunities. This symposium will emphasize successful approaches for engaging undergraduate students in research in the lab, field, and classroom and highlight discoveries made by undergraduates on plant physiology and ecology in a changing world. We will draw attention to innovative work done at Primarily Undergraduate Institutions (PUIs) along with highlighting Course-based Undergraduate Research Experiences (CUREs), and outreach programs that focus on student engagement. Undergraduate-driven research programs are critical to the future success of science because they have a strong positive impact on the engagement of underrepresented groups in botany. Classroom research opportunities are especially important in allowing faculty to engage students who might otherwise be excluded from STEM fields. All the speakers will help illuminate how we can empower students to “drive” scientific discovery. We will highlight student research on climate change, pollution, and land management at multiple biological scales from plant cells to ecosystems and demonstrate the multifaceted impact of undergraduate research on our discipline.

Financially supported by the BSA, IAPT,  ASPT, and the BSA Physiology and Systematics Sections.  Sponsored in name only by SHC and the BSA Phytochemistry Section. 


New Roots for Restoration: integrating plant traits, communities, and the soil ecosphere to advance restoration of natural and agricultural systems

Submitted By:  Allison Miller, Saint Louis University and Danforth Plant Science Center


Through their root systems, plants connect aboveground components of terrestrial ecosystems to the soil, yet we lack a basic understanding of how plant traits, from shoots to roots, govern these connections. The New Roots for Restoration Biology Integration Institute focuses on the overarching theme of understanding plant organismal systems (including above- and below-ground structures), in the context of plant communities and the soil ecosphere. This Biology Integration Institute was established in 2021 through a five-year award from the National Science Foundation (NSF 2120153). The proposed symposium highlights some of the ten core projects currently being carried out as part of New Roots for Restoration, related studies, and educational activities aimed at diversifying research fields that support restoration efforts. The symposium includes participants from different career stages, disciplines (agroecology, community ecology, computer science, genetics, plant biology, restoration, soil microbial ecology, soil science), research contexts (natural and agricultural systems), and organizations (non-profit research institutes, universities, and botanical gardens). Scientific presentations will focus on wild species and early-stage perennial domesticates in three plant families (Asteraceae, Fabaceae, and Poaceae), and describe work underway in natural as well as emerging agricultural systems. Researchers will describe how they are applying cutting-edge plant phenotyping approaches typically used in major crops to characterize how above- and below-ground traits vary across individuals, populations, species, communities, and sites, and how root and shoot relationships shift based on abiotic and biotic properties of the soil. Scientific advances made by the Institute will improve our ability to predict below-ground functional traits based on above-ground phenotypes. This information can be applied to accelerate breeding (for perennial crops) and select suitably diverse germplasm (for wild species) for use in ecologically and functionally appropriate efforts to restore natural and agricultural ecosystems. Recognizing that restoration requires a diverse, nimble workforce that spans disciplines, this Institute supports education, training, diversifying, and outreach intentionally designed with many points of entry and ready mobility across labs and institutions. New Roots for Restoration has a cohesive Education, Training, and Diversifying program that 1) fosters an inclusive culture to recruit and retain PEER scientists; 2) provides meaningful research experiences while networking trainees to one another and to the extended network of the Institute; and, 3) establishes a multi-tiered training program to develop supportive leaders and mentors. Part of the symposium features results of near-peer mentoring in a multi-institution summer research experience for undergraduates (REU)

Financially supported by the BSA and the BSA Ecology Section. Sponsored in name only by the BSA Physiology Section.

Bessey’s Legacy: Enthusiasm and Innovation in Botanical Instruction

Submitted By:  Ben Montgomery, University of South Carolina Upstate


Dr. Charles Edwin Bessey (1845 – 1915) worked with Asa Gray and made influential contributions to agronomy, taxonomy and systematics. However, just as important are his contributions as an author, professor, administrator, and president of the American Association for the Advancement of Science to the development of botanical education. Bessey authored multiple botany textbooks and trained a generation of influential botanists. To honor his contributions, BSA annually gives the Charles Edwin Bessey Teaching Award to an individual whose work has impacted botanical education at a regional, national or international level. Awardees, like Bessey himself, are dedicated scientists who have made important contributions to the science of botany while also sharing their love of plants with students to develop a new generation of botanists.

In this symposium, we celebrate how Bessey’s spirit of enthusiasm and innovation is reflected in teaching practices of past award winners. Past recipients will share about their teaching and mentorship techniques. Their talks will focus on a variety of approaches to botanical education – 1) using the underappreciation of plants as hook to engage students; 2) using active-learning, flipped classrooms and related strategies to increase student mastery of the material; 3) engaging in discipline-specific education research to advance botanical education; 4) considering how botanical education should adapt to new AI tools; and 5) using drawing as a tool to promote and practice observational skills. While these approaches differ, they share that they increase student engagement beyond traditional lecture formats, thereby helping students master botanical topics. The talks also highlight that enthusiastic instruction substantially impacts student learning.

Financially supported by the BSA.  Sponsored in name only by the BSA Development and Structural and the Historical Section.  

The evolution of land plant life cycles – empirical advances of the past ten years and key challenges

Submitted By:  Susanne Renner, Washington University, Saint Louis, MO


Land plants inherited their biochemistry and cell biology from green algae, and recent phylogenies are converging on the Zygnematophyceae as the closest land plant relatives. Zygnematophyceae lack flagella, have isogamous reproduction, simple thalli or filaments, and undifferentiated colonies. These simplifications make them a ‘difficult’ sister clade, increasing the long-standing challenge of envisioning the MRCA of the embryophytes and its pre-adaptations for the colonization of land. It is therefore useful to compare different algal groups that switched from haplontic life cycles --where a single cell is diploid-- to haplodiplontic life cycles, with alternating multicellular haploid and diploid stages. The molecular mechanisms for such alternations of generations are now beginning to be unraveled, including what happens at the switch point. Interpretations of how multicellular sporophytes --and their leaves, roots, stomates, and other traits—have evolved are greatly influenced by the monophyly or paraphyly of the bryophytes, a topic on which the dust has barely settled. Relevant also are fabulously preserved fossils, studied with new approaches, that illuminate the traits of Rhynie Chert species and that point to a clade ‘between’ bryophytes and tracheophytes. This symposium will highlight significant developments in our understanding of the evolution of embryophyte life cycles and will illustrate the implications of post-2013 phylogenetic frameworks for trait evolution and the occupation of land. The planned speakers are spanning a range of disciplines and relevant extinct and extant groups.

Financially supported by the BSA and  ASPT, and the BSA Systematics Section.  Sponsored in name only by the BSA Development and Structural and the Pteridological Sections.  

Ethical Dimensions of Food System Resilience: Resilience of what and for whom?

Submitted By, Ashley McGuigan, University of Hawai'i at Mānoa, USDA Southwest Climate Hub


Interrelated challenges of climate stress and food insecurity have spurred international efforts to support food system resilience. However, there is a critical need to evaluate food system resilience not only in terms of productivity, but also nutrition, socio-cultural relevance, and equity. Due to disconnects caused by lengthening global supply chains, shifting dietary preferences, and geopolitical power dynamics, enhancing resilience in one domain of food systems does not necessarily ensure resilience in others. For example, while producers might enhance production resilience via crop/cultivar diversification, these introductions may not meet consumers’ nutritional or cultural needs. Or optimization in distribution may improve accessibility but lead to unsustainable demand in processing. As increasing attention is given to food system resilience of specific functions, it is equally critical to consider the resilience of actors and of linkages across scales to ensure just and resilient food systems.

Significance:  Pursuing food system resilience in such a way that maximizes synergies and minimizes tradeoffs across scales requires a comprehensive socio-ecological approach. Particularly important are reimagined definitions and investigations into how we can foster climate-resilient agroecosystems that promote equity and autonomy as the basis for cross-scale food system resilience. Smallholder farmers are the foundation of global food systems, yet their voices are often marginalized in global dialogues and initiatives. The persistent sidelining of these foundational contributors poses severe ethical repercussions and impedes holistic food system resilience to the convergent challenges of the 21st century.

Scope:  This symposium seeks to a) advance a definition of “just resilience” that considers linkages across scales, b) emphasize often-overlooked contributions of smallholder farmers in fostering food system resilience, and c) spark discussion on access and benefits sharing around diversified crops.

Key themes:  Farmers as the Foundation of “Just Resilience”: An argument for centering the agroecological knowledge and resilience of smallholder farmers. Their expertise will serve as a basis for our investigation of cross-scale linkages, tradeoffs, and synergies, as well as the ethical implications of top-down and bottom-up resilience strategies. 

Beyond Commercialization: A critical examination of how capitalist imperatives influence agricultural priorities and potentially overshadow essential ecological and socio-cultural dimensions of resilience. This theme will offer insights into recalibrating our priorities towards a just and inclusive agricultural future.

Ethics of Diversification: An exploration of the ethical considerations needed when integrating various sources of crop diversity into food systems including underutilized, Indigenous, and GMO crops, and seed stewardship for resilience.

Proposed Speakers:

Gabriela M. Garcia
Ashley McGuigan
Morgan Ruelle
Ramón Borges-Méndez
Smrity Ramavarapu
Brittney Rooney

Financially supported by the BSA.