Abstract Detail

Education and Outreach

Parsley, Kathryn [1], Walsh, Lisa [1], Sidoti, Brian [2], McCartney, Melissa [3], Liu, Hong [4], Hove, Alisa [5], Callis-Duehl, Kris [1].

Endangered botany: Evaluating trends in employed botanists to improve botanical career development and prospects in undergraduate students.

In their recent paper, “The end of Botany,” Crisci et al., decry a lack of botany majors, departments, and courses across the US. Additionally, in their 2009 seminal report “Assessing Botanical Capacity to Address Grand Challenges in the United States”, Kramer et al. also found pervasive losses in these same capacities, along with gaps in botanical research. They forecast serious shortages in the number of STEM professionals with plant skills and knowledge. Unfortunately, the integration of career development with content delivery in the undergraduate classroom is not widely practiced. Existing botanical curricula focus on content knowledge rather than career-relevant skills. We updated and expanded upon the survey from the 2009 Kramer Report to capture information about current employment opportunities and the knowledge and skills needed in botanical careers. Here, we leveraged answers from individuals employed across the academic, government, and industrial sectors to establish a list of plant career skills needed to be successful in the current landscape of botanical careers.The survey was distributed through professional contacts and listservs. We received 198 respondents (32% academic faculty, 29% industry, 26% government, 13% graduate student). Industry professionals represented a variety of employers including conservation foundations, botanical gardens, non-profit research centers, and agricultural industry companies, and 82% of industry employees used botanical skills most or every day at work. Government professionals represented a diverse array of county, state, and federal agencies, and 75% of government employees used botanical skills most or every day at work. With 37% of industry employees reporting an increase in positions and only 17% reporting a decrease, the full-time hiring trends in industry were significantly more promising than those reported in Academia (21% increase in academia; 35% decrease in academia; chi-square p = 0.047). When asked what types of degrees are currently hired at their employer, both government and industry reported B.S. most frequently (83% and 81%, respectively), followed by MS (both 70%) and PhD (49% and 45%, respectively). We used descriptive and pattern coding methods to qualitatively evaluate answers to the question, “What botanical skills are you looking for in your new hires?” posed to government and industry professionals. The most frequently discussed skills were related to plant identification (49%), interdisciplinary knowledge (e.g., entomology, physiology; 47%), and conservation (35%). Government employees were more likely to cite identification and conservation skills while industry employees were more likely to cite professional attributes and data skills (chi-square p = 0.002). Our preliminary results reveal skills that should be widely taught (e.g., plant identification, interdisciplinary practices, and conservation skills), and indicate that students with strength in certain skills are more likely to be hired by different career sectors (industry vs. government). Expanding our dataset to identify current and future employment needs will aid in devising educational interventions and updating curricula to improve botanical capacity nationwide and career-relevant training in STEM degree programs. If you are interested in participating in our evaluation of the current U.S. botanical capacity, please come visit our poster and participate in our survey!

1 - Donald Danforth Plant Science Center, 975 N. Warson Rd., Olivette, MO, 63132, United States
2 - Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden, 10901 Old Cutler Rd, Coral Gables, FL, 33156, USA
3 - Florida International University
4 - Biology Department, Florida International Univ, Miami, FL, 33199, United States
5 - Warren Wilson College, Biology, 701 Warren Wilson Rd, Swannanoa, NC, 28778, United States

career development.

Presentation Type: Poster
Number: PEO001
Abstract ID:1048
Candidate for Awards:None

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