A program that focuses on the scientific study of plants, related microbial organisms, and plant habitats and ecosystem relations. Includes instruction in plant anatomy and structure, phytochemistry, cytology, plant genetics, plant morphology and physiology, plant ecology, plant taxonomy and systematics, paleobotany, and applications of biophysics and molecular biology.
Careers in botany focus on understanding plants and their interactions with the world.
Botanists and plant scientists work with plants on all levels, from individual cells to entire biomes. Their work can focus on the agricultural, scientific, historical, or environmental side of plant systems, and many botanists have a specialty area. This can be a type of plant, such as mosses or coniferous trees, a particular ecosystem, such as a rainforest, or a specific context, such as a single plant's uses throughout history. Botany has endless applications across various disciplines, and many of them are highly collaborative. They may collaborate with bioengineers developing theoretical applications for organic fibers or consult with archaeologists looking to identify plants mentioned in ancient texts. Some even work with space engineers to design environments where plants can grow in zero-gravity!
Plant science isn't limited to the research lab; botanists can work in a variety of environments. Sometimes they will do field work in industrial greenhouses, on farms, or in wild areas such as forests or wetlands. So many industries are reliant on plant life that botanists tend to pop up in the most seemingly unlikely places; it's not uncommon to find botanists employed by a brewery, museum, or pharmaceutical company. Whether they are tasked with finding ways to conserve plant ecosystems or producing a historic crop yield, botanists play an important role in determining how humans interact with plants.
Work in botany may include...
- Monitoring plants and their environments over time
- Using knowledge of plant life to determine a course of action
- Studying plant cells or systems in depth
- Creating hybrid plants using techniques such as grafting or genetic modification
- Identifying factors that inhibit growth
- Documenting, reporting, or presenting findings accurately
There are a wealth of career options for botanists across various sectors and industries. Seed companies in particular hire botanists to develop, maintain, and improve their selection of specially bred plants, which can be grown for food, aesthetic purposes, or even pre-pharmaceutical refinement. The government is another big employer of botanists, who may conduct research, consult with corporate lobbies, or work to help national forests, parks and gardens to thrive. Schools and universities sometimes need instructors with advanced knowledge of botany, and they may hire researchers in university labs. Even outside of these environments, botanists find ways to make use of their knowledge. They may write marketing material for companies doing plant-based work, serve on advisory boards for environmental organizations, or work as consultants for landscape architects. Some of the positions available to botanists are unique and surprising; it's just a matter of finding the right one.
Becoming a botanist of any sort usually starts with obtaining a Bachelor's degree in biology or another natural science. Completing coursework in plant biology, environmental law, biochemistry, and ecology can prove very useful to any aspiring botanist, though the particulars will vary based on the type of work you want to do. Some horticultural labs will hire candidates with a Bachelor's for entry-level positions, as will many industry jobs in plant care or specialized marketing. Those who want to teach botany or conduct independent research tend to pursue a Master's or Doctoral education, since graduate programs offer a more focused approach to the material than is typically available at the undergraduate level.
Plants are an integral part of our world, and we are more dependent upon them as a species than many people understand. This complex relationship is at the heart of a career in botany; are you prepared to grow into yours?
For more information, please follow the links below:
- The Botanical Society of America supports research and education in the interest of botany and its future.
- The American Society of Plant Biologists is a professional society devoted to the advancement of the plant sciences.
- The American Society for Horticultural Science promotes research, education, and interest in all branches of horticulture.
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