Why is botany important?

Plants are so important for maintaining all forms of life on this planet. Plants provide us with oxygen to breath, food to eat, medicines to heal, materials to build shelters and make clothes, etc. Think of the cup of tea or coffee you drink in the morning โ€“ they are products of plants.  All our staple food items are plants. Can you imagine a world without rice, sugar, and so many other products we rely on every day? Similarly, cures for malaria, childhood leukemia, forms of cancer, and other diseases have come from plants. Plants can also be used to clean up metal-contaminated soils (i.e. phytoremediation) and extract precious metals from soils (i.e. phytomining). We owe plants so much, so donโ€™t be plant blind. Remember that without plants you are nowhere.

What roles do botanists play?

Botanist explore the plant world just like zoologist study the animal world. There are different kind of botanists: taxonomists put names to plants, systematists explore evolutionary relationships among plants, evolutionary biologists explore the process of diversification in plants, phytogeoghraphers try to explain plant distributions in space and time, physiologists study plant function, phytochemists study plant chemicals, pathologists study plant disease, and ethnobotanists study how humans interact with the plant world. You can also work for greenhouses, nurseries, arboreta, botanic gardens, agricultural industry, environmental consulting firms, biotechnology and pharmaceutical companies, and national parks if you have a good background in botany. Botanists can also teach โ€“ imagine a biology class without stories from the plant world? That would be one-sided, donโ€™t you think? So, if you study botany you can also be an effective biology teacher at any level of teaching. Once you fall in love with plants it is hard to let go! Luckily, there are many ways you can pursue your love for plants and make a living out of it too.

What can you do with a botany degree?

If you study biology in secondary school and get into university to do science you can always specialize in botany for your undergraduate degree. Once you get an undergraduate degree with an emphasis in botany you can join the work force where a botany degree is useful. You can also pursue a Masterโ€™s or a Ph.D. and teach and do research at the University level. There are also teaching opportunities at the secondary school level. There are many opportunities in the industry (environmental consulting firms, pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies, agriculture, etc.) as well as in national parks, botanical gardens, arboreta, and conservation organizations for those with a good background in botany.Talk to other botanists about their life with plants. Check the internet to see what other botanists do. Making contacts early and getting good work experience along the way can help you secure the job of your dreams.

Final words

Finally, I would like to say that botany is an exciting field to pursue. Plants are amazing. They are literally rooted (i.e. stuck in one place) yet they deal with all the challenges of life. I think it is quite amazing that plants can face the world without moving an inch โ€“ they face challenges head on. I think thatโ€™s pretty โ€˜brave.โ€™ Plants have been around for way longer than many groups of animals and there are hundreds of thousands of species around the world. While many go extinct due to mostly human-induced threats, there are others yet to be discovered. You never know what those โ€˜undiscoveredโ€™ plants have to offer us โ€“ perhaps a cure for a currently untreatable disease? You never know. Plants are here to stay. Pay attention to plants around you โ€“ we can learn much from the lessons they can offer and if we are lucky we can make them a part of our lives, forever.If you want to talk plants please get in touch: https://nrajakaruna.wordpress.com/about

Another interview with me is found here: http://enviroeducation.com/resources/interview-with-nishanta-rajakaruna-education-career-guidance-in-botany

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