2018 Asa Gray Award

Congratulations to Vicki Funk!

Recipient of the 2018 Asa Gray Award

The American Society of Plant Taxonomists (ASPT) has selected Dr. Vicki Funk as its 2018 Asa Gray Award recipient. The prestigious award—named after arguably the most influential North American Botanist of the 19th Century—recognizes lifetime achievement in plant systematics.

Vicki Funk, 2018 Asa Gray Awardee with ASPT President Chelsea Specht (left) and Dennis Stevenson

Vicki Funk, 2018 Asa Gray Awardee with ASPT President Chelsea Specht (left) and Dennis Stevenson

Dr. Funk was selected for the award following nominations and supporting letters submitted from 18 botanical and systematic experts. The primary nominators—Drs. Dennis Stevenson, Chelsea Specht, and Warren Wagner—indicate that “Dr. Funk epitomizes the most meritorious type of scientist for the Asa Gray award: an indefatigable and innovative evolutionary biologist, a field and herbarium botanist, a pure taxonomist, and an enthusiastic mentor.” In support of Funk, they continue, “Her career hallmarks include prolific and transformative research, innovations to the ways we do systematic botany … significant contributions to plant taxonomy rules and regulations, mentoring of a continuous stream of young botanists, and contributing to the excellence of [ASPT] and its mission in promoting plant systematics and plant taxonomy.”

Indeed, the hallmarks of Funk’s career are noteworthy, including more than 200 peer-reviewed papers and as an editor/author on nine collaborative books. Some of these include Compositae: Systematics, Evolution, and Biogeography of the Compositae (2009) a prominent tome that brought together virtually all the researchers of the world’s largest plant family. The book was the winner of the prestigious Stebbins Medal, demonstrating its high international praise. Funk has also produced many seminal papers on topics such as phylogenetic patterns and hybridization (1985), the highly regarded how-to book The Compleat Cladist (1991), systematic data in biodiversity studies (2002), and the first book using modern phylogenetic approaches in a standardized way to address biogeography on oceanic islands (Hawaiian Biogeography, 1995). For all of the nominators, it is clear that Funk’s name is not only synonymous with Island Biogeography, but her momentous work has also systematically built the foundations on which many plant researcher’s careers have flourished.

Funk’s humility is mentioned time and time again in her letters of support. Her tireless dedication and passion to the field is clearly evident. Her outstanding accomplishments, which are pertinent to the goals of ASPT, are indisputable. Throughout her career, Funk has mentored over 40 undergraduate, graduate, and post-doctoral students and has served as an un-official mentor to countless other interns, students, and postdocs. Funk has an outstanding track of service work serving as president of four major biological societies [Society for Systematic Biologists (1998-1999), International Biogeography Society, Founding Member and President (2007-2009), American Society of Plant Taxonomists (2006-2007), and International Association of Plant Taxonomists (2011-2017)] and has completed major service contributions at the Smithsonian. Additionally, she has made other significant editorial contributions, served on numerous review panels (including NSF, which she herself cannot apply for funding), is a  frequent and avid speaker at workshops and conferences, has collected in excess of 13,000 herbarium specimens, and has organized a large number of symposia and other events.

A native of Kentucky, USA, Dr. Funk received her B.S. in Biology and History (1969) and then a M.Sc. in Biology (1975) at Murray State University in 1969. Funk then completed a Ph.D. in 1980 at Ohio State University where she researched the systematics of Montanoa (Compositae) followed by a postdoctoral position at NYBG from 1980-1981. From 1981 to present, Funk has been a research scientist and curator at the U.S. National Herbarium, Department of Botany, National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution.

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